Spanish and neuroscience major at the University of Nevada, Reno Shirin Rahmanifar, found great value last spring in a Spanish service-learning course. The Spanish 400, “Practicum in Spanish in the Community” course taught by Associate Professor of Spanish, Mar Inestrillas, required Rahmanifar to complete service hours using the Spanish language. She volunteered with Washoe Legal Services, a legal aid organization assisting on a gamut of legal issues in Northern Nevada. At the end of the semester, the Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement hosted a showcase for University students who participated in service-learning projects across campus and Rahmanifar won first-place with her translation project presentation.
“I found this experience not only extremely cathartic, because I had aided children to be adopted, immigrants to migrate, people who have been molested, etc. but also a unique and immensely valuable academic experience because I had applied concepts, theories and practices from the classroom to the work environment in our own society of Reno, Nevada,” Rahmanifar said.
Rahmanifar has been studying Spanish for 12 years and is obtaining a dual Bachelor’s degree in Spanish (along with a minor in Spanish translation) and in Neuroscience. Even with advanced Spanish writing skills, Rahmanifar still felt a little intimated at first about translating real legal documents.
“I was entering the course very anxious because I have had only limited contact with the Latinx community and was not entirely sure of my capabilities as both a Spanish-speaker and translator.”
Rahmanifar was grateful for the guidance she received from her professor. Inestrillas mentored Rahmanifar by providing continuous feedback and instruction on the methods of translating courtroom documents that helped in translating adoption processes, immigration procedures and on abuse cases related to the Spanish speaking community of Northern Nevada. Using resources such as technical dictionaries, Federal and State websites and even connecting with other professional translators helped Rahmanifar to jump right into the work and feel confident.
“This experience for me was not simply a service for a course but a service to the Latinx community and I feel as if I have done something valuable working with [Washoe Legal Services],” Rahmanifar said.
In addition, Rahmanifar credits Washoe Legal Services Partner Contact Heidi Meek and two local lawyers, Lisa Evans and Michael Reynolds, with helping to navigate the legal realm while translating Federal and State documents locally and abroad.
After graduation, Rahmanifar plans to enter the medical field. “It will be very nice to be able to connect to more patients with language barriers or even relate to cultural differences more easily.”