April 20, 2021

MS in Translation & Interpreting Student Spotlight: Benjamin Frey

Can you share a little about your background and how you got into translation?

Language and language learning have been a part of my academic pursuits for many years, beginning in high school, being a major focus throughout college, and leading me to work in Spanish immersion education in the United States and in Ecuador as an English teacher. Most recently, I’ve worked as a paralegal for an immigration attorney based out of Chicago and Quito, Ecuador, where most of the clients whom I interact with are monolingual Spanish speakers. For me, language has often acted as a bridge, allowing me access to environments and communities that might otherwise be inaccessible, and I plan on continuing my use of language as I transition my career toward international policy and law. Through my concerted study of translation, I hope for my bilingualism to bring a similar bridging capacity to others as we attempt to alleviate major international issues and solve complex problems. 

What was your journey to the MSTI program at NYU?

In all honesty, I hadn’t seen myself studying translation in such a formalized manner, yet world circumstances interrupted my other plans and motivated me to continue my education. The online component of the MSTI program meant I could complete my classes from wherever I found myself. The fact that online work was this program’s default, rather than something they were just learning how to do, made me feel even more comfortable diving in. I’m excited about this professionalization of my language skills which will allow me to bring a unique perspective to my future endeavors. Tailoring my work with MSTI to intergovernmental work has also been one of the wonderful benefits of this program and has developed my linguistic ability in such a way that makes me excited to take the next steps in my career. 

What inspired you to create the Source Language Engagement Sessions (SLEs) earlier this semester?

The MSTI program is not language specific, meaning that my fellow students speak many different languages and we all practice translation into English. On the one hand, this allows us the opportunity to learn from many different perspectives, backgrounds, and paths to translation. However, it also means that all of our classwork is conducted in English and we don’t get as much practice in our source languages. Not only that, but our program is fully online even in non-COVID times, meaning that we don’t get as many opportunities to interact in meaningful ways with our cohort. Providing SLE sessions was an idea that grew from trying to solve both of these programmatic challenges at the same time. Through interacting with other Translation and Interpreting students of the same language pair, we’ve been able to continue to advance our language ability while also networking with our peers. These groups have offered some wonderful conversations and also have been a great way to support each other as we transition into the professional environment.

What’s your biggest takeaway since beginning the SLEs? 

Even though the flexibility of online class was a major part of why I decided to pursue the MSTI program, I wasn’t completely prepared for the difficulty associated with being so isolated from others in my program. Where, in the past, I would have had a much easier time building community, distance learning has meant having to be much more self-sufficient and self-motivating. Since beginning the SLEs, I’ve come to realize just how important it is to have the support and camaraderie of a peer group.

Another recognition that I’ve had is how preemptive fear and anxiety are, rather than something that is felt as much in the present. As I was preparing for my first groups, I was wracked with anxiety that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about, or that we would struggle to fill the time. Yet, the first day came, and we all seemed to enjoy the process of getting to know one another. I’ve heard similar accounts from my classmates who were nervous about their language ability. Before joining the Zoom, they weren’t confident about their ability to understand or speak well, but once the interaction started it was as simple as having a conversation. Overall, it has been a great experience for me and for the other SLE participants to get to know each other in the language that we have chosen to translate, even though there might have been some nervousness going in. 

What is your favorite thing about translating and interpretation?

It’s easy to forget how interconnected the world has become. As translators and interpreters, we are able to facilitate a great deal of cultural exchange, we are part of what makes international collaboration possible. Even though my classmates and I have had many conversations about the “invisibility” of the translator, our role is one of international and intercultural communication acting as a bridge between people who would be otherwise unable to communicate. Interpreting in particular is a meaningful effort as it offers the capacity to allow real-time intercultural collaboration, or to connect individuals to services that they would not be able to access without language assistance.

Do you have advice to other translators or people interested in the MSTI program?

For any pursuit, I think that it’s important to consider one’s motivation for engaging in that activity. Getting involved in translation and interpreting is no different, and I believe that it’s important for those interested to engage because they have a love of language in general and the language that they are translating or interpreting. As much as we would like it to change, one is not going to receive a great deal of praise or recognition for translation or interpreting work. Therefore, an appreciation and enjoyment of the work itself is an important characteristic to cultivate. Beyond that, I would also recommend working with material that you find legitimately interesting. That is what will motivate you to engage in those texts or interpreting sessions, providing for greater attention and more complete satisfaction. 

Benjamin Frey is currently a second semester MSTI graduate student from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2016, with majors in Sociology with Honors and Spanish Language and Literature as well as a minor in Intergroup Relations. As he moves forward in his career, he hopes to apply his language skills to the realms of international policy and law. Benjamin currently lives in La Paz, Mexico, and enjoys getting outside and being active, along with reading, watching movies, and spending time with friends and loved ones.

A translation and interpreting degree can help you to take charge of your career, whether you are new to the field or already working in the language professions. Apply for CALA’s newly renamed MS in Translation & Interpreting, a fully online, 36-credit graduate program.

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