ATA Written and Keyboarded exams: A personal account

by Helen Eby

ATA Written and Keyboarded examsI prepared for the ATA Translation Certification exam with my Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI) colleagues. The exam has an overall pass rate of under 20%, which varies by language pair and exam year. We took our preparation seriously.

On the ATA exam, every point counts against you. ATA has published a list of errors they check against and a rubric that explains how they assign points to each error. To pass, you cannot accumulate more than 17 points. If you do, you fail! In our OSTI study program, we spent 25 online sessions plus a couple of in-person meetings working on how to internalize these rubrics. This made us all better translators and interpreters.

Some comments from study group members who took the exam in Bend, Oregon:

“I found the test to be very challenging even with our preparations. You can tell they intentionally set the bar very high! Although I can’t pinpoint seeing any specific tripwire on the test that we tackled in our group, it’s clear that our hard work left me much more prepared than I would have been otherwise.” Emily Safrin

“I feel the same way; I found the exam more difficult than the different practice tests I worked on through the study group. Even though I work on a different language pair, the group discussions about the English source texts helped me regarding terminology or tricky sentences.” Myriam Grandchamp

Personally, I was encouraged. I had good scores on my practice tests. I was taking the exam in both directions (Spanish<>English) and had taken two tests in each of my language pairs. For my Spanish to English practice test, I had a score of 12 on one text and 12 on the second text. For my English to Spanish practice test, I had a score of 13 on one text and 11 on the second one I took. Better yet, I knew that my colleagues were also well prepared. Some had decided to take the exam in 2017 and some were taking it this year. We had a good understanding of what we were facing.

Keyboarded exam, September 11, 2016

Keyboarded exams are a new development for ATA. Test-takers are allowed to bring their own computers to the site, but have to save the translation onto a USB provided by ATA, not onto their hard drives. The guidelines for the computerized exam are listed here. See this link for a list of approved and banned websites.

I took the keyboarded exam from English into Spanish in Philadelphia. I had spent the previous day at the Delaware Valley Translators Association (DVTA) conference, enjoying being at an event where I had no responsibilities, being just one of the crowd. There, Tony Guerra, the DVTA president, reminded us that certified translators earn an average of $10,000 more per year than non-certified translators. The pressure was on! But I was relaxed.

Before the exam, I had done some things that helped me focus on good writing. I had just attended the Editorial Freelancers Association conference in New York, which focused on copy editing. I also spent a lot of time reading good literature on my iPad the week before.

Instead of carrying a load of dictionaries from the West Coast, I used the bookmarks on the OSTI resources page and on the Mosqueteras site, a blog focused on good Spanish writing, as my references. That was why we had been setting them up over the year! I also had a few of my favorite quick reference hard copy books.

What did I do during the keyboarded exam?

  1. I started by reading the text, just like I do with every single translation I work on.
  2. I looked for challenges, both in terms of words and in terms of sentence structure. I made a chart of how I would solve those on a sheet of paper before I got started. I actually spent about 45 minutes doing that research on each text before I started writing.
  3. Then I translated the mandatory text. Of course, I found extra things to research, and I changed my mind about a few of the solutions, but my research helped a lot.
  4. I took a break to clear my head. I moved on to the draft of the second translation and repeated steps 1 to 3 with the next text. I had to choose between texts B and C, which were different specialties.
  5. Then I took another break. I colored with some markers I had taken, so I could somehow separate from the translation task.
  6. Then I reviewed the two texts, in order.
  7. Another break. Then I reviewed both texts again.

What did I find in the review process?

I noticed that my typing was bad. I was fixing typos right up until the end of the three hours! Not having spell check affected my ability to type well.

We had to work in WordPad, which does not have a spell check, but I could check terms in online dictionaries. So I did! In some cases, that led me to a better solution.

I used the online resources available effectively. It was certainly nice to not have to travel with a suitcase full of books! However, having a few hard copy books was very helpful.

I also took creative breaks by coloring and doing pushups against the wall on my way back from the bathroom. This helped clear my head from the translation and look at it with fresh eyes. The proctors who observed me coloring told me they had never seen that before. (For online exams, there is one proctor for every five test-takers, to keep an eye on what is on the computer screens.)

Written exam, September 25, 2016

I took the written exam from Spanish to English in Bend, Oregon. Here, I was taking the exam with my friends. It was fun! I walked in with my suitcase full of dictionaries. Because of my practice test results, I felt confident. Regardless, I spent some time the night before reading good literature, so my brain would be tuned into good English and Spanish.

My translation process was similar to the one I had experimented with in Philadelphia. It was fresh in my mind, since I had taken the exam two weeks before. The breaks helped.

In this exam, I didn’t have to worry about typos. I just had to worry about my handwriting. Honestly, it’s just as bad! And I scratched my paper up so much that I really missed the option of doing a cut and paste so the grader could read a clean document. I have attended some sessions where we have been told to not fret over handing over a clean document. They would rather have us focus on just finishing the job. So I did.

Results

While I waited for the results, it was helpful to remind myself that I am just as good a translator today as I was yesterday. In November I learned that I passed the Spanish to English certification exam and did not pass the English to Spanish certification exam. I also recently passed an exam administered by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, so I am now a Washington State certified English to Spanish Document Translator (see this link for more information).

As my study group focused on cracking the certification code, we were focusing on the details of what makes a translation better. Now that I am certified, as I do my regular work as a translator and reviewer of other people’s work, I feel that we should use the ATA list of errors and the flowchart for error point decisions to help us grow and to provide better peer review. Thank you, ATA, for providing a great framework for professional growth! I plan to keep using it.

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How to Have a Super First Year in the ATA: Go to Your First ATA Conference

ATA 57th Annual ConferenceWelcome to the fourth and final article in the series How to Have a Super First Year in the ATA. This time, I’ll be talking about why you should attend your first ATA conference this year, what you can expect and some tips for success.

This year’s annual conference, ATA57, will be held in San Francisco, California from November 2-5, 2016. Over 1,500 translators and interpreters will attend the conference, so your chances of networking and creating meaningful connections are pretty high! Not only that, but you’ll have the option to attend over 175 educational sessions. I went to my first conference last year and have nothing but good things to say about my experience.

Registration and Opening Ceremony

From the second you arrive, you’ll feel the warm welcome from conference organizers. Pass by the registration booth to get your nametag, which will have a bright “FIRST TIME ATTENDEE” flag attached to the bottom. I thought of this tag as a ‘get out of jail free card’ to use during the whole conference. Use it as a free pass to ask as many questions as you want, walk up to strangers and strike up conversation by saying “I’m alone and new!” and wander around looking lost without feeling silly about it.

The opening ceremony is the first step to get everyone pumped up and for an extra boost of newbie confidence before diving headfirst into four days of networking and learning. Last year, I was pleasantly surprised by the huge emphasis the ATA President put on welcoming and helping newbies in her speech. She got me to walk out of the auditorium with my head held high!

Buddies Welcome Newbies

As a first-timer, you absolutely must go to the “Buddies Welcome Newbies” session. This program is designed as an icebreaker for those attending the conference for the first – or even the second – time. The session starts off with some tips for success and ends with you being matched up with a buddy, someone who has attended the conference before and who will answer any questions you may have. Your buddy is also there as a kind of support for you throughout the entire four days, someone to say hi to in the hallways or to approach during a coffee break if you’re alone.

Networking Events

Most divisions hold a dinner or networking event at the conference. If you’re a member of a division, make sure to attend whatever it is they’ve planned – you’ll already have something to talk about with other members, so it’s the perfect place to feel at home within the bustle of the conference.

Using Social Media

If you’re on Twitter, follow and participate in the #ATA57 hash tag. At last year’s conference I met someone who is now a dear friend and colleague through tweeting: “I love your tweets about this session, would you like to meet at the next coffee break?”

Financial Worries?

There are plenty of ways to make the conference more affordable. First off, make sure you register by September 23, 2016 for a discounted price. Last year and this year, I’m staying within walking distance of the conference hotel for half the price. Last year I also ate the majority of my meals at the Whole Foods buffet for under $10.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t quite made back my investment in last year’s conference with paid work, but I did manage to get some work from two new agencies and started collaborating with other freelancers I met at the conference on direct client work. My freelance reach has broadened, and I now have a long list of people I can go to when I have questions (linguistic or business-related) or refer work to when I can’t take it on.

Make the Most of it

There’s anywhere between three and five one-hour educational sessions every day and last year I only skipped out on one hour. I also attended every single networking event I could in the evenings. In short, I was busy for about 15 hours every day. My recommendation would be… do exactly this! If it’s your first year, you’ve got to test the bugs and see what you like and what you don’t like. Thanks to last year’s over-effort, this year I know what I’m okay with skipping and what I consider to be my best investment of time and energy.

I was really nervous to be the new kid on the block, but use that “first-time attendee” flag to your benefit. I was so surprised to feel so accepted at the conference. Our profession is full of great, compassionate people who are excited and willing to accept newcomers. I couldn’t encourage you more to take the leap, make the investment and head to San Francisco this 2016!

You can learn more about ATA57 here https://www.atanet.org/conf/2016/ and sign up for the Buddies Welcome Newbies session here http://www.atanet.org/events/newbies.php.

About the author

Molly YurickMolly Yurick is a Spanish to English translator specialized in the tourism, hospitality and airline industries. In the past she has worked as a medical interpreter in Minnesota and as a cultural ambassador for the Ministry of Education in Spain. She has a B.A. in Spanish and Global Studies and a Certificate in Medical Interpreting from the University of Minnesota. She is currently living in northern Spain. You can visit her website at: http://yuricktranslations.com/

How to Have a Super First Year in the ATA: Small Resources that Add Up to Big Benefits

Welcome to the third article in the series How to Have a Super First Year in the ATA. This time, I’ll be talking about all the small resources offered by the ATA that add up to big benefits towards the end of your first year.

List Yourself in the ATA Directory

Make yourself findable! Direct clients and agencies alike use the online ATA directory to find professional translators like you. Take the time to complete your profile fully. Include your language combinations, specializations, CAT tools, where you live… even the currencies you accept! Write a descriptive summary and upload your updated résumé. The best way to differentiate yourself is by becoming certified, but if that’s not on your to-do list, becoming a Voting Member is another way to make your profile stand out among the list of translators. (https://www.atanet.org/membership/membershipdirectory.php)

Become a Voting Member

Voting membership opens doors to your participation in the association—from voting in elections to serving as a member of a committee. ATA active or corresponding membership, that is, voting membership, is available to associate members who either pass the ATA certification exam or go through Active Membership Review. For readers who are not ATA certified, the application form to become a voting member is available here: (http://www.atanet.org/membership/memb_review_online.php)

Join a Division

There are currently 20 ATA divisions ranging from language to specialization divisions. Your ATA dues include membership in any or all of its divisions, so you can join as many as you’d like. Many have their own newsletter and/or listserv and host a networking event at the ATA conference. (http://www.atanet.org/divisions/about_divisions.php)

Business Practices Listserv

This listserv is all about creating community, networking and getting advice from your colleagues. You can ask questions, post answers, make suggestions and recommendations, or simply read the digest of what everyone else is talking about. From tax regulations to tips on how to deal with an abusive agency, the listserv is a great resource for any translator. Become a member of the business practices listserv here: (http://www.atanet.org/business_practices/bp_listserv.php)

Attend Your First ATA Conference

ATA 57This year’s annual conference, ATA57, will be held in San Francisco, California from November 2-5, 2016. Over 1,800 translators and interpreters will attend the conference, so your chances of networking and creating meaningful connections are pretty high! Not only that, but you’ll have the option to attend over 160 educational sessions. I went to my first conference last year and have nothing but good things to say about it. My next article in this series will be all about the ATA conference, so be sure to check back for a full recap of my first-timer experience in a couple of months. You can learn more about ATA57 here: (https://www.atanet.org/conf/2016/)

ATA provides you with a number of opportunities to make the most of your membership. All I can do is encourage you to invest some time and take advantage of every single one of these great resources. It’s what helped me feel like I form a part of a larger community of like-minded professionals.

About the author

Molly YurickMolly Yurick is a Spanish to English translator specialized in the tourism, hospitality and airline industries. In the past she has worked as a medical interpreter in Minnesota and as a cultural ambassador for the Ministry of Education in Spain. She has a B.A. in Spanish and Global Studies and a Certificate in Medical Interpreting from the University of Minnesota. She is currently living in northern Spain. You can visit her website at: http://yuricktranslations.com/

The ATA Client Outreach Kit: A Hidden Gem

By David Friedman and Jamie Hartz

ATA's Client Outreach KitRecently, The Savvy Newcomer team was discussing what valuable ATA resources we could spotlight here on the blog. If you are an ATA member and are interested in growing your direct client business and/or are interested in client outreach and PR efforts to boost the whole association and profession, then at least consulting the Client Outreach Kit should be a no-brainer.

Even if you aren’t an ATA member, you can still read through some great advice and guidelines summarized on the web page without actually downloading the kit. However, you must be an ATA member to download the full kit (consisting of a customizable PowerPoint presentation for use at speaking engagements).

One of the points emphasized from the get-go if you click on the link above and read through the summary is that you need to take a completely different approach in your marketing tools for direct clients as opposed to for agencies. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that you may need to make some changes in order to take full advantage of the kit. You can check out the skills modules for more detailed guidelines on how to engage in client outreach and get the most out of the kit.

If you click on the “Getting invited to speak” skill module and scroll down to the bottom, you will find the example of a real story about an ATA member who decided to branch out and begin a series of workshops about translation and multilingual marketing in her local community. There is also a full article in the ATA Chronicle from 2009 about this story, which is a good read.

The customizable PowerPoint presentation available to ATA members contains some basic but fundamental information on the language industry, as well as talking points for speaking engagements, making it a great tool for anyone interested in reaching out to their local community to find potential direct clients and advance the status of the translation industry.

We are glad we volunteered to write this blog post to give ourselves a nudge to read through the kit again. If you have any thoughts or experiences in relation to the kit or client outreach, write a comment on this post!

We are confident that it would be highly beneficial for translators to discuss this topic. So what are you waiting for? Looking forward to hearing from you and we hope you enjoy using the kit.

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