Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Michael Gillen


I have been passionate about translation since 1976 when, with great trepidation, I took on my first translation assignment under the watchful eye of a friend and mentor who was a prolific translator and interpreter of Russian-language scientific and technical materials. It was my introduction to the art of communicative, or ‘meaning-based,” translation, and from that moment on, I knew exactly what I wanted to do (I’ve always been sort of a late starter).

What excites me most being a professor at MIIS is how intelligent and dedicated to learning my students always are, which actually makes the job fun and relatively easy. My career at MIIS began in 1985 when I was invited by the head of the Institute’s Russian translation and interpretation program to deliver a course on technical translation, which resulted in translation acquiring a completely new dimension for me. Teaching at MIIS appealed to me not only because I needed to get out of the house more, but also because it was very difficult to find competent Russian translators to employ. I thought that perhaps this would be a way to begin alleviating the problem, presuming, of course, that I was any good at teaching translation. I was hooked from the very first class, as students seemed to appreciate my approach to teaching.

In fact, I enjoyed teaching so much I began taking on more and more work within the Russian program, eventually winning an appointment to the regular faculty in 1991. Although the Russian program was small and literally hanging by a thread, I believed that it had a great deal of potential, so I convinced my dean to appoint me as the program head by promising him that I would double enrollment in one year (there was only one new student in the program that year, so I thought it was a pretty safe bet). I served as the program head from 1992 to 2001 and again from 2004 to 2007, during which time the Russian program gained both national and international recognition.

In the mid-1990s, aware that translation technology was destined to play a critical role in translation, Professor Gillen spearheaded the effort to establish GSTILE’s translation technology curriculum and, in 1999, helped the Institute partner with Sun Microsystems to found the Globalization Research Center, serving as its director until 2004. From 2001 to 2004, he also served as GSTILE’s Director of Translation, during which time he laid the foundation for the MA in Translation and Localization Management. He has also promoted GSTILE’s unique approach to incorporating translation technology into its translation curriculum by consulting and giving presentations for organizations and institutions such as the Academy of Business and Banking in Russia, the Interagency Language Roundtable, the National Foreign Language Center, the American Translators Association, the Society of Automotive Engineers, Kent State University, and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

For the past several years, Professor Gillen’s classroom teaching has been complemented by his duties as the project manager for the Translation and Interpretation Training Project (T&ITP), which provides intensive workshops on translation and interpretation to U.S. Government foreign-language professionals. And, of course, he still loves to translate and is currently working on a project to adapt a series of Russian animated fairy tales for international distribution.


Translation of Russian-language scientific and technical publications, particularly materials science and engineering; integration of translation technology into translation curricula


MBA, BA, Russian Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies

Course List

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

TIRU 8511 - Intro Trans into English      

Introduces students to the basic theory and practice of translation, both written and sight. Students will learn to apply text analysis, text typology, and contrastive analysis of their working languages to identify, analyze, and resolve translation problems while independently developing an efficient and rational approach to the process of translation. The appropriate application of electronic translation tools will also be introduced. Fundamental translation theory will be emphasized at the beginning of the course and will be conveyed in the form of assigned readings, lectures, class discussions, and independent research. In addition, course assignments will include practice and graded exercises in sight and written translation, utilizing authentic texts drawn from an extensive variety of text categories that include, but are not limited to, current events, general political economy, general legal documents, and scientific and technical topics for general audiences. As the term progresses, student time and effort will increasingly be spent on the preparation and evaluation of written translation assignments. Students will be expected to take at least one midterm exam and one final exam, to be assigned at the discretion of the instructor(s) of record.

Fall 2016 - MIIS, Fall 2017 - MIIS

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TIRU 8521 - Intrm Translation to English      

Builds on the theoretical and practical foundation laid in Introduction to Translation and introduces the translation of specialized subject matter. Depending upon the language program in which they are enrolled, students will be expected to acquire and demonstrate basic proficiency in the sight and written translation of either commercial and economic texts, legal texts, or scientific and technical texts. The amount of emphasis accorded to a particular topic will depend on the specific professional requirements of each language program. Course assignments will include readings, research, presentations, practice and graded exercises in sight translation, and practice and graded written translation assignments, including exercises in speed translation. Students will also be expected to take at least one midterm and one final exam. The frequency, nature, and structure of course assignments and examinations are largely at the discretion of the instructor(s) of record.

Prerequisite: Introduction to Translation or equivalent background.

Spring 2017 - MIIS, Spring 2018 - MIIS

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TIRU 8631 - Adv Translation I into English      

This is the first of two complementary courses designed to bring translation knowledge and skills up to the level that would be required of someone working in a professional translation environment. Students will be expected to apply the knowledge and skills acquired during the first-year translation courses to produce translations that meet high standards for content, form, and presentation. A great deal of attention is given to subject matter knowledge and research, precision in text analysis and writing, and the appropriate application of translation technology. Some programs emphasize scientific and technical topics in this course, but others give considerable attention to commercial, economic, legal, and political texts, many of which have a technical component. The frequency, nature, and structure of course assignments and examinations are at the discretion of the instructor(s) of record. Students will, however, be expected to take at least one midterm exam and one final exam.

Prerequisite: 2nd-year student in good standing or equivalent background.

Fall 2016 - MIIS, Fall 2017 - MIIS

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TIRU 8641 - Advanced Trans II to English      

This course is the counterpart to Advanced Translation I. Students are expected to translate texts of considerable difficulty and complexity and to cope with the types of operational challenges that are likely to be encountered in professional translation settings, such as working in teams or coping with multiple technologies. Emphasis is on particular text categories and subject-matter knowledge that are pertinent to current market demand for the specific language combination and direction in which the course is being taught. The frequency, nature, and structure of course assignments are at the discretion of the instructor(s) of record, but will include projects that simulate, as closely as possible, the professional translation environment, as well as at least one midterm and one final exam.

Prerequisite: Advanced Translation I or similar background.

Spring 2017 - MIIS, Spring 2018 - MIIS

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TRLM 8548 - Principles of Translation      

The purpose of this course is to acquaint participants with a basic model of translation that, when properly applied, will enable them to improve their own translation capabilities as well as knowledgeably and effectively manage the characteristic types of externalities associated with executing translation projects and requests while developing greater confidence in their ability to evaluate various types of translation deliverables. The course is introductory in nature and is, therefore, intended primarily for people without a great deal of translation knowledge or experience. The theoretical aspects of the course will be reinforced by practical exercises and discussion, with somewhat more time spent on the latter. The last few sessions of the course will be devoted to completing a translation practicum designed to allow participants to apply basic translation principles to the translation into English of a constellation of language-specific texts elaborating a core theme taken from vital current events.

Fall 2017 - MIIS

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