It began as part of the Spanish 311 translation class in 2013. Maria Monteso, a full-time instructor in the Languages, Literature and Composition Department, believed providing her students with a practical way to demonstrate the value of translated documents would also provide real assistance to area non-profit organizations struggling to effectively reach the Upstate’s Hispanic community.
“I love translating, interpreting and helping people,” said Monteso. “So, I thought, ‘What if these people (and organizations) had all this material in Spanish?’”
Recognizing that she had a built-in resource with the students in her class, she realized that it would be more helpful to them if they could translate real documents instead of just practice documents she created.
In other words, Monteso was introducing her students to an idea that would be defined by USC Upstate as service-learning and community engagement, a method of teaching and learning that integrates student participation in organized service activities that enhances student learning by providing an opportunity to observe, test and apply discipline-based theories, concepts and skills.
Throughout the semester, her students receive a brief introduction to legal, medical, technical and commercial translation using texts in their linguistic and cultural context with an overview of the current translator profession. Then, working with the Spartanburg Hispanic Alliance (SHA), this very hands-on project directs Monteso’s students to meaningful community involvement that not only gives them experience in translating various documents for non-profit organizations like Hope Center for Children, Project Pinwheel, Children’s Advocacy Center, and Gibbs Cancer Center, but allows them to witness the impact their work has in assisting people and organizations established to help meet the growing Hispanic community’s needs.
“I had no idea it was service-learning,” Monteso noted. “I just knew it would be a good idea for the students to translate real documents where their names would be associated with a project.”
Her students, many of whom are bilingual, represent USC Upstate at SHA meetings where they meet new people, learn to better understand what documents need translating, as well as make contacts for networking.
“The fact that they are translating real documents makes them more engaged,” Monteso added. “They are more engaged when they come to class, and there is more involvement as they discuss the possible translations. They are really happy to help the community.”