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Lives in Translation

Lives in Translation (LiT)

Lives in Translation is a Translation and Interpreting program in the Spanish and Portuguese Studies Department at Rutgers University-Newark.  

The program’s initial offerings provided volunteer translation and interpreting services to law clinics, non-profits organizations, and community partners in Newark and the surrounding area. Due to the increasing demand of language services from our community partners, LiT has expanded its offerings and now serves over 25 organizations, both national and local such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISC), Rutgers Law Immigration Rights Clinic, and Rutgers Law Child Advocacy Law Clinic.  

In our language database we have over 850 student volunteers representing over 50 languages, including endangered and indigenous languages such as Ga and Tlapanec. 

Our project aims to celebrate the increasing linguistic diversity of the Rutgers-Newark community and beyond and builds upon this strength by training our students to acquire expertise in a specialized field of translation and interpreting. We believe that by nurturing students' expertise in translation and interpreting, we can cultivate a generation of language professionals who will play a vital role in promoting effective communication and language access across various sectors and communities. 


How has LiT made an impact? 

Language Advocacy and Access  

In support of language advocacy and access, Jennifer Austin and Stephanie Rodriguez, along with student Gretel Rodriguez Ramos, had the opportunity to represent LiT and testify before the New Jersey State Senate in support of Bill S2459. The bill, which expands the state’s language access services, is advancing to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Under this legislation, the requirement for translating and interpreting services will include the top 15 most-used languages in New Jersey: These languages are Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Korean, Portuguese, Gujarati, Arabic, Polish, Haitian Creole, Russian, Hindi, Tagalog, Italian, Vietnamese, Urdu and French. All 15 languages are available through our student volunteer program. 

New Jersey’s language access mandate will be the largest program of its kind in the U.S. The passage of this bill will increase accessibility of public services for limited-English-proficiency New Jersey residents. The bill was passed by the Senate and referred to the Assembly State and Local Government Committee on March 20, 2023. 

LiT Directors Jennifer Austin and Stephanie Rodriguez, along with student Gretel Rodriguez Ramos, had the opportunity to represent LiT and testify before the New Jersey State Senate in support of Bill S2459.

Exhibiting Lives in Translation  

LiT, in collaboration with the Design Consortium at RU-N, presented A Feeling Of Itself, an exhibition that engages the audience through a set of multimedia audio-visual experiences that express the value of living in translation. The exhibition was based on cultural exchange and the concept of what in Spanish we call “arraigo,” which roughly translates to “a sense of belonging because of one’s roots.” The title, A Feeling Of Itself, is a phrase from one of the recordings — the brother of an LiT student sharing his unique story of life between languages, and the feeling of expressing and communicating in two or more languages at once. 

The design of the exhibit, created by Professor Chantal Fischzang and her students in the Arts, Culture, and Media department at RU-N, centers on the concept of “language layers,” which involves text clouds that are formatted to hover within the framing of a background image, photo, or environment. The narrative is based on excerpts of insights on bilingualism from the interview recordings, and they are presented in two colors to address translations. Text is layered over photographs, captured by Professor Anthony Alvarez's photography students in the Arts, Culture, and Media department at RU-N at SHINE Portrait Studio, of LiT students conducting interviews, shown as quotes in two languages. 

The ongoing project aims to inspire students to contribute their unique voices, highlighting translation as a powerful conduit for cultural exchange and effective communication. 

The current selection of interviews is a set dedicated to celebrating Latino heritage and language, represented by our Lives in Translation students Alma Garcia-Constanza, who recently graduated from RU-N as a Translation & Interpreting minor and Biology major, and Jennifer Carpio, also a recent graduate who studied Criminal Justice and Translation & Interpreting. The interviews were conducted in Spanish and Tlapanec. 

LiT exhibit at Newark Public Library

Language Support in Public Health Initiatives  

During summer of 2020, our students supported the city of Newark’s contact tracing efforts by providing language services to those exposed to COVID-19, assisted asymptomatic individuals with isolation, directed symptomatic persons to suitable testing facilities, and followed up until clearance for ceasing isolation. LiT interns made significant contributions in a statewide COVID-19 initiative, actively participating in the contact tracing team of the Newark Department of Health. Their involvement included monitoring approximately 2,800 contacts, demonstrating their commitment to public health and community well-being. 

Student Testimonials 

Desiree Roquetti

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to feel as a valuable member of my community. The LiT program helped me fulfill my professional aspirations of public service, and it allowed me to use my academic and language skills to contribute to the immigrant community in such difficult times. My experience as a contact tracer intern for the city’s contact tracing program gave me more than a job experience in public health. It opened doors for actual employment, which was offered to me by the city after the program’s completion.”

Desiree Roquetti

Harrison Chui

“The Translation & Interpreting Program at Rutgers-Newark provided a theoretical background and new perspective on social determinants of health in medical care as well as my personal experiences as a child of immigrants interacting with different diasporas. This program offers a multilingual, academic, approach to the core concepts and practical skills of translation and interpretation - distinct from simply knowing the language.”

Harrison Chui

Learn More About LiT 

  • Program Director: Professor Stephanie Rodriguez //

    Faculty Advisor: Professor Jennifer Austin //

  • Intern with LiT: students who intern with LiT will earn three (3) academic credits, gain hands-on, real-world experience within the professional realm of translation and interpreting, and receive one-on-one resume building assistance. To be considered, prospective students must have taken, or be currently enrolled in Intro to Translation Studies (21:940:240), demonstrate professional attitude and conduct, demonstrate (spoken and written) fluency in English and one other language. For further inquiries, please click here


    Volunteer with LiT: Volunteers will be tasked with providing ad-hoc interpreting/translation services. Upon completion of a session, volunteers will receive a certificate. Previous volunteers have served a number of organizations, including: American Friends Service Committee, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, and ACLU New Jersey, to name a few! To apply to volunteer with LiT, please click here