Translating stories, transforming lives

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In 2013 Greg Taylor (’89) spent more than a year researching and writing Lay Down Your Guns, a story about Dr. Amanda Madrid who established medical clinics in Honduras to serve a rural community and ultimately defended them against drug cartels and gang violence. Unfortunately, the very people whose story he worked so hard to tell could not read it in their native Spanish. Knowing he had spent years praying for someone to translate this work, Taylor’s daughter-in-law, Sydney Brandon (’20), brought the book to Michelle Holland, assistant professor of Spanish, and asked if there was someone in the department of foreign languages and international studies who could help.

Holland began using the book as a translation exercise with Spanish majors in 2020. Around the same time, the University began exploring ways to highlight the arts on campus and serve the community. Holland’s graduate work in translation led her to propose the idea for the Center for Translation that would give students hands-on experience and also provide services for international students, missions groups and others in the community who are learning English as a second language.

As the plans for the center developed over the next couple of years, Holland knew it would provide more resources for fully translating Lay Down Your Guns. She reconnected with Taylor, and he was excited to move forward. With the ability to communicate with the author as the project progresses, the student translators can fully understand the source text, consider figurative language and idioms as well as focus on a Honduran audience, which affects specific word choices. 

“Grammar is usually straightforward, but vocabulary can be varied, so we have to think about the implications of choosing one word over the other,” Holland said. “Mr. Taylor has a distinct writing style that is sometimes hard to match in Spanish, so we have to decide what to do with those sentences and expressions. Translation is rarely a literal exchange of words. We make changes, but then we make sure we haven’t changed his story.” 

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This year, Spanish majors Chloe Elyse Dalrymple and Sierra Tackwell are working together, page by page, to translate faithfully this inspiring story. Dalrymple is a double major in Spanish and computer science and hopes to use her language skills in future mission work.

 “I think it’s important for the people in Honduras to be able to read about their own history and learn what great work Dr. Madrid did in their community,” she said. 

Tackwell plans to pursue a career in translation and interpretation and appreciates the hands-on experience she’s gaining through this project.

 “I feel like this really benefits everybody,” Tackwell said. “We get to use the language we’re learning and really put it into practice, and Spanish speakers will be able to read this story in their own language.” 

Through the Center for Translation, which officially opened in September, students and faculty in the department of foreign languages and international studies provide translation and interpreting services for the Harding and Searcy communities. They work with academic documents, especially for Harding’s international students; medical clinic flyers; and documentation for disability services. Holland plans to expand the center’s reach in the next few years by connecting with local schools and businesses as well as medical providers. In addition to serving the community, students have opportunities to work with translation software and other techniques and strategies. The department also offers an 18-hour graduate certificate in translation designed for those who have strong language skills in Spanish or French and want to add value to their careers. 

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