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Communications and Marketing

Faculty member you should know: Denise Kripper

Trained in translation, Denise Kripper worked as both a translator and interpreter for years. She loved what she did so much, she earned her PhD so that she could share her passion for literature, cultural studies, and translation with others.

Born and raised in Argentina, Kripper earned her BA in translation—a common field of study in Latin America and Europe but relatively unknown in the U.S. She spent a year and a half in Berlin studying at a small liberal arts college before moving to Washington DC, where she earned her PhD at Georgetown University. 

“There is more to translation than just knowing two languages,” Kripper says. “It’s more than living in between two cultures. I think that’s why it’s so important that the College has started offering courses in Spanish translation.”

This assistant professor of Spanish, who teaches both Latin American literature and translation, is a faculty member you should know:

Q: What drew you to Lake Forest College?

A: At first I really liked that it was a small liberal arts school—I had that experience in Berlin and I really enjoyed it. When I visited campus, I found a sense of community, an interdisciplinary nature in the department, and that faculty has close relationships with students. When I read the College’s mission statement, I realized I was already making students “think critically” in my classes in grad school. It was looking like a good fit. Finally, when I met my colleagues in the modern languages department, I totally fell in love with the place. Lake Forest College was a great fit for me from the very start.

Q: How does the work of a translator in the U.S. compare with other parts of the world?

A: People working in the U.S. as literature translators, for example, are writers or people who are interested in literature. They did not go to school to learn how to translate. They know about literature and they know two languages, but there’s a whole lot more you need to know to be a good translator. I want my students to grasp how important it is to be a good at translation and how well-prepared you need to be. 

Q: How have students embraced the opportunity to study Spanish translation?

A: When Intro to Translation Studies first came up for registration, it filled up very quick. I had a wait list. My class covers a lot of ground from a theoretical standpoint. I hope to move on to offer maybe a literary translation class or a whole class devoted to subtitles and dubbing—mostly movies, TV shows, documentaries—where I have a lot of work experience. Even if you don’t speak another language, you have that experience with translation of watching a foreign film and reading the subtitles. It’s one translation experience we all have. Students really connect with that. It’s easy to spot mistakes and to make fun of wrong translations, but I want to look past that and explain: how do audiovisual translators work, what do they do, how is their job different from someone translating a medical text, a legal text, or a poem? 

Q: Who’s taking your classes?

A: It’s kind of across the board. Obviously, I have quite a few Spanish majors, but I also have students who are majoring in psychology who want to be able to offer language services for patients or work as interpreters in hospitals. I have some students who are majoring in politics who want to be interpreters for the U.N., for example. Some want to work in environmental studies or medicine. Everyone in my class speaks Spanish and English, but I have students who also speak German and Italian. It’s really enriching to hear how many things are similar and different between the languages.  

Q: What is your area of research and how will you involve students? 

A: My research is the meeting of my two passions: literature and translation. I wrote my dissertation on this new phenomenon I discovered in Spanish and Latin American literature that from the 1990s onward you can find lots and lots of novels with translators and interpreters as characters, as protagonists, which was rare before the 1990s. I thought was really interesting. I started to wonder why. I wrote my dissertation on this fictional representation of the translator. One of my students is going work as my research assistant this summer to help me translate my research into English. I also have a Richter student this summer, who will work on the project. I want to test my material out and see what a Lake Forest student thinks of that research. I already tried it out a little bit with my translation class. We read a novel with a translator protagonist and had a Skype interview with the author, who is a translator. The students were really engaged.  

Q: How do you hope to make your mark on the College?

A: My translation courses will offer a new look for language. I think it’s going to be a very useful tool as students move forward and find jobs. Whatever your major is, letting people know that you took a translation class, that you know about translation, that you practiced translation, will open up a new career path they never considered.