Translation is the oldest method used in teaching foreign languages. Other new pedagogies have sometimes supplanted it, but it remains at the heart of language teaching, often at the most advanced levels of mastery when nuance, context and the specificity of a language and culture can only be suggested through the trials, errors and impossibility of translation.
Today, the difficulties of translating may seem solvable with technological tools. Yet, a successful translation is more than a mechanical transfer of meaning from one language to another, no matter how advanced the technology. Context, history, culture, ethical considerations, logic, rhetoric and politics all need to be considered and taken into account. Translation is that space where language, culture, history, politics and incommensurable difference all collide and sometimes cohere to make sense. At a time of intensive globalization, when cultures and languages seek common understanding, one could argue that it is an indispensable discipline.
The Translation Studies Concentration builds on the historical strength of foreign language study at Smith; a robust student commitment to study abroad; a proven record of students engaging in internship or research experiences when abroad; a faculty with experience in translation; a faculty and staff with international roots and reach; a growing population of international students who can serve as language and cultural informants as well as concentrators in their own right; and the Lewis Global Studies Center, a space, both material and intellectual, that provides support.
Smith's curricular resources in this area are wide-ranging, including courses in the various departments of foreign languages and cultures, comparative literature, classics, film studies, American studies and English. The Poetry Center and the Five College journal Metamorphoses: A Journal of Literary Translation provide opportunities for guest translators as well as for student internships.