Northwestern's Simultaneous Interpretation Lab

(ORANGE CITY, IA) Northwestern College in Orange City is getting students ready for the real world with a new program and lab offering professional experience in a classroom setting.

Stefany Silva is a college sophomore who is fully bilingual.

"Spanish was my first language. I was born in Mexico and I moved to the United States when I was 6 years old," says Stefany Silva, Northwestern College sophomore.

She's one of just 11 students majoring in Translation & Interpretation.

"Highly specialized field. It's a professional field and on the academic side, there are now only 4 programs at the Baccalaureate level in the US," says Piet Koene, Translation & Interpretation Program Director.

Northwestern started the program in 2010 and installed a simultaneous interpretation lab this summer.

This top-of-the-line Bosch equipment is the same as what professionals use in the field at UN international meetings or professional conferences in major US cities. Northwestern invested $75,000 to fully equip 13 booths for the lab.

"They hear the original recording, be that in English or Spanish, and then simultaneously, they're interpreting it into the other language," says Koene.

"With the headphones, you can actually hear it better and you can understand it a lot more and it's easier too in the soundproof booth. You don't have a lot of distractions," says Silva.

Stefany plans to use her interpreting skills with an elementary education degree.

"Bilingual teachers are very needed and like at parent-teacher conferences, I might be able to use my translation abilities," says Silva.

Something she learned just a few hours from home, right here in northwest Iowa.

The Iowa Interpreters and Translators Association will host its annual meeting at Northwestern this coming summer. The conference will include a full day professional workshop inside the lab.

Reported by Erika Thomas. You can contact her at

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