Translation and Intercultural Communication

Program Offerings

Offering type

Issues of translation and intercultural communication arise everywhere in the contemporary world. What makes a good translation? Are there different kinds of “good translations” for different circumstances? How do multilingual speakers navigate their languages, and how do translators and interpreters deal with the challenges presented by multilingual texts and contexts? How — and how well — does machine translation work? What are the challenges for sign language interpretation? How does one translate the language of a poem or a play?

The Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication (PTIC) takes linguistic translation as its base and offers a diverse set of undergraduate courses that allow students to develop an understanding of translation from varied perspectives. Most courses are taught by faculty in humanities departments, but we also consider the ways translation functions in the social sciences, the hard sciences, the arts, and engineering. At PTIC, we recognize translation as crucial to the production and circulation of work in all fields, and to our everyday lives as inhabitants of a multilingual and interconnected world. Undergraduates in our program have pursued majors in departments including anthropology, comparative literature, ecology and evolutionary biology, history, Near Eastern studies, operations research and financial engineering, politics, and many more. We encourage students from all departments and disciplines to explore our offerings, regardless of their prior experience with translation.

Among PTIC’s goals are connecting translators with one another and encouraging them to use their talents and energies in the service of the wider community. Beyond campus, PTIC supports activities that seek to link the academic community with voluntary and professional groups serving a wide variety of organizations with translation needs, including the New Jersey judiciary, the United Nations, and literary publishing enterprises. 

PTIC’s programming also includes regular events, conferences and winter session translation workshops. Each semester PTIC hosts a visiting translator in residence, who shares their real-world experiences of life and work as a translator with the program’s students and the broader Princeton community. The program also supports student translation projects with summer funding. 

PTIC offers a minor to undergraduates who develop skills in language use and an understanding of the complexity of communicating across linguistic and cultural borders. For more information about prerequisites, admission to the program and the program’s course of study, including independent work, please read on.

Note: The Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication does not offer translator training.


Goals for Student Learning

The learning goals for the minor in translation and intercultural communication are:

  • To give students vital tools for thinking about the centrality of translation across academic disciplines and realms of human experience.
  • To help students gain a deeper understanding of the specific ways in which translation impacts their own lives and chosen fields of study.


Before entering the minor, students should normally have satisfied the University’s language requirement for general education (i.e., completed or demonstrated proficiency in a language sequence through 107/108). Native or near-native fluency in a language not offered by the University can also be counted toward the language prerequisite of PTIC.

Admission to the Program

Students normally declare the minor between spring of sophomore year and spring of junior year. There is no formal application to the minor. Interested students should contact the program director, Prof. Karen Emmerich ([email protected]), or the program administrator, Yolanda Sullivan ([email protected]). Both the director and administrator can provide more information about the program, help students create a personalized program of study, register their intent to complete the minor, and help track their progress.

Program of Study

All students who wish to earn a minor in translation and intercultural communication must successfully complete the following program requirements. While each student is invited to design their own path through the program, their specific course of study must be approved by the program director.

The program’s two core courses:

  • TRA 200 Thinking Translation: Language Transfer and Cultural Communication
  • TRA 400 Translation, Migration, Culture

Students are encouraged but not required to complete TRA 200 prior to enrolling in TRA 400.

Three additional courses at the 200 level or above from at least two of the following three categories:

  • Any course listed or cross-listed by the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication.
  • Upper-level courses focusing on translation between languages (examples include SPA 380, FRE 407, ARA 308, CWR 206, and CWR 306).
  • Courses that contribute to an understanding of some aspect of translation (from disciplines such as linguistics, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, history, comparative literature, computer science, etc.; examples include ANT 326, COM 236, HIS 397, ITA 300, LIN 201, NES 398, and PHI 317).

Students are encouraged to consult the program director when planning their individualized course of study, and they are required to obtain the director’s approval of courses they wish to count toward the third of these three categories. Typically, no more than two courses will be allowed to double-count with a student’s major.

Language Requirements

While students pursuing the minor are only required to complete or test out of the University’s language requirement, they are strongly encouraged to continue their language study at the 200 level and above. They are also encouraged to seek out immersive environments in which to hone and develop their linguistic skills, as well as to gain crucial cultural knowledge; this might take the shape of a semester or summer abroad, or time spent in an immersive non-English environment within the United States.

Independent Work

Students pursuing the minor must engage either in a substantial (15–20 page or more) project of translation or interpretation, or a project in translation studies. Students are encouraged to discuss their ideas with the program director before embarking on the project.

  1. A practical translation project can take the form of a written translation with critical reflection on the process and product, or formal or informal interpreting work done on a volunteer or professional basis, again with written reflection on the same. This translation may be completed as part of a student’s coursework, or as part of their independent work for their department (JP or thesis), but it must be submitted separately to the program director for approval.
  2. A project in translation studies is a substantial piece of independent research that, while not itself a translation, engages with some aspect of translation from a theoretical, historical or computational perspective. As with a practical translation project, a project in translation studies may be completed as part of a student’s coursework, or as part of their independent work for their department (JP or thesis), but it must be submitted separately to the program director for approval.


  • Director

    • Karen R. Emmerich
  • Executive Committee

    • Wendy Laura Belcher, Comparative Literature
    • David M. Bellos, French & Italian
    • Rubén Gallo, Spanish & Portuguese
    • Michael D. Gordin, History
    • Barbara Graziosi, Classics
    • Thomas W. Hare, Comparative Literature
    • Martin Kern, East Asian Studies
    • Yiyun Li, Lewis Center for the Arts
    • Esther H. Schor, English
    • Nigel Smith, English
    • Max D. Weiss, History
  • Associated Faculty

    • Sandra L. Bermann, Comparative Literature
  • Sits with Committee

    • Christiane D. Fellbaum

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.


TRA 200 - Thinking Translation: Language Transfer and Cultural Communication (also COM 209/HUM 209) Fall LA

What is translation? What is a language? So essential and widespread is translation today that it has become a central analytic term for the contact of cultures, and a paradigm for studying many different aspects of our multilingual world. This course will consider translation as it appeared in the past, but especially as it constructs everyday life in the contemporary world. It will look at issues of anthropology, artificial intelligence, diplomacy, film, law and literature that involve interlingual and intercultural communication. Students should acquire an understanding of the problems and practices of modern translation. M. Weiss

TRA 204 - Creative Writing (Literary Translation) (also COM 249/CWR 205) Fall LA

TRA 206 - Creative Writing (Literary Translation) (also COM 215/CWR 206) Spring LA

TRA 208 - Origins and Nature of English Vocabulary (also CLA 208/ENG 240/LIN 208) Spring LA

TRA 210 - Introduction to Spanish-English Translation (also SPA 210) Not offered this year LA

TRA 239 - Introduction to African Literature and Film (also AAS 239/AFS 239/COM 239/HUM 239) Fall CDLA

TRA 302 - Topics in Hindi-Urdu (also COM 378/HIN 304/URD 304) LA

TRA 303 - Bilingualism (also LIN 308) Spring EC

TRA 304 - Translating East Asia (also COM 373/EAS 304/HUM 333) Fall CDLA

Translation is at the core of our engagement with China, Japan, and Korea, influencing our reading choices and shaping our understanding of East Asia. From translations of the classics to the grass-root subtitling of contemporary Anime movies, from the formation of the modern East Asian cultural discourse to cross-cultural references in theater and film, the seminar poses fundamental questions to our encounters with East Asian cultural artifacts, reflecting on what "translation" of "original works" means in a global world where the "original" is often already located in its projected "translation." M. Kern

TRA 305 - Advanced Creative Writing (Literary Translation) (also COM 355/CWR 305) Fall LA

TRA 314 - Advanced Creative Writing (Literary Translation) (also COM 356/CWR 306) Spring LA

TRA 326 - Language, Identity, Power (also ANT 326/ECS 315) EC

TRA 357 - Literature, Culture, and Politics (also FRE 357) LA

TRA 380 - Translation Workshop: Spanish to English (also SPA 380) Spring LA

TRA 390 - The Bible as Literature (also COM 392/ENG 390/HUM 390) Fall LA

TRA 400 - Translation, Migration, Culture (also COM 409/HUM 400) Spring SA

This course will explore the crucial connections between migration, language, and translation. Drawing on texts from a range of genres and disciplines - from memoir and fiction to scholarly work in translation studies, migration studies, political science, anthropology, and sociology - we will focus on how language and translation affect the lives of those who move through and settle in other cultures, and how, in turn, human mobility affects language and modes of belonging. K. Emmerich

TRA 407 - Prose Translation (also FRE 407) Fall LA

TRA 408 - Practical Translation (also RUS 408) Fall