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Educators' Voices: Jenny McPhee on Teaching Translation

Posted on July 10, 2019

Jenny McPhee, Assistant Professor of translation at NYU. 

Why is it important to teach students about translation? Author, translator and professor Jenny McPhee writes:

The study of translation is key to human understanding as it promotes genuine intercultural exchange, increases global literacy, and mines the gold of all existence: empathy.

In a recent essay published on the blog of the magazine Words Without Borders, McPhee describes teaching two classes---seemingly quite different---that dovetailed when it came to the most important elements of translation :

. . . [W]e examined issues of language idiosyncrasies, as well as cultural and historical context, thus making each of the students an expert in their source language. Our deliberations dramatically revealed how language difference shapes cultural difference across time, texts, and geography. We became acutely aware that the rest of the world does not speak, think, and feel homogeneously, but in an infinite variety of ways. As Octavio Paz put it: “The sun praised in an Aztec poem is not the sun of the Egyptian hymn, although both speak of the same star.”

To read the entire essay, visit the WWB Dispatches blog.