The University of Iowa

Found in translation at the University of Iowa

August 1st, 2016
world map

By Mason Clarke, The Daily Iowan

The Translate Iowa Project has a different kind of campus envisioned — borderless. A campus on which students do not have to choose a language nor an ethnicity with which to identify. All, to the best of their abilities, would interact with each other regardless of backgrounds and native tongues.

The Translate Iowa Project is setting out to work toward making that happen.

“The idea is to create a logistically and culturally inclusive environment in Iowa City,” said Bryan Flavin, the president of the project.

Flavin, a University of Iowa student who majors in linguistics and French, started the project with a couple friends in the spring semester of 2016. Initially, the Translate Iowa Project was called the Borderless Project.

Recently, however, the project took on a new name for legal reasons.

“It turned out there might be copyright issues [with the name],” Vice President Mary Ma said.

The project took on a new name, but a statement on its Facebook page said, “We still aim to remain borderless.”

The project would like to help create a borderless community in a number of facets beginning this fall.

“Right now, we are in the process of developing an online site,” Flavin said. “The idea, starting in September, is to take submissions on our site.”

The website will accept submissions for poems, short stories, and essays in any language from anywhere in the world. The Translate Iowa Project staff will then translate the pieces into other languages.

The Internet is not the only medium the project will take on to reach out. Starting Aug. 24, the project will have its own show on 89.7 KRUI every week.

“[We will] broadcast a lot of world news and world music,” Flavin said. “Basically, any non-English music.”

The group will not wait until the fall, though, to begin its efforts.

“We made family calendars for Orientation,” Ma said.

Flavin and Ma said when non-English-speaking future students attend orientations and are given family calendars, the calendars are far from convenient for them. The project worked with UI Orientation Services to create family calendars for students and parents with different native tongues.

The project is largely funded by the UI Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. Director Russell Ganim said he is happy with the connection between his division and the project.

“We want to promote undergraduate initiatives that advance translation,” he said.

As head of the division, Ganim said he believes the students involved deserve credit for doing most of the work. The project is doing a good service to the community, he said.

“[The project] shows how robust diversity is on campus,” he said. “It deals not only with literal translation but with the community as well.”

Since its beginning, the project has taken in a number of new student workers. Flavin estimates the current total project includes 15 to 17 people, with many more interested who also occasionally contribute.

The project leaders hope to see more events in the future.

“We’re in the process of getting a Translate Iowa movie night that we hope to have biweekly or monthly,” Flavin said.

Project leaders also intend to start holding readings in which pieces of non-English work will be read at such locations as High Ground Café, 301 E. Market St.

Long-term, Flavin said he would like to see in-print publications based on the online platform.

“We’re hoping not to limit this to the UI but to extend to the surrounding Iowa City area,” he said.