The Centre for Studies of Translation, Interpreting and Cognition (CSTIC), which is under the University of Macau’s (UM) Faculty of Arts and Humanities (FAH), was inaugurated last month during the two-day International Workshop on Biological Foundations of Languages hosted by the CSTIC. The mission of the CSTIC is to probe into the underlying cognition of translation and interpreting.

Reaffirming UM’s aspiration to become a world-class university, leaders from the academic community who officiated at the opening ceremony pointed out that the multidisciplinary initiatives that bring the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences together has happened in the right place at the right time.

UM Rector Wei Zhao addressed the inauguration ceremony for the CSTIC and the opening ceremony of the workshop. “The new campus became operational just two months ago and the event is the very first of its kind happening here,’ noted Rector Zhao. “We’ve been determined to build a campus for a world-class university since we decided to build the new campus. One thing that all first-class universities have in common is that they always have first-class departments/centers in their own mother-tongue languages. We have three mother tongues here in Macao, namely Chinese, English and Portuguese. So we’re determined to build up our Faculty of Arts and Humanities, especially the Departments of Chinese, English and Portuguese.”

“As for sciences, one of the major sciences for the 21st century is life sciences. So we have established the Faculty of Health Sciences dedicated to research and teaching of life sciences. This workshop is right at the intersection of languages and life sciences. We hope that such platforms would help us build a better university to serve Macao, and hopefully we will become a world-class university one day,” the rector observed.

Academic leaders who officiated at the ceremony included Prof Haydn Chen, vice rector of UM; Prof Xu Jie, associate dean of the FAH; Prof William Shi-Yuan Wang, director of the Joint Research Centre for Language and Human Complexity at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK); and Prof Li Defeng, director of the CSTIC.

Prof Martin Montgomery, interim dean of the FAH, remarked that if language itself is complex, then how one encodes – not just from meaning to form – but also how one recodes between one form and another in real time – is possibly the most complex of all human activities. “To study this process will require skills and insights from more than one discipline and thus, in setting up the Centre for Studies of Translation, Interpreting and Cognition, we are creating a cross-disciplinary platform for these insights to come together. And it is especially apt, I believe, that we do so in the context of a meeting on Biological Foundations of Languages,” said Prof Montgomery.

Prof John Corbett, head of the Department of English, pointed out that Translation Studies has firmly established itself alongside Linguistics and Literary Studies as one of the three pillars of the Department of English at UM. “It is extremely satisfying to me and to the department to be able to celebrate the launch of this interdisciplinary research platform in the company of scholars participating in the workshop,” said Prof Corbett. “Hosting international workshops of this kind is also a fantastic way of stimulating the research culture of UM.”

Introducing the aims and missions of the CSTIC, Prof Yuanjian He of the English Department, who initiated the establishment of the centre, stressed that it has been the very type of research that is directly relevant to the global effort of the 21st century trying to unveil the intriguing and mysterious workings of the brain, particularly those that have to do with language processing.

Co-organised by the newly-established CSTIC, the University System of Taiwan, and CUHK’s Joint Research Center for Language and Human Complexity, the workshop attracted 47 scholars from the United States, Spain, Israel, Finland, mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao. It highlights four themes:  language and gene, language and reading, language and neuroscience, as well as language and language impairment.

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