Become Who You Want to Be

Damien Fan

Welcome to GPTI! We would like to congratulate you for becoming part of our small but growing family. T&I programs are notoriously difficult to get into (our average admission rate is around 8%), and leaving with a master’s degree isn’t exactly a guaranteed exit either. So please prepare yourself mentally (and physically) for a wild ride ahead!

As someone who’s officially beginning my 18th year as an interpreter and 13th year as a teacher, I’ve shared quite a few pieces of advice with those onboarding. Two of them have stood the test of time.

First, embrace the world with an open mind and a humble heart. Unlike other graduate programs where people become profoundly knowledgeable on a specific topic in a specific field of a specific discipline, T&I programs expose our students to the immensity of the world and the capriciousness of everything about it. While your friends seem to become ever more an expert, you feel ever more ignorant and clueless as you get inundated by science and history and geopolitics and senior-tranche debts and transistors and mitochondria. You might not be able to sound erudite or publish papers like your peers who regularly attend lab meetings or speak in seminars. That’s why sometimes you would feel lost and discouraged. It’s OK though. To feel overwhelmed. To feel small. To worry. These sentiments are windows of self-reflection and doors that can lead to growth. I think T&I gives us plenty of opportunities to learn to appreciate the world we live in and the people around us. Seize them.

Second, learn about yourself more so that you know who you really are. This is actually a natural extension of the first piece of advice, because rather than subjectively seeking our identities in disregard to external factors, we actually need the world around us to help position ourselves more precisely. The ability to thoroughly understand ourselves — our likes and dislikes, our thoughts and behaviors, our actions and reactions, our emotions and beliefs — is so critical yet underrated. It’s especially important because if you do take up T&I as your career, you’ll be working in solitude for great swaths of time. You’ll also find yourself looking at the universe from unique vantage points. You will need the confidence to be yourself, and learning and understanding who you are will help you become the person you want to be.

My last piece of advice is a more recent addition. Technologies such as computer-aided T&I tools, machine translation, and automatic speech recognition, have become an integral part of T&I. They have redefined what we do, changed our workflows, and created new jobs. But rather than chasing after the latest gadget or worrying about whether you’d be eliminated, technology actually elevated the importance of the two ends of the T&I capability spectrum: language proficiency and critical thinking. When the actual task of interlingual reformulation (i.e., T&I) is taken over by machines, your language proficiency determines whether you can be, for example, a discerning pre-editor or post-editor. And if you have the ability to critically think about T&I, including but not limited to its nature, its role, its value, its stakeholders, its relations with other industries, and not just take it from face value or how it is generally described, you will be able to imagine infinite possibilities with what you’ve learned at GPTI.

GPTI is not a trade school nor an occupational training center. With enough dedication and sufficient investment in time and effort, I have no doubt that you could become an outstanding translator and/or interpreter. But your talents allow you to do, or rather, be much more than that. We will try our best to help you discover your potential. You can try your best to become the person you want to be.

Once again, welcome. Enjoy the journey.