During a national crisis, linguistically isolated communities are often overlooked in communication, leading them to miss out on critical information. Two Saint Rose students are helping to bridge this gap during the global pandemic, offering their translation services to the California Lawyers Association.
Bianca Arellano, ‘20, and Tyana Diaz, ‘22, both communications majors, are applying the skills they’ve developed in the College’s Translation Spanish <> English Certificate Program to assist with creating accessible videos for Spanish-speaking communities. The Association’s videos are about COVID-19-related challenges, such as how to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and how to report domestic-violence or custody-related issues.
“Not everyone is bilingual, so, if I can help them in any way to understand, for them to help themselves, that is so important,” Diaz said.
“I think it is important to give a voice to the voiceless in a sense,” Arellano added. “To be able to give them access to these videos in another language to help them — it is great work.”
Currently, Arellano and Diaz are working as a team to translate the videos from English to Spanish, and sometimes, from Spanish to English. Diaz, who lives in White Plains, New York, and Arellano, who lives five minutes away from Diaz, work together to create subtitles and captions for these videos, proofreading each other’s work.
Both students learned about this opportunity from Spanish Professor Claire Ziamandanis, who was first approached by the California Lawyers Association about her translation services. Ziamandanis, a translation professional for over 25 years, was not in the position to take on additional work but knew of two students who could help.
“I immediately thought of Bianca, who turns around jobs quickly,” Ziamandanis said.
“Tyana did a subtitling project for my class in two days when I had set aside three weeks for them to figure out the technology and steps,” she added. “I thought, Tyana is a shoo-in for this.”
Ziamandanis said this type of work is crucial during the pandemic when information, from both local and national governments, seems to fluctuate daily. She pointed to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the number of immigrants who own small businesses.
“They should have access to this information,” she said. “It is really the mom-and-pops that we need to keep in survival mode and put them back to work when this resolves itself.”
Translation Spanish <> English Certificate Program
The 18-credit certificate program includes an internship component, where students work with translation agencies and direct clients, like the California Lawyers Association, on translating important documents and videos, among other content. Some clients even look for voice-over work.
Throughout the certificate program, students focus on advanced-level Spanish. The program helps improve knowledge and skills for both heritage and non-heritage speakers of the language. There’s also the translation piece: In addition to learning different techniques, students become familiar with subtitling and advanced content-editing software.
Ziamandanis also emphasizes the business aspect of being a translation professional. She encourages students to develop a niche — a focus on a certain industry — to become more marketable in an increasingly competitive, technology-driven field.
“You don’t want to be just a generalist translator because sooner or later AI will do that pretty well,” she said. “I have a couple of areas of specialization. I do food and wine from Spanish into English, and I do heating ventilation from English into neutral U.S. Spanish. A machine won’t be able to do more nuanced translations effectively.”
Ziamandanis injects practical knowledge into her lessons, teaching students how to price jobs, create invoices, and market themselves as industry experts. She said that translation professionals are often freelancers, which is why it is important for her students to learn how to juggle all the facets that make up the gig economy.
Like Arellano and Diaz, some of her students even find paid work during the certificate program. Ziamandanis said a competitive price for translators in the United States market is about $10 per minute for captioning and subtitling, with a minimum price for shorter documents.
Although Arellano and Diaz have become editor and proofreader for one another — another process that is taught in the program — Ziamandanis also reviews their work before it gets sent to the Association. The students are averaging around three videos a day.
“They have improved with what they are sending me,” she said. “They are becoming more mature with what they are doing, and I am excited for them to move on and do it themselves.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of translators and interpreters is projected to grow 19% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average job growth rate.
“Claire talks about how this is a superpower that no one really has, “Arellano said. “Like for me, professionally, it helps me be more available to job opportunities.”
Arellano also worked last year with the Legal Project in Albany, New York, translating documents for immigrants. She enjoys doing this work because she’s been doing it for most of her life. Her family is from Mexico; she was born in the United States. She grew up speaking two languages, Spanish and English, fluently. In high school, she opted for a new challenge and took French.
But Arellano didn’t know translation was a career path until she met Ziamandanis.
“She opened that door and that window for me,” Arellano said.
Diaz grew up in a bilingual household. Her mom’s family immigrated from Mexico, and her father’s side of the family is Dominican and Puerto Rican. Although she understood Spanish, she said she didn’t like speaking the language — until middle school, when she started taking Spanish classes and grew confident in her skills. This eventually led her to take AP Spanish Language and Culture and earn the New York State Seal of Biliteracy by the end of her high-school career.
Diaz said the most important thing to remember when translating from English to Spanish is formalities.
“In Hispanic culture, respecting your elders is very important. So, you have to remember to speak with them a certain way, different than you would a friend of a cousin,” she said. “And, you have to figure out how to word certain things. Certain things you can say in English, but it doesn’t translate well in Spanish.”
Like Arellano, she was unaware of paid-job opportunities until she enrolled in the Spanish <> English Translation Certificate Program at Saint Rose.
“This certification is really good to have under your belt. Even if you’re not Hispanic and Spanish isn’t your first language, there is money to be made,” Diaz said. “It is especially important to me, coming from a family of immigrants that made it out of that stereotype. It is important for me to go the extra mile and do things like this.”
Diaz will graduate in the winter of 2022. She started at Saint Rose with a significant number of college credits, putting her ahead of her peers. Although she is still weighing her career opportunities, Diaz said she’s taken an interest in crisis communications. She also has a management position at Piercing Pagoda at Crossgates Mall in Albany that is on hold due to the statewide shutdown.
Arellano is finishing up the last few weeks of her undergraduate career at Saint Rose. Her future plans include an internship with the Disney College Program, working at the parks while taking classes in film and animation. She said the program might be delayed due to the precautions that Disney is taking to guard against COVID-19.
In the meantime, both students have contracted work with the California Lawyers Association for as long as their services are needed.
“Being able to help someone in that way, it is the most satisfying thing,” Arellano said.