Univ. declines new translation program

GW will not be pursuing a program to establish translation and interpretation of languages important to national intelligence.

Carol Sigelman, GW’s associate vice president for graduate studies and academic affairs, said there is not enough student demand for such a program, which University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg proposed in February.

“It’s a very specialized field and the number of people who are going to be competent enough in two languages is extremely small,” Sigelman said. “We realized that it took special expertise (to be a translator).”

Trachtenberg’s program would have focused on languages like Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Farsi and Korean. The proposal came at the same time United States President George W. Bush requested $114 million from Congress for fiscal year 2007 for school programs promoting the study of languages critical to national security.

Sigelman said the school would hold a workshop next summer on general translating skills, Overall, she said, the University is shifting its focus from developing a translation program to the recruiting and training of professors of both the typically and less-typically taught languages.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman has tentatively approved a proposal to hire an additional 15 language instructors, including five Spanish professors and three Arabic professors. The Classical and Semetic Languages and Literature Department has seven staff members teaching Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Latin and Yiddish classes.

Lehman said that in a global society, students are looking to learn languages in order to be more attractive in the job market. He said hiring new professors will fill that need.

“With more freshmen expecting to take foreign languages, we’ll be ready for it,” he said.

Former Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean William Frawley submitted the proposal to hire more language instructors last year and it is now under the direction of Diane Lipscomb, the interim dean of CCAS.

Jill Robbins, the associate project director of the National Capital Language Resource Center, and an adjunct professor of English as a Second Language and foreign language instruction in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, said students are especially attracted to languages because of their strong interest in global affairs.

“The students that I’ve met here are all very socially and politically aware, and many of them have really strong motivations to learn the language they are studying in order to improve the world situation,” said Robbins.

“(GW students) want to be seen as Americans who really understand the global situation,” she said.

As of Saturday, there were 506 enrollments in Chinese classes for fall 2006 and 272 enrollments in Arabic classes, according to the Office of the Registrar.

A joint project of GW, Georgetown University and the Center for Applied Linguistics, the NCLRC’s mission is to promote foreign language instruction nationally. The center’s funding comes from the U. S. Department of Education.

Professors and students in the GSEHD can take classes on foreign language instruction at the center for free. Robbins said 15 professors have taken classes at the center.

She said the NCLRC is now working on developing a five-year program for undergraduates who want to teach languages like Chinese and Arabic. The students would begin learning the language freshman year of undergraduate school and would then begin their teacher training in graduate school.

– Lizzie Wozobski contributed to this report

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