While still a bit early to tell what President Barack Obama’s position will be with regard to translation and interpreting, several indications suggest that there will be an increased focus on multilingual communication, which includes increased use of translation and interpreting in diplomatic, economic, and domestic circles.
According to Global Watchtower, in an post dated January 28, increased translation activity can already be seen in State Department, with contracts for wartime interpreters slowing, and contracts for conference interpreting accelerating. In economic circles, demand for languages such as Chinese and Portuguese in increasing. In terms of education, the trend seems less toward teaching Americans new languages and more toward training current bilingual Americans in translation and interpreting. Finally, there seems to be an increased emphasis on access to human and civil rights, which includes language rights in courts, hospitals, and schools. In fact, just two days after the inauguration, the Department of Justice issued a request for proposals for Spanish translation and interpreting services in the Chicago area.
As a translation teacher and researcher, there last two provisions strike me a quite promising. Translation courses, while booming overseas, are scarce in the United States, and universities with existing programs, such as UMass Amherst, are well positioned to respond to such new training initiatives. And those universities committed to equal rights and diversity in the workplace can help government and social service agencies in terms of recognizing the rights of language minorities in the country and the enforcemnt of provisions in Title VI of the Civil Rights Acts.