Strong in translation

Spanish students travel to Arizona for intense workshop in interpreting

Story by Billy Liggett


Learning Spanish is tough enough. Being able to take what’s been learned and perfectly translate the language to those who don’t speak it is far more difficult.

And translating Spanish during times of crisis — such as in an emergency room setting or during a domestic violence investigation — tosses in real-life stress to an already enormously difficult task.

But those who are able to do it and do it well are in high demand. For that reason, Campbell University associate professor of Spanish Ann Ortiz accompanied several students from her Medical Spanish I and II classes to her alma mater, the University of Arizona, for an intense two-day interpretation workshop. Students not only built on their Spanish-speaking skills, but were introduced to world-class standards for professional interpreters and performed their skills in front of their peers and professors.

“Our students really excelled … I was very proud of their performance,” said Ortiz, a nationally accredited interpreter with experience in medical and legal interpretation. “They were not reticent in the least, and I could tell they retained much of what we’d studied in our classes.”

Coats sophomore Nick Hammond, a Spanish major and son of College of Arts & Sciences Dean Mark Hammond, said the workshop put him in situations that resembled more real-life events than a classroom could. Fluent in Spanish, Hammond found interpreting to be a challenge. “You have to keep up with the pace of whomever you’re translating,” he said. “The workshop put me in situations where just knowing the vocabulary isn’t good enough.”

Also a Spanish major, Wilson junior and future teacher Alicia Ellis called the trip “amazing,” adding that the workshop was more hands-on than a typical Spanish class.

“I can speak to you all day long in Spanish,” she said, “but this was a challenge. We met people who made us think more outside of the box … the whole experience was helpful for me.”

Campbell’s Spanish department introduced Medical Spanish in spring 2011 to not only expand its foreign language offerings, but tie in to the University’s growing health sciences programs (the medical school will begin in 2013, and the physician assistant program began in fall 2011).

With so many students studying for a career in medicine, department heads felt it would be beneficial to have a certified professor who can train them to use their Spanish in critical situations. “The courses [Dr. Ortiz] teaches come with that national seal of approval, so to speak,” said Tiago Jones, associate professor of Spanish and chairman of the Department of Foreign Languages.

Fuquay-Varina senior Rachelle Fuller said she wants to enter med school or study to be a physician assistant after graduation, and having medical science courses (and the Arizona trip on her resume) will help her get into graduate school. “Those schools look for people who are more diverse,” she said, “or who don’t have minors solely in their field.”

Luke Ennis, a Fayetteville sports science major who works at an eye clinic, said he’s already used his bilingual skills in the field. “This entire course and the Arizona workshop focus solely on clinical terms I need to use on a regular basis. So it’s been very helpful,” he said.