Stephanie Rodriguez (L) and Jennifer Austin (R)

Lives In Translation’s VOICE Podcast Highlights Benefits of Multilingualism and Diversity

Lives in Translation (LiT), the award-winning initiative that pairs Rutgers University–Newark students with immigrant-aid organizations in need of translation and interpretation services, has a new podcast. 

Actually, it’s a not-so-new podcast that’s getting a new lease on life. 

VOICE, the podcast, was started in February 2020 while the RU-N campus was still engaged in fully remote learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The team behind the program produced four monthly episodes from February through May before taking a hiatus over the summer and into fall. But the podcast is resuming this month with a new lineup of guests. 

“It’s incredible to be back and get the podcast going again,” said LiT Director and VOICE creator Stephanie Rodriguez. “We have a lot of great episode ideas, and I’m happy we’ll be able to reach students who are not only a part of LiT but also others who might find these subjects interesting.” 

Rodriguez launched VOICE, which started as virtual coffee chats, to share stories of how multilingualism and diversity support social cohesion and strengthen affinities, and to identify the voices of those who contribute to equity and inclusion. It was also a way to engage LiT students and reach a new audience of language enthusiasts during the campus’ remote-learning phase by having cultural conversations and expanding transnational discourse—and offer practical advice to those hoping to enter the fields of translation and interpretation. 

The podcast features artists, authors, linguists, translators, poets, professors, and translation and interpreting professionals and enthusiasts to discuss the power of language, the ‘definition’ of cultural sustainability, the impact of bilingualism, and the construction of immigrant identity. Guests also share their experience in the field and dispense expert advice about various opportunities and the job market, which is especially helpful for student listeners. 

"We have such a wide variety of guests, not only professors and practitioners in the translation and interpretation fields but also professionals who talk about translation technology,” said Rodriguez. “We cover every aspect of the industry, showing that there are many more opportunities for students than just translating a book or article, so students or others who may be interested can learn about our guests’ roles and see if these align with their long-term goals.” 

We have a lot of great episode ideas, and I’m happy we’ll be able to reach students who are not only a part of LiT but also others who might find these subjects interesting.

VOICE’s team consists of Rodriguez as series producer, Isaac Jimenez as audio engineer, Professor Chantal Fischzang as podcast and social-media graphics designer, and Jose Iglesias as music curator. Initially the episodes were recorded over Zoom, but Rodriguez plans to create a podcast studio in the near future, where the team will record the show. Episodes typically last 30 minutes, though if Rodriguez feels a show should run longer, she has the leeway to do so, as with one guest she had in the spring, Professor John Keene, who is not only a professor of English and African American Studies but also a translator of novels, poetry and essays.  

Lives in Translation (LiT), which the VOICE podcast falls under, is part of the Translation and Interpreting Studies program within the Spanish and Portuguese Department at RU-N.  

LiT was launched in 2016 by Professor Jennifer Austin and a group of RU-N faculty from SASN and Rutgers Law School with a $40K grant from the Chancellor’s Office. The idea was to leverage RU-N’s ranking as the most diverse campus in the country by recruiting undergraduate volunteers to serve as interpreters and translators to help immigrants seeking legal services. That need is especially great in Newark, where 45 percent of the population speaks a language other than English at home. 

LiT has grown exponentially since its founding, expanding its volunteer database to more than 800 students who speak 49 different languages, with some participating from other Rutgers campuses and nearby community colleges. 

Students have assisted pro bono attorneys working for two clinics run by Rutgers Law School—the Rutgers Law Immigrant Rights and Child Advocacy Clinics—along with a host of outside groups in northern New Jersey and New York City such as the American Friends Service Committee, the ACLU, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, the NJ Alliance for Immigrant Justice, and the New York Legal Assistance Group. They’ve also been recruited to aid private-practice law firms. 

The students have worked in a wide range of contexts, helping to conduct know-your-rights, divorce and DACA clinics; lending their interpretation skills for client intakes, medical examinations, court appointments and asylum interviews; and translating hundreds of pages of legal documents, including Individualized Education Plans, birth certificates, affidavits, transcripts, letters of support, event flyers and more. 

In spring 2020, LIT also began helping the city of Newark with its Covid-19 contact-tracing efforts via the nonprofit Newark Alliance, which focuses on economic revitalization and was partnering with the city. The student-volunteer response to that initiative was also remarkable, with LiT translators helping with the three top languages Newark Alliance and its partner, Believe in a Healthy Newark, had requested: Spanish, Portuguese and Creole. 

LiT has expanded from its service mission to also include internships in the field for students, along with a Minor in Translation and Interpretation being offered through the Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies. 

“Our goal is for student offer students an opportunity to pursue great careers in what is, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, one of the fastest-growing fields: translation or interpretation,” said Rodriguez. “We’re teaching students not only theory but also showing them what it’s like to be in this industry and practice in various settings, and connect them with professionals in the field and jobs.” 

As for her latest project, Rodriguez has been happy with the response to VOICE and is excited about what’s to come. 

“The feedback for the podcast has been very positive, and listeners have specifically enjoyed the tips segments for students,” she said. “Our guests have been delighted with the outcome and supporting LiT through their story-sharing on VOICE. Our audience ranges from students to faculty to language lovers. We hope to continue to grow this podcast project by diving deeper into our audience’s points of interests and promoting it widely.” 

 

VOICE is available for listening or download on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. You can also hear it on anchor.fm