ATA Divisions: Providing Homes for all Translators

SLD logoBy Lucy Gunderson, CT
Administrator of the Slavic Languages Division

Getting involved in an organization like the American Translators Association can be an intimidating step to take. I know—I went through this once myself. Trying to find a way to stand out among the other 10,500+ members is at best a daunting task. Fortunately, though, the ATA offers the perfect vehicle for doing just this, namely its eighteen different specialty- and language-specific divisions. The core goal of these divisions is to provide information and networking to assist members in today’s competitive marketplace. Divisions offer a wide variety of benefits and services, all organized by Division volunteers. Most importantly, though, divisions provide a welcoming home to members both new and old. When I joined the ATA in 2001, I was overwhelmed by the wealth of information available and intimidated by my more experienced and knowledgeable colleagues, but I quickly found my home in the Slavic Languages Division (SLD). It was easy to get involved and start making a name for myself. Now, as the current Administrator of the SLD, I am here to tell you about my division’s unique history and current offerings.

The SLD was started in 1990 as an ATA Special Interest Group by Susana Greiss, a long-time translator of Russian origin (who, interestingly enough, did not translate from or into Russian). This group held several meetings a year under the auspices of the New York Circle of Translators and, during this time, discussed becoming a full-fledged division of ATA. At a board meeting on October 10, 1993, the Russian Language (later Slavic Languages) Division was approved. Remarkably, and uniquely, from its inception the division announced its intention to represent translators and interpreters of all the Slavic languages and of the languages of the former Soviet Union. Susana’s dream included the desire to provide a professional home and support network for all those people, many of them in the process of or having recently emigrated from that former nation to the rest of the world.

Today the SLD has over 1,100 members working in most of these languages. We also have members who don’t actively use these languages in their work but are simply interested in Slavic languages and want to be a part of our community. Through our website, we offer our members access to our quarterly newsletter SlavFile, our blog, our LinkedIn group, and our Twitter feed. We use our newsletter and social media outlets to share information about translation and interpretation in general and Slavic languages in particular. Other ATA divisions provide similar services. Click here to learn more about them.

In addition to sharing useful information, divisions also play an important role in planning for the biggest ATA event of the year—the annual conference, which is usually held in late October or early November. We solicit and review conference proposals, prepare for our division’s annual meeting, and plan social events. The SLD’s two big social events include our popular lunch for conference newcomers and our annual banquet, which is usually held at a restaurant within walking distance of the conference hotel.

In sum, the not-so-big secret is that divisions always need volunteers! Taking that difficult first step of introducing yourself to your new division colleagues will bring you more rewards than you ever thought possible. The best way to earn referrals from your colleagues, attract the attention of potential clients, and increase your standing in the translation community is by volunteering for your division. Write an article for your division’s newsletter or blog, offer to organize a division social activity, or volunteer to help maintain your division’s website. Who knows? Someday you might even end up a division administrator!

About the Author: Lucy Gunderson, CT is Administrator of the Slavic Languages Division. She is ATA-certified for translation from Russian into English and specializes in human rights, international relations, legal documents, and journalism. She owes her career to the kind SLD members who first welcomed her to the division and encouraged her to participate.

One thought on “ATA Divisions: Providing Homes for all Translators

  1. Thank you, Lucy, for this wonderful introduction. I just learned about ATA and your division specifically and am planning to join the organization and start volunteering right away!

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