Introducing Updated Intensive Translation and Interpreting Program


Because English is often said to be the international language of business, you might ask why anyone needs to hire an interpreter or translator. The fact is only 17% of the world’s population speaks English natively. Given the cultural and contextual complexities surrounding all languages, non-native speakers can easily misinterpret or misunderstand what you are trying to communicate.

The communications gap is exacerbated when a business fumbles the translation from one language to another, which can derail a carefully constructed marketing campaign, make a product undesirable, or cause considerable embarrassment. Take for example what happened when the California Milk Processor Board tried to communicate its highly popular Got Milk? campaign to Hispanic customers. The slogan they used translated as “Are you lactating?”, which implied that Latina mothers were not up to the task of nourishing their babies.

The good news is that the demand for accomplished translators and interpreters is skyrocketing, especially in the tech industry where localization of software products is critical for success. To meet this rising demand, Tombolo Institute is now offering an updated and revitalized Core Translation & Interpreting Certificate program based on a curriculum previously taught at Bellevue College.

To provide insights into the translation and interpreting profession and details of the new Tombolo Institute certificate program, we spoke with instructor Caitilin Walsh, who is a 30-year veteran in the field and an American Translators Association (ATA)–certified French-English translator. She teaches professionalism in the Tombolo program and currently chairs the ATA’s Education and Pedagogy Committee. She is a graduate of Willamette University and the Université de Strasbourg, where she studied French language and literature.

Q: What do translators and interpreters do?

Caitilin Walsh: First, let’s make a fundamental distinction: Translators convert written material from one language to another. Interpreters convert spoken language from one language to another.

Depending on a person’s specialization, a translator can work with an incredible range of written documents and multimedia materials. Examples include:

  • User and operating manuals for tech companies
  • Scientific research
  • Legal documents
  • Movie subtitles
  • Business presentations
  • Financial documents
  • Literary and informational books

For the U.S. intelligence services, a translator can work with the troves of documents collected from suspects during an investigation. It’s an endless list. One of my specializations is translating cookbooks. 

Interpreters, on the other hand, provide oral translations in a wide variety of situations such as during business meetings and conferences, doctors’ appointments, court hearings or international events. One of the major differences between translating and interpreting is that interpreters work in real time; they cannot stop to use dictionaries or reference material in the event that they do not understand something said in the source language.

Q: What are the lifestyle and other benefits of being a professional translator or interpreter?

Walsh: I’ve found being an independent translator to be a very rewarding career. In our profession the translator or interpreter acts as a bridge between people and cultures. Interpreters are often on the front line, working directly with people who struggle or are unable to communicate effectively during incredibly important or serious times in their lives — during a court proceeding or when there is a family health care crisis.

About 70% of translators in the United States are self-employed. Working as an independent contractor provides for a flexible work schedule and lifestyle. As a mother, I have found this flexibility very important over the course of my 30-year career.

Additionally, in this profession you are always learning. New projects give exposure to a diverse array of people, work environments and subject matter. And in some cases, you will get to travel as a part of a project.

Q: What is the demand for translators and interpreters?

Walsh: Translation is one of the fastest-growing careers in the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of interpreters and translators is projected to grow 24% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. Sadly, what we’re finding is that while the demand increases, talent is in short supply, partially because of the U.S.’s neglect of language education.

For those looking to begin a new career, here’ssomething to keep in mind:Two of the hottest areas for translators are in localization for technology companies, and in subtitling and dubbing for the film and entertainment industries. 

Q: What is localization?

Walsh: Localization is all about making a website or software interface relevant and understandable in terms of the user’s cultural context. Although localization involves the conversion of language, there are many other issues that must be considered. For example, to create a positive user experience, you have to adapt to local unit measurements and currency, date formats, imagery, legal regulations and technological standards. So translation is only one part of the localization process.

GALA gives the following advice for localization projects: “Any website localization project should include a step in which the translator checks ALL the translated content in a test environment and spells out any adjustments that may be necessary to provide a clear, appealing layout. Plan for this as a separate step in the assignment, and be sure that the translator is aware of this expectation. Allow enough time for each and every page to be checked carefully and corrections made before you go live.”

Q: Describe the Translation & Interpreting program offered by Tombolo Institute.

Walsh: The Core Translation & Interpreting Certificate program teaches the fundamentals of translation and interpreting. It is an intensive program during which students complete the following modules:

  1. Interpreting Fundamentals
  2. Translation Fundamentals
  3. Terminology & Technology
  4. Professional Practice

During the core certificate program each student completes a capstone project that acts as a portfolio of documents they’ve translated. If they are studying to be an interpreter, they will have audio recordings they can use to demonstrate their capabilities.

Not only do we teach students how to apply professional conventions and behavior norms, we weave in ethics, and industry technology along the way, and also teach them how to effectively manage and market a private practice. Students entering the core certificate program are required to have intermediate-level language skills in a second language. The course is taught over 22 weeks.

We are also offering an introductory class that gives a high-level overview of the translation and interpreting profession. This course is designed for those who are considering the Core Translation & Interpreting Certificate or those who may be working with interpreters and translators and want to be more informed. Coming soon are certificates in Advanced Translation and Advanced Interpreting.


Learn more about the Translation & Interpreting program