Professional Profiles

Continuing Studies grad hopes to bridge the linguistic gap between doctors and patients


By Amy Robertson

SFU Continuing StudiesDiploma in Interpretation and Translation provided a way for a young woman from Richmond to combine her love of language and learning with her desire to help people.

Since spending several years in South Africa, Rose Jen has dreamed of giving relief to those who have been silenced by post-traumatic stress disorder. She decided she would start by helping people like them learn to speak. In university, she enrolled in a psychology program, planning to pursue speech pathology.

Rose Jen stands outside downtown Vancouver's St. Paul's Hospital. Photo by Greg Ehlers.

Student chooses language over medicine

When Jen graduated, she considered medical school, but a friend had told her about SFU’s diploma program, which sounded intriguing. Fluent in Taiwanese, Mandarin, English, and Japanese, Jen had done some informal translation work in high school, and the career possibilities called to her. She could be working—and helping—in less than a year.

In 2011, Jen made the move from Toronto, where she had attended university, to Vancouver to start the eight-month Mandarin-English interpretation and translation program. She graduated in April of 2012.

Jen deeply values her time with SFU Continuing Studies. The lectures, assignments, interpreting field trips, and memory drills have helped her become a better translator and interpreter—and also a more skilled learner.

Jen has always been passionate about learning—her father taught her that knowledge is the only thing that no one can take away from you.

“I think this program just pushed me,” she says. “You need to constantly read and learn to be a good translator and interpreter…I can keep on learning basically non-stop.”

Student hopes to set up her own practice

Jen hopes to set up her own practice one day. In the meantime, she says, the hope and encouragement of her instructors drives her forward. She’s excited about her plans to translate for medical and scientific journals and interpret at medical conferences.

“To be immersed in that kind of environment—swimming in the pool of knowledge—it makes me really happy just thinking about it,” says Jen with a smile.

She also plans to use her new skills to help people, as she’s always dreamed of doing—albeit a little differently than she once planned. She wants to be the bridge between patients and doctors who don’t speak the same language.

“Misinformation can be devastating,” Jen says. “I take this very seriously. If I can be a good interpreter—and really get the information across—I think, in a way, I’m helping.”