Translation Symposium Celebrates Linguistic Diversity at Reed

Twenty-six students presented their translations of stories that are close to their hearts

Twenty-six students crowded into the first few rows of folding chairs in the GCC conference rooms last Thursday, patiently waiting for their turn at the podium. Five minutes in, every seat was taken and a crowd was forming at the back of the room. Students came from all different majors and backgrounds, but they all shared one thing: a love for stories and language.

At Reed College’s first ever Translation Symposium, students prepared a translation of a short story or poem to present to the gathered crowd. Some students spoke French, Mandarin, Russian, or other languages. Others had little to no mastery of a second language at all, but held a deep passion for the story itself. The Quest sat down for an interview with Professor of Spanish and Humanities Elizabeth Drumm, who helped organize the event.

Clarissa Lam: What role did you play in planning the Translation Symposium?

Elizabeth Drumm: I just thought it might be interesting to try to do something like this. I was working on a translation of my own, really, for the first time, and [I] had gotten interested in translation. And I thought, well, this would be a great way for us to celebrate the fact that we have so many languages on campus and [not only] that people are studying languages, but also our international students that bring this these lovely traditions with them. So I thought, well, let’s try it. There’s an event like this in the Russian house. They have a Russian poetry night where they might not do it in translation, but they’re short pieces that students prepare. So, I suppose it’s kind of building on that, but now with translation so that we can share it with the community.

CL: How would you describe the event?

ED: Frankly, it exceeded my expectations. I mean, you never know how things like this are going to turn out. I knew the translations were strong because I read them all, but what I thought was remarkable about [the] evening was that the presentations were so strong. Each student just read beautifully. It was very interesting to hear why they chose the pieces that they chose for all sorts of different reasons. And then the variety of texts and languages represented was great as well. Initially, we thought we would have an evening [where] just maybe fifteen students would present, but when we looked at the submissions, [John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of French and Humanities] Ann Delehanty and I realized it would be impossible to choose. How would you ever choose something like that? And so we thought, “Okay, well, we’ll try to do all twenty-six in an hour and a half.” And that worked! It worked because the students were prepared. It worked beautifully. 

CL: How was the turnout?

ED: Happy to see that, of course. I mean, again, the first time you try things, you just never know. We knew at least the students that were presenting [would attend], and faculty members had mentioned that they were coming. So I figured we’d have some people. But then it was lovely to see so many [people, and it was] such a nice and really respectful and warm audience. That was great. 

CL: Based on the success of this event, what are you thinking about for possible future events?

ED: I think we should do it again! I really will try again next year and next fall, and maybe every fall we will have a translation symposium. And again, it’s a wonderful way to celebrate linguistic diversity. We have great linguistic diversity on campus that is not necessarily recognized, and I think it’s a lovely opportunity to do so.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Stories


We would love your thoughts, please comment!x
%d bloggers like this: