College of LAS « Illinois


Growth in a Booming Field

The Center for Translation Studies adds graduate and online programming as demand increases.

student in translation studies class

The demand for language translators and interpreters is projected to expand for at least the next decade. That means the U of I’s Center for Translation Studies is going to grow, too.

The center has begun accepting applications for a new master’s program set to launch in the fall. It’s a busy yet affirming time for the center, which became the first of its kind at a major research university when it opened in 2007.

While it’s too soon to know how many students the new program will attract, there is plenty of potential. Elizabeth Lowe, director of the Center for Translation Studies, says they’ve had about 250 inquiries about the center’s master’s program, with most coming before they even began publicizing it.

The master’s program will include both on-campus and online options, meaning that students can choose to complete the degree on campus or via the Internet. Aside from how courses are scheduled, the two options have the same timelines and requirements.

“We anticipate a national and international audience for the online program,” Lowe says. “We are also marketing heavily internationally, and looking at China and Brazil and Europe for potential participants.”

Lowe expects that the online option will be used primarily by working professionals who want to upgrade their credentials. That explains the difference in scheduling between the campus and online options, as research has shown that students who take courses online are more satisfied if they only have to focus on one course at a time as they balance other responsibilities.

Thus, the online option will include two back-to-back eight-week courses per semester as opposed to two 16-week courses running parallel.

Several projections predict that the field of translation and interpreting (translation regards the conversion of text; interpreting is oral) will continue to grow as communications around the world increase. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects career opportunities for translators and interpreters to grow by roughly 20 percent between 2012 and 2020; the Illinois Department of Employment Security projected career opportunities in the field to grow by 37 percent within Illinois between 2010 and 2020.

The center, which grants a certificate in translation in addition to the new duties it will take on with the master’s program, is one of the largest programs of its kind in the country, offering translation studies in 37 languages.

It has three full-time staff, including Lowe, a professor with affiliations with appointments in the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese and the Program in Comparative and World Literature, and a lecturer and an instructor. The center also has 15 other faculty in various departments who contribute through affiliate appointments in the program.

The center plans to hire people who are working in the translating and interpreting profession to help run the online master’s program.

“We’re excited about it,” Lowe says, of the new master’s program. “What’s unique is its location at the U of I, which is a comprehensive research university with an incredible depth of resources. Our library is one of the best in the world, and we have a very robust library resource page online where people in the online program can do their research.”

Translators and interpreters are in demand in government, as law requires that agencies receiving federal funding ensure that their services are accessible to people who do not speak English. There is also demand for their services in nongovernmental organizations, security, health care, publishing, the software industry, and other businesses marketing their goods worldwide.

For more about the application process, visit

A Note on Terms

What comes to mind when you think of a translator? Here’s how they’re defined in the field:

  • Translation: The translating of text from one language to another.
  • Interpreting: Oral translation between two or more speakers.

This includes...

  • Simultaneous interpreting: Also called conference interpreting, for example, the work done by interpreters seen during meetings of the United Nations.
  • Consecutive interpreting: Also called community interpreting, the work done by someone interpreting between two individuals such as a doctor and patient, or between U.S. soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan.

By Dave Evensen
March 2013