Erika Egner, TRNL ’19


The East Asia Practicum participants in front of the Japanese Diet building. 

I’m really very honored to have been selected to attend the East Asia Practicum as an interpreter. I wish that all T&I students had the opportunity to join such an event, as it was incredibly valuable.

First, simply attending the Foreign Policy, Trade, and Security in East Asia seminar classes before ever leaving Monterey was valuable. As an interpreter, it is my role to know a little about many, many different topics. It is one thing to work in-house and learn all there is to know about a specific company, but for anyone working freelance it is common to get jobs in a whole spectrum of different fields. This was a great way to learn a little about some very important fields when it comes to politics and trade in Asia.

MIIS’s T&I courses are very practical. They teach you skills – how to research a translation, how to take good notes, how to work with a partner in a simul booth. But the entire time, we occupy someone else’s voice, instead of our own. It was refreshing to see a GSIPM course, where critical thinking and knowledge is key. I’m not saying that one is better than the other – both are hugely important. But it was a great experience to emerge a little from my T&I bubble and get a taste of the lives of the other MIIS students. I would encourage other TILM students to do the same – even if it’s just auditing, even if it’s just once – sign up for a class outside of your normal field of study.

Second, at MIIS it’s easy to forget the ultimate purpose of why we are studying interpretation. We are learning to facilitate communication. As I mentioned in a previous post, it can be easy to forget that when we allow ourselves to get overly concerned about our own in-class performances and feedback. It is very taxing, mentally, to have your interpretation picked to pieces every single day. I think it makes you have a thicker skin, which in turn makes you a better interpreter, but it’s still rough.

That’s why it’s great to occasionally do some interpretation for people who are actually relying on you. It allows you to put yourself in the shoes of the ones who are really important in a given conversation – the speaker and the listeners, not yourself – and turn your focus to making their experience the best that you possibly can. It takes yourself out of your own mind and lets you experience the joy of helping others. That’s why we are ultimately here, studying this skill. It has been very easy to let myself forget that here at MIIS, so being reminded in such a strong way was really meaningful.

I’m so grateful to Professors Akaha and Liang, and for the MIIS administration for giving me this valuable opportunity. I hope that future generations of T&I students will have similar chances and get as much out of it as I did.

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