Clorinda Donato

Clorinda Donato holds the recognition for naming of the Clorinda Donato Center for Global Romance Languages and Translation Studies.

Foreign language studies aren’t new at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). The school has offered classes such as French, German, Spanish and translation for at least 40 years.

But what is — the Clorinda Donato Center for Global Romance Languages and Translation Studies.

The CSU board of trustees gave the go-ahead for the center — in the already-established academic services building — at last Tuesday’s meeting, Donato said, and it’s officially open spring semester, which began Jan. 23.

It may not be quite established yet, but the approval helped spur forward motion. A $1.1 million donation from Italian studies supporter Mario Giannini didn’t hurt either.

“We’ve been doing small projects in the meantime,” Donato said. “You have to go through a lot of things to get approval. Now, we’re creating the coursework and working within the departments where these subjects can be taught.”

The center will support pedagogical research in romance language inter-comprehension and learning targeting language families, specifically romance languages and translation studies. The school is the first in the California State University (CSU) system to have an overarching studies program, according to Donato — for whom the center was named — as well as George L. Graziadio Italian studies chair and Italian studies program director. It’s also the first center in the U.S. promoting inter-comprehension and multilingual approaches to language instruction.

So far, an office within the center recently vacated, with a research fellow is working on a couple of projects, Donato said.

“We want to attract more funding,” she said. “Most people appreciate languages, so it shouldn’t be too hard.”

Working with various departments can be difficult, she noted, because there are guidelines for specific degree programs. Now, students take courses in various departments to earn a language degree, she said.

“There’s no real concerted effort for translation,” Donato said, noting she’d like to eventually change that through the center.

Donato has taught at CSULB since about 1988 and various professors teach foreign languages, but furthering studies requires additional support, she said.

“”You realize how hard it is (to translate),” Donato said. “You have to do research to do translation.”

The work is of increasing value.

“It’s important for people to speak more than one language,” Donato said. “Those who know Spanish can easily learn another romance language… We’re not harnessing it enough into something employers seek.”

Besides that, creating new methods with the new technology enables students to easily obtain multiple languages, she said.

“It’s one of the biggest projects for the humanities,” Donato said, noting many humanities studies didn’t offer the job opportunities afforded to those with language knowledge.

“There’s a pretty good job market, especially if you look at the public,” Donato said. “I think about 56% of the people in L.A. County speak another language.”

Donato mentioned companies often contact her seeking someone who can help them translate.

“A person who worked with us last year went to work with Google on a translation project,” Donato said. “You can’t believe how many I have contact me.”

For more information, visit csulb.edu.

Emily Thornton can be reached at ethornton@gazettes.com.

Emily is a staff writer covering higher education and other various topics for Gazette Newspapers. She has a background in weekly and daily newspapers and a bachelor’s in communication from La Sierra University.

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