From ATA’s Divisions: The German Language Division

By Arnold Winter

GLDAs a German-to-English translator, it was a “no brainer” for me to join the ATA’s German Language Division at the start of my career in translation almost ten years ago. While joining the ATA and putting up my profile online resulted in being contacted out of the blue by my first paying client, the GLD is where I started making friends in the business and also found my footing as a translator.

By the time of my first annual ATA conference in 2006 in New Orleans, I had already been working in translation full-time for about two years. My first impression at the conference was that everyone else already seemed to know each other very well. All around, people were greeting each other like old friends, standing around in clusters and getting caught up on each other’s lives. It was certainly a bit intimidating, and I felt like I shouldn’t be intruding on all the lively conversations that were going on.

That all changed very quickly when I attended the GLD’s social event at the conference. Striking up conversations was easy, even for an introvert like me, and I realized that everyone there was interested in the same things as I was and also shared the same experiences in the translation business.

Whether it is the challenge of converting bulky German compound nouns and passive constructions into a natural English style, or the finer points of dealing with specialized subjects and terminology, it was indeed thrilling to find that the linguistic and business challenges that I was running into as a newcomer to translation and had more or less been thinking about instinctively were things that other GLD members were not only encountering as well but could also get just as excited about.

The fact that I had also already been subscribing to the GLD’s Yahoo! Group ( made things much easier. Some of the names on people’s nametags were already familiar to me, and it was great to meet people in person for the first time whom so far I’d only known by name through their online postings. Both at that first ATA conference as well as at every other conference I’ve attended since then, this has served as a great conversation starter. Even most recently at the 2013 conference in San Antonio, I made new friends by people coming up to me and saying: “Hey, I know you from the list.”

In fact, aside from the camaraderie, collegiality and support I’ve found both online and in person, the most important immediate benefit I get from my GLD membership on a daily basis is its Yahoo! Group. To quote the GLD’s own description about the group: “If you haven’t subscribed yet, you’re missing an opportunity to tap into the wealth of knowledge GLD members are eager to impart.”

I myself have found the GLD’s Yahoo! Group to be the best place for quick answers on terminology issues that might otherwise take hours of research, most likely while facing an imminent deadline. Roughly two-thirds of the postings involve linguistic issues. Other topics include technology questions, doing business with clients based in Germany, and announcements and information of general interest.

As reported at the GLD’s meeting at the ATA’s 2013 conference, the GLD currently has about 1,500 members, but only 425 subscribers to the Yahoo! Group. So where’s everyone else?

Whether you’re a newcomer or a seasoned language professional, if you are not yet subscribing to the group, you should at least give it a try. It’s certainly okay just to “lurk” for a while and get a feel for the kinds of discussions that go on, and you can always unsubscribe if it’s not for you.

Subscribing to the GLD’s Yahoo! Group is easy. Here’s what you do:

1. Send an email to:

2. In the subject line, enter: subscribe gldlist

3. In the body of your email, write your:

– email address

– full name

– ATA membership number

That’s it!

Another benefit provided by the GLD is interaktiv, the division’s biannual newsletter. Both the most recent as well as past issues can be downloaded in PDF from the GLD’s web page (

Included in interaktiv are profiles on fellow GLD members, dictionary reviews, and information about GLD matters. Another recently added regular feature is Karen Leube’s “(Translation) Notes from the Homeland,” which reports on activities by the Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer e.V. (, the professional organization in Germany for translators and interpreters.

In fact, according to GLD Administrator Eva Stabenow, roughly 9% of the GLD’s members live in Germany and surrounding countries. And with Karen Leube, who is based in Aachen, Germany, as the GLD’s “European Coordinator,” the GLD is now reaching out across the Atlantic. Some of those members outside the United States also come to the ATA’s annual conferences, which certainly makes the GLD a great place to network with colleagues and (potential) clients located in Europe.

Overall, based on my own experience, the GLD is both a great educational and informational resource as well as a place for developing relationships within the German translation community that can lead to referrals and other good things in one’s professional life. For a quick first impression about the GLD, just click on this link to its web site:

About the author: Building on fifteen years of professional experience as an attorney in the United States, Arnold Winter provides German-into-English translation services in the fields of law, business, and finance (  ATA certified from German into English, he has been working with translation agencies and direct clients since 2003. In addition to the ATA and both its German Language Division and the ATA’s local chapter for the Greater Philadelphia area, the Delaware Valley Translators Association (, he is also a member of the Delaware Translators and Interpreters Network (


From ATA’s Divisions: The Portuguese Division


By Mirna Soares
Member of the PLD Leadership Council

It took me many years to join a community of translators. When I started, I was unaware of best business practices, I missed all the interesting conferences and I never got any specialized feedback. Everything seemed to happen very slowly. Looking back, I realize I could have taken some shortcuts. I wasted so much time reinventing the wheel!

There is no substitute for experience and hard work, but we don’t need to rely solely on our personal experience to grow professionally. We should build on the work that has been done by others, so we can benefit from it and then offer our contribution and complement their efforts.

I joined the ATA Portuguese Language Division (PLD) in 2010. I already had experience as a translator, but I was new to the United States. It was just the right timing to attend the PLD 14th Mid-year Conference in Alexandria, VA. There was a line-up of great presentations, and I learned more about what Portuguese translators and interpreters were doing in the U.S. I didn’t know then that many of these new colleagues would become my friends, talk to me on a daily basis, visit me in Washington, D.C., invite me to their homes and exchange referrals.

I joined the PLD for three broad reasons and I hear these same reasons repeated by other Portuguese translators and interpreters: to congregate, learn and advocate.


We are an upbeat crowd! We have a history of enthusiastic and devoted administrators who keep us engaged and welcome members who are excited to help.

Our dinner party and welcome reception at the ATA Annual Conference consolidate what we do all year through social media – we are on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – and through our very active listserv. There has been a consistent effort to create visibility for our members by publishing their profiles and talking about their experiences, and also to connect translators and interpreters virtually and personally. The point of all this is to create a community of professionals who, despite being a very diverse group, have a lot in common.

Networking is, of course, a big part of this community. The more we learn about each other’s expertise and personalities, the easier it is to find a mentor, offer a substitute to a valued client when we are on vacation, hire a reviewer for that difficult gas and oil project, find a booth buddy for a medical conference, work with a translator to adapt a text to another Portuguese variant or even find a compatible business partner.


Newcomers will be amazed at how many years of combined experience we have! Back in the ’90s when I was starting out, I would have loved to belong to a group like this.

Newbies to the T&I profession can expect a varied group of people from different countries and with different backgrounds. This wealth of knowledge is explored in the PLDATA, our quarterly newsletter. From interviews to book reviews and useful technology tips to articles, this publication is a great source of information for Portuguese linguists.

In the past couple of years, some of our experienced translators and interpreters have offered online webinars, and this initiative has shown a tendency to grow. Every year at the ATA Annual Conference there are PLD speakers covering topics of interest to Portuguese translators and interpreters: literature, subtitling, terminology, legal language – and this is only a small sample of the presentation topics. And this year, as in some previous years, we have a distinguished speaker who will also give a pre-conference seminar.

All this makes the PLD a rich place to grow as a professional.


The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I am a member and volunteer my work and time because there is a big world out there to be conquered, but individual efforts are just a drop in the bucket.

The translation market, as we know, is changing very rapidly, with the emergence of new players and new roles. This might seem overwhelming to those new to the profession, and it is certainly daunting to many old-timers as well. But by working together, furthering our professional development and having a unified voice, we guarantee that we’ll be part of writing T&I history.

 The PLD keeps Portuguese language translators connected, up-to-date, in touch with the familiar and open to the unfamiliar. I have been a member for only three years and so many of my professional activities are tied to this group. It has been a source of motivation and knowledge, and keeps me connected with my native language.

Our members join because they want to network, keep up with the changing industry, become better translators, promote the profession and the language, and, of course, have fun!

See for yourself. Check out our website ( and read our testimonials, talk to people and ask about their experiences. I’ll conclude with the words of PLD member Patricia Fonseca, which sum up the benefits of ATA and PLD membership:

“Joining the ATA was my first step toward becoming a professional translator. I have learned a lot from the other members at meetings and via webinars. I am quite happy to see an active Portuguese division. A professional translator needs to keep up with the industry and her working languages, and networking is key.


About the author: Mirna Soares is an ATA-certified translator from Portuguese into English and from English into Portuguese. She currently lives in Washington, D.C. and works for the Organization of American States as an in-house Portuguese translator and reviewer. Mirna is also the founder and co-owner of Corpora Translations (, a T&I company in Fortaleza, Brazil. Find her on Twitter @corporatrans for translation-related news.

How to Market Yourself at the ATA Conference

By Kevin Hendzel

Reblogged from Word Prisms with permission from the author

I’ve hired thousands of translators and interpreters for over 20 years, many from ATA conferences.   Here’s how to attract attention, stand out from the crowd and win new clients.

You’ve arrived in sunny San Diego to 70-degree, zero-humidity weather and spectacular views from your room of sailboats, cruise ships and bright lights on the bay.   The conference launches tonight with a Welcome Reception that is always packed and energetic.  It’s the first of many opportunities you will have over the next four days to market yourself and your skills to potential new clients.

Think like a translation buyer

A central tenet of successful marketing is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.   Think like a translation buyer, not a translation provider.  ATA conferences are distinctly different experiences for translation buyers.  They are bombarded and often overwhelmed by the hurricane forces of resumes, business cards and pitches and blasted by a dizzying array of faces, names, languages, events and sessions.   So everything becomes a blur.   When I used to work my company booth in the Exhibits Area, it took about two days before my brain staged a cognitive revolt.  I just wanted to hide under the table, mostly from the resumes.  And I’m a translator. Who likes to read resumes.

So you will want to stand out in this sea of sameness.

Shine like a star

Translators and interpreters are word people, but the world is a visual place.  This is especially true of human decision-making which turns out to be emotion-driven, not logic-driven. That means that you want to make your best impression visually, and persuade verbally, with the objective of imparting confidence, trust and interest in translation buyers.

  • Dress: Clean, crisp and professional.  Your first visual impression is important. People judge your dress emotionally and subconsciously, and are often not even aware of how visual impact affects them.  This is a subtle but powerful factor.
  • Business cards: Original, memorable, flawless and available.  Include your language(s) and direction(s) and multiple ways to reach you (phone, website, Twitter, LinkedIn, FB, etc.)
  • Body language: Much of this is common sense. Smile, don’t scowl; engage, don’t avoid; look at people, not your footwear.
  • Narrative: Gracious, inquisitive and thoughtful are better than the hard sell.  Lead with questions about the other person, finish with their wanting to hear more about you.
  • SubjectsGood translation customers care about the following, and in this order:
    • Expertise
    • Reliability
    • Accessibility
    • Flexibility
    • Value

They care a lot LESS about what translators instinctively and compulsively talk about in sort of an encoded-in-our-DNA way:

    • Education
    • Degrees
    • Countries of residence
    • Training programs
    • Certifications (really)

I recognize that this contradicts a lot of what you’ve been told about how to market yourself as a professional translator or interpreter at ATA conferences.  But it will make perfect sense if you think about what you, as a consumer, value when you are looking for a plumber, dentist, doctor or any other professional service and are spending your own money on them.  That top list is a lot more important and compelling to you as a consumer than the second one is. That’s because the second list is just a description of the provider’s personal history.  The first list is all about the customer.

Focus on your customer’s requirements, not your own life story (leave the highlights of your life story to your resume).  It can make all the difference to a translation buyer who you wish to impress and convince to buy your services.

Five Fails

Translators and interpreters are very good at many things at ATA conferences.  They always get out of the hotel and visit the host city, make fast friends with hotel staff, comb through all the dictionaries, software tools and vendor products, listen politely, share experiences and stories and are uncommonly generous.  The Five Fails listed below are the most common pitfalls encountered at the conference.  You will want to avoid these.

  1. Friends Only.  It never ceases to amaze me how many translators will fly thousands of miles to live for several days in a hotel room in a remote city surrounded by hundreds of potential new colleagues, mentors, advisors and friends only to insist on talking solely and exclusively to…people they already know.   The conference is certainly a great opportunity to meet with old friends and renew acquaintances, but its real value lies in pushing boundaries.  That means moving outside your comfort zone by striking out on your own and talking to new colleagues.
  2. Grousing and Complaining.  It’s a rich and supportive environment to let loose about downward pressures on rates, unreasonable client expectations, crazy deadlines, and a total lack of appreciation among the general public and even clients for what translators and interpreters do.  After all, where else will you find people who understand your professional life quite so well?  We all grumble at times about the vagaries of the profession, of course, but try to resist the temptation of grousing and complaining all the time, especially in the educational sessions or the ATA plenary events.  Negativity tends to breed downward spirals of doom and in its purest form is a stunningly powerful client repellant.
  3. Deadly Speeches.  Making comments or asking questions during sessions should be done in the service of the speaker and the topic.  Avoid the temptation to turn your public comments or questions into revival speeches, angry tirades or public challenges of the speaker’s integrity.  It’s the nature of controversial topics to sometimes incite such reactions, but if you go down this path, be prepared to alienate the audience.  It’s best to seek out a middle ground where civil discussion is possible, even (and especially) if you disagree with the speaker.
  4. Staring at Shoes.  There’s an old translator joke that goes like this: “Introverted translators stare at their shoes.  Extroverted translators stare at everybody else’s shoes.”   It may be true that translators are more introverted than other professionals, but take advantage of the more accommodating environment of your colleagues to speak up and share your experience.
  5. Arrogance Breeds Contempt.  Be careful about throwing your weight around too much.  If you want a lesson in humility – and in how spectacularly talented and accomplished your colleagues actually are – the ATA Conference is great place to learn all about it.

Why the American Translators Association?

ATA Logo/Tag--sampleBy Daniela Guanipa

When I first joined ATA back in 2003, I knew it was the organization to join if I wanted to be serious about my language career in the United States. But the truth is I did not know exactly why.

During the fall of 2002 I had had the opportunity to attend my very first ATA Annual Conference as an employee of a language company. The 43rd ATA Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, was an extraordinary experience, though at the time, as a representative of an LSP, my role and interests were different, and I did not take advantage of many opportunities during the conference simply because I was not an independent contractor.

Nevertheless, it provided a great opportunity to learn more about the organization, and this experience is what ultimately led me to become a member the following year when I was no longer working with the LSP.

Had I not had that experience in 2002, perhaps it would have taken me longer to join ATA, because I didn’t know much about it. This is one of the challenges of being a new freelancer: Because we are independent contractors, we depend heavily in the networks we develop, we need to look for information as it is not handed out to us, and we must be very active and involved to stay current with trends, software, etc.

An excellent way of accomplishing this is by joining a professional association. In the United States, ATA, its chapters and divisions, are, without a doubt, the main associations for language professionals.

ATA was founded to advance the translation and interpreting professions and foster the professional development of translators and interpreters. Its 10,500 members in more than 90 countries include translators, interpreters, teachers, project managers, web and software developers, language company owners, hospitals, universities, and government agencies.

The Association membership is available to individuals (Active, Corresponding, Associate, Student) and organizations (Corporate, Institutional) with an interest in the profession, and offers a variety of programs, benefits, and support services, including:

1)      Annual Conference. The ATA Annual Conference is held every fall in a major U.S. city. The conference features more than 150 educational sessions, an Exhibit Hall, and numerous networking events.

 2)      Certification. ATA offers a certification exam to translators in 26 language combinations. Becoming ATA certified allows translators to objectively document their abilities in specific language combinations. To me, earning ATA certification marked an enormous difference in my career. Almost 70% of all new contacts/business find me through the ATA directory because my name stands out with the magic words “ATA Certified” next to it.

3)      Professional Development. The Association offers monthly webinars to provide education in diverse specialties and languages at all skill levels.

4)      Honors and Awards. To encourage, reward, and publicize outstanding work done by both seasoned professionals and students of the craft, ATA presents several awards and scholarships during the Annual Conference.

5)      Divisions. Through 18 specialty- and language-specific divisions, ATA provides ways for members with common interests to network more effectively. Divisions organize formal and informal networking events at the ATA Annual Conference and offer blogs, online discussion forums, and social communities such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

6)      Local Groups. ATA chapters and affiliates provide local translators and interpreters with regional information, marketing, networking, and support.

7)      Client Education. The Association has developed publications to educate consumers about translation and interpreting services and the value that professionals bring to the project or job.

Another interesting fact is that ATA is a member of the Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs (FIT).

As you work your way toward becoming a professional linguist, I encourage you to look into the multiple and priceless benefits that ATA, its local chapters and divisions have to offer to both newcomers and seasoned professionals alike.

From ATA’s Divisions: The Spanish Division

ATA SPD Low res

By Francesca Samuel
ATA Spanish Division Administrator

When I was asked to write an article for the newest ATA blog, I felt excited and honored to be asked to contribute to its maiden voyage. What would I write about? What would new members want to know? How could I engage them, if only for a few minutes? I thought about the beginning of my career as a translator and the benefits that the ATA membership brought to my professional life and then I knew exactly what I wanted to share.

The Spanish Language Division (SPD), the largest of the American Translators Association’s 17 divisions, has a leadership committee, a webpage, a Yahoo Group listserv known as Espalista, and a newsletter known as Intercambios available to you immediately upon becoming a member.

Top reasons to belong are as follows:

  •  The opportunity to advertise your services on the ATA’s online Directory.
  • Connect with well-seasoned translators, interpreters, writers, and agencies who share your interests and concerns.
  • Obtain the education to expand your translation and/or interpreting skills by attending professional development conferences and seminars offered throughout the country.
  • Gain the knowledge necessary to succeed, from the latest terminology to the latest technology, and then some.
  • Take advantage of member-only discounts on business services, including professional liability insurance plans.

The rewards of an ATA membership are endless and PRICELESS! No other organization offers the opportunities for professional development, marketing and betterment of our industry. If you are looking to take your career or your business to the next level, look no further.

There is no better way to accomplish this than to attend the ATA Annual Conference, or any other professional event, for that matter. But specially, the ATA Annual Conference is a unique opportunity that brings all the industry’s principal players under one roof. From the pre-conference seminars, where you will find the highest level of workshops, to the Job Marketplace and Exhibit Hall, to the ATA Board general session, to the individual sessions offered throughout this three day event, nothing prepares you better to face the rest of your life as a professional translator and/or interpreter.

The ATA also offers other professional development events such as local and regional training opportunities, webinars and access to a myriad of tools, such as participation in online forums and listservs. Additionally, both the ATA and the SPD have launched pages on several social forums such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. You will find these forums to be extremely useful with lots of current information pertinent to our industry.

The ATA SPD encourages you to participate in our forums. Also, if you are planning to attend this year’s annual conference, feel free to look us up. We will be wearing buttons that will clearly identify us as SPD leadership committee members. Don’t hesitate to step up and let us know who you are. Whether you are a member of our Division, or not, you are cordially invited to register for our SPD Annual Dinner event set for Friday, November 8, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. More information will be posted as we get closer to the conference date.

If you have any questions or would like more information about the Spanish Division, please feel free to visit our webpage, or contact me directly by email at or by calling (520) 401-0668.

Look forward to meeting you in San Antonio!!


About the author: Francesca Samuel is the current administrator of the American Translators Association Spanish Language Division and has served as treasurer (2002-2004) and past assistant administrator (2004-2010). She is a member of the ATA Spanish, Interpreters, Medical, Technology and Translation Company Divisions. Ms. Samuel is also a member of the National Assoc. of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT), has served in various of NAJIT’s committees, Additionally, she is member of the Pima Community College Translation Studies Advisory Committee. She is the founder and president of A la Carte Translations, a web-based translation business, and vice president of Arizona Translators and Interpreters, Inc. Francesca is originally from Puerto Rico.