The University of Arizona's Educational Interpreting Program teaches students to become interpret
Jaime Fatás Cabeza
UA Department of Spanish and Portuguese
UA translator and interpreter Jaime Fatás Cabeza exemplifies how the work of professionals like him often is demanding and comes with tremendous responsibility.
An undeniable truth that comes with the job description for translators and interpreters is that their jobs invariably will be misunderstood.
One pervasive assumption is that professional translators and interpreters are merely sequentially translating text, word for word.
Yet the job – one the fastest growing in the U.S. – is highly technical and, at times, emotionally demanding, always requiring a strong command of multiple languages and multiple social and cultural contexts.
"With tools like Google Translate becoming more popular every day, it is easy to think that a translator’s job is something that could be done by a machine," said Jaime Fatás Cabeza, an assistant professor of practice in the University of Arizona's Spanish and Portuguese department.
Consider Fatás Cabeza's work.
For instance, he recently translated the majority of chapters in the newly published "Cave, City, and Eagle's Nest: An Interpretive Journey Through the Mapa de Cuauhtinchan No. 2."
The 15-chapter book, commissioned by the Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University, is a collection of essays that interpret the Mapa de Cuatinchan, or Map of "The Place of the Eagle."
The traditional Chichimec codex is an artistic, pictorial manuscript from the 16th century that tells the story of the origin, migration and foundation of a group of ancestors of the Mesoamerican peoples.
The book is full of articles about the Chichimec codex, written by academic specialists from fields including anthropology, linguistics, religious history and art, among others.
"This is a reference work for the study of the historic Mesoamerican codexes," said Fatás Cabeza, who spent nearly three years on the project. "It is a state-of-the-art edition and a first-rate research project. It has been very demanding and a great experience."
Fatás Cabeza also recently completed the translation of the "Spanish Culture Behind Barbed-Wire: Memory and Representation of the French Concentration Camps, 1939-1945," by Francie Cate-Arries, professor of Hispanic studies at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. The book received an honorable mention from the Modern Language Association.
But this is not the extent of his work.
Fatás Cabeza serves as a member of the UA's National Center for Interpretation,Testing, Research, and Policy, or NCI.
He also travels throughout the U.S. and abroad, offering his services to writers, researchers, government agencies, professional organizations, investigators and publications – literary and musical.
Also, Fatás Cabeza directs the UA's undergraduate program in translation and interpretation, or T&I.
There, he and his students offer services to departments and colleges across campus and also translate and interpret for hospitals, courts and consular offices, law enforcement agencies and academic conferences.
One of his former students, Sathya Honey Victoria, took an interest to the field after taking an introductory level interpretation course.
"Growing up in a bilingual family, I had always been curious about interpretation," said Honey Victoria, who also began shadowing translators and interpreters in 2009.
"Initially, my plan was to take that class and move on at the end of the semester, but I was hooked," said Honey Victoria, who graduated last year and now is a curriculum and media specialist for NCI.
During her studies, Honey Victoria helped coordinate translations for El Independiente, a newspaper produced UA School of Journalism students for the city of South Tucson. She also served as a volunteer translator for the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project and NCI's Agnese Haury Institute for Interpretation, an annual three-week training for professionals.
"Professor Fatás' work quality and ethics are an inspiration to his students," Honey Victoria said. "As an instructor he is demanding and generous, expecting the highest quality of work and always willing to put in as much effort as his students."
Honey Victoria also underscored the important value translators and interpreters hold, particularly for "any country that is interested in participating globally and engaging with other cultures."
Indeed, for culturally diverse communities and cultures, such professionals serve critically important roles, she added.
"People who can offer these services are key in making sure everyone has access to the rights and services they are guaranteed by the Constitution and Title VI, in the case of the U.S., regardless of the language they may speak," she said. "Translation and interpretation are not only useful tools in reaching across borders, but also a vital part of ensuring justice and equality within a nation."
That tremendous weight of responsibility is something Fatás Cabeza said he also tries to impart to his students and others outside of the profession.
"You can't just start translating. You have to know your role and the techniques that translators and interpreters use," Fatás Cabeza said.
That means, translators and interpreters must remain informed, professional, ethical and often engage in research.
"You're not just translating words, but faithfully and accurately translating other people’s ideas in context," he said. "You live vicariously through them, and your work takes place in highly regulated environments, like a court of law or a medical office, whose rules of engagement you must know."
Jaime Fatás Cabeza
UA Department of Spanish and Portuguese