A Must-Attend ATA Conference Event: Buddies Welcome Newbies

Whether it’s your first conference or your fortieth, all attendees to the 60th Annual American Translators Association Conference in Palm Springs, CA are invited to attend “Buddies Welcome Newbies,” a time for first-timers and veterans alike to mix and mingle, breaking the ice and getting to know a familiar face before conference sessions get under way.

Why should I attend?

Showing up to a Welcome Reception on Wednesday in a room containing 1500 strangers is terrifying; we want to take the stress out of your first contact with fellow conference attendees. By becoming a Buddy or a Newbie you’ll be able to make one-on-one conversation with colleagues who are just as apprehensive as you are about all the activities and professional interactions that await them in the three days to follow.

Those who have attended two or more ATA conferences are encouraged to return as Buddies so they can help ease the transition for incoming Newbies; we know you remember how daunting it was when you first attended the conference, and how rewarding it can be to make someone else feel at home! Buddies may receive 2 CEPs for participating.

I’m interested. Tell me more…

No registration is necessary to participate in Buddies Welcome Newbies, although if you check the appropriate box on your conference registration form we’ll send you more detailed information by email the week leading up to the event. Buddies and Newbies will be paired up at the introductory event, which will entail a short presentation about networking, a few activities to break the ice, and helpful resources and time for you to get to know your Buddy or Newbie.

Buddies Welcome Newbies

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 from 4:45 to 5:30pm (right before the Welcome Reception!)

What will be expected of me?

Each Buddy-Newbie pair is encouraged to attend one session and go to one meal together. You can even make it a group event and include other Newbies and Buddies in your group—the more the merrier. We ask that you agree on a mode of communication at the session Wednesday and stick to your commitment; we hate to hear stories of Buddies who never respond to messages or Newbies who choose not to take advantage of their Buddy’s expertise!

Is that all?

One more thing! At the end of the conference, on Saturday October 26 at 12:30pm, there will be a wrap-up session for Buddies and Newbies wishing to debrief about their experiences and set goals going forward. You’ll find this to be a great time to collaborate with fellow attendees and hear some of their suggestions about how to make the most of your conference experience.

If you’ve already registered for the conference and forgot to check the “Buddy” or “Newbie” box but would like to receive email updates, just let us know by emailing atasavvynewcomer@atanet.org.

We look forward to seeing you in Palm Springs!

Presentation Proposal Resources for #ATA60 in Palm Springs

ATA speakers bring a broad variety of topics and perspectives to the conference. This is what makes it interesting! When you present as a team, you can discuss the topic in depth with your colleagues for months and give participants a broader perspective.

Proposals are currently being accepted for the 60th ATA Annual Conference in Palm Springs and the submission deadline is March 1. Over 150 sessions are offered, but the conference planning team typically receives three times as many proposals as they can accept. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take care when preparing your proposal. Here are a few quick steps for your proposal:

  1. We have heard that past performance is no guarantee of future results, but it doesn’t hurt to review the last few years of accepted proposals to get a better idea of what has worked.
  1. Draft your proposal. Check out How to Write a Winning ATA Conference Proposal, a webinar by Corinne McKay that guides you through the process. However, you might also ask someone who has presented in the last few years to review your proposal and give you some ideas. They might ask for your feedback on theirs as well!
  2. Follow the criteria in the call for speakers carefully. You will be judged on each one of them. Press continue to begin the process of submitting your proposal.
  3. After March 1, sit back and wait! We look forward to a strong selection of presentations at ATA60.

See you in Palm Springs!

Image source: Pixabay

American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) Conference 2018 Review

What does a medical translator and interpreter have to learn from medical writers? Especially if you write in Spanish, and the conference is for people who write in English. I went to the AMWA conference curious, and came back changed, having learned so much that I am going back for sure. Oh, and it was so much fun!

As a medical translator and interpreter, I am a member of organizations where people who write medical documents participate. The American Medical Writers Association is one of them. Attending conferences and talking with people who write the documents I translate helps me understand context, and it helps me prepare my translations so they will undergo minimal changes when the medical editors receive them.

Why am I interested in medical interpreting and translation? I just can’t help it. My grandfather founded the first union hospital in Argentina and left some of his tools behind in the attic. When I was a child, I played with them and wanted to be a doctor like him, so I could also help others. Right after graduating from high school, I spent two years in medical school at the University of Buenos Aires. I then moved on to a different field, but never lost my passion for medical and scientific topics. I told that story a few times at this conference, and many people loved it! So after the ATA conference in New Orleans, I just had to go right over to DC, stay with a friend and go to the AMWA conference to hang out with medical geeks. It was irresistible.

Interestingly, the conference actually started two months before the event itself. They sent me homework! I was registered for one of the three-hour workshops, and all the speakers assigned tasks in advance. It was due three weeks ahead of the conference. At the session, they handed out the corrected homework and discussed the assignments. The material was demanding and interesting, and the advance preparation helped us all engage with the session in depth.

About a month ahead of time the conference organizers were sending emails out to see what regional group we would go out to dinner with. They also had “dine-arounds,” an opportunity to try out different culinary options by checking the list of restaurants and leaders and signing up for where you wanted to dine.

For the regional groups, the leaders had the list of those who had registered, and didn’t leave until all were accounted for. They stood in the hotel foyer, held up their sign, and waited to take off. If you didn’t have a group, you just tagged along with someone else, or someone might grab you and say “Hey, come along with us.” For the dine-arounds, there were signup sheets at the registration early in the morning, and the same deal happened in the evening. Knowing they were waiting for you, it was a good idea to check in with the leader if you changed your mind! I loved these dinners.

The attendees were experts in the subjects they were writing about. They were not just writers. They didn’t just organize other people’s notes and research. They knew the subject and knew what questions to ask to make the document shine. Why? Because so many of them had terminal degrees in the field they were writing about. At times, members of the audience answered questions from other members of the audience because the speakers knew that was appropriate. I loved the collegial environment! The conversations continued in the hallways, where the exhibitors were. I made some good friends and expect to see them again.

All comments were welcome. It was totally OK to stand up and say, “This sounds great! If people actually wrote this way, we translators would have fewer questions for you and your translations would be done more quickly! Could you please pass the word along?” They thanked me, because they had not realized plain language would have that cause-and-effect.

The sessions honed in on some issues I had been thinking about for a while. Clear writing (many call it plain language) and connecting with your audience were threads that made their way into every presentation.

Whether discussing how to prepare a proposal for regulators to approve it or how to write a grant, the key points were the same.

  • Write clearly
  • Organize your material well
  • Assume the readers are in a hurry
  • Find out what the reader cares about and focus on that
  • Don’t assume the reader knows your subject
  • Assume that they will be evaluating things that are not on the checklist; they will!

There was a session on empathy—in our writing! Yes, we can be empathetic in our writing by not talking down to people and not trying to erase entire classes of people, but meeting our readers where they are, putting ourselves in their shoes and telling our readers how they would benefit from what we present to them. This, of course, implies knowing our audience. Those of us who do both interpreting and translation have a natural connection with our audience. Readers, how can we all develop this connection so our translations reach our audience better?

Then there’s miscommunication. It is such a problem. One speaker labeled it the “miscommunication epidemic,” and I had to agree. How many times have I had to go back and explain what I meant in an email, a phone call, a look? She dealt with the face-to face aspects of miscommunication, but in writing, our communication is 100% dependent on the printed or electronic material. Some tips that I took note of in this presentation and another one were:

  • Use the BLUF (bottom line up front) strategy
  • Say exactly what we mean
  • Send short emails about only one topic, with a subject line that summarizes the topic
  • Avoid jargon
  • Be explicit instead of assuming our readers will understand what we are assuming
  • Use story-telling techniques to make our points; people like to see how things apply to them, and nothing brings this out like a story

Going to conferences from the allied professions opens my mind to new ideas. In this case, medical writers and translators have a lot in common: we both write texts for our audiences. Knowing what they consider when they address their audience helps me as I try to maintain the register, keep the voice, reach the audience, and transfer the message to my target audience.

Sometimes documents are written directly in Spanish, where the client asks: “Could you please write something about ___________? Here are the basic topics we need you to cover, and here are the specs.” As a translator, I could easily be given that type of assignment. These conferences also prepare me to shine in that environment.

Finally, I often work with communications specialists. Having the experience of being at what is essentially a communications conference gives me the ability to understand their concerns and be able to speak to their needs in a language they understand more clearly.

I will continue to include conferences for writers and copy editors in my mix for a long time! They are fun and incredibly helpful for me as a professional.

Translation Slams: Can You Benefit without Working in the Source Language?

Reflections on the ATA59 Spanish-to-English Translation Slam

Inspired by poetry slams, translation slams are a forum for comparing multiple translations of the same source text. The participants are usually a moderator and at least two translators, or “slammers.” The translations are done in advance of the event, so that each of the translators, the moderator, and the audience can jointly discuss the texts to learn from the experience.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every translation slam I’ve attended. However, I previously thought I would only be able to follow those where I work with both the source and target languages. But the Spanish-to-English translation slam at ATA59 proved me wrong.

It seemed like I was one of only about two or three people who did not have both Spanish and English as working languages in a packed room of around 100 people. But I was determined not to let that stop me from enjoying a translation slam and supporting two of my Savvy teammates.

Three slammers

All of the other translation slams I’ve witnessed or read about had two slammers and one moderator. This one had three slammers, and I thought that added quite an interesting dimension. One thing that fascinated me was that all three translations had their moments. At first, I started to inadvertently form an opinion about which one I liked best, only to realize later that I liked one of the other versions better for certain terms, sentences, and passages. All three translators generally reached a consensus in their discussion on what was most effective. This impressed on me their willingness to seek the best possible translation ahead of their own egos or competitiveness.

A relatively long narrative source text that showcased strengths and weaknesses

The source text was around 700 words in length. This is slightly longer than other translation slams I’ve read about, and sure enough, they did not quite make it to the end. However, one advantage of it being slightly long was that it helped provide a range of opportunities for all three translations to display their strengths and weaknesses. As mentioned, I liked one better initially, whereas another showed its strength closer to the end. A shorter source text may not have allowed for this sort of range.

Complementary skill sets

The slam was moderated by Savvy’s Jamie Hartz. She did a good job of maintaining a constructive tone and balancing commentary from each of the slammers and from the audience. I’d say that is the most important role of a moderator, apart from all the prep work.

The three slammers were Cathy Bahr, Savvy’s Emily Safrin, and Sarah Symons Glegorio. It was fascinating to see how their skill sets and approaches complemented each other. Cathy showed skill in holistically recasting paragraphs and sentences to break free from the source text. On the other hand, Emily’s attention to detail and Sarah’s legal translation background resulted in a stronger focus on mastering individual phrases and words, finding natural English equivalents for tricky Spanish wording. When you put it all together, these macro- and micro-focused approaches make for a winning combination that would lend itself well to a translator-reviser pairing.

My takeaways

I felt that this translation slam did a good job of exemplifying the challenges translators face. Ambiguities in the source text and other wording that was difficult to interpret sometimes resulted in translations that played it safe and stuck too close to the source. On the other hand, there were some translation choices that did get away from the source, but still missed the mark in terms of the intended meaning as best approximated by the collective wisdom of the moderator, the other slammers, and the audience.

It seemed as if the only way to really master some of these passages would be to consult with the author of the source text and combine the writing, research, and reading skills, and unique approaches of all three slammers. In lieu of the source-text author, there were at least native speakers of the source language in the audience who were able to help.

To me, this reaffirms the value of working with a reviser, especially one with a complementary skill set, and of engaging the client in dialogue.

Yes you can!

Although I do have a basic understanding of Spanish (having studied it a long time ago) that helped me understand the source text, I would still assert that I would have been just fine if I hadn’t understood a word of the source language. The comparison of the three translations into my native language was easy to follow. I could judge what read better in the target language and grasp the more straightforward aspects of the source language by comparing the three translations. I was also able to understand the more complex issues, because they came up in discussion.

Another example of a session I attended with a source language I don’t work with is was that of Claudio Cambon, entitled “Being a Faithful Cheat! Betraying Source Texts to Provide Better Legal Translations” about how to get away from the source in Italian-to-English legal translations. My knowledge of Italian is far more limited than my knowledge of Spanish, but that didn’t matter. The presenter shared a word-for-word translation on the screen and then showed how he would completely rewrite it. This made it easy to follow and learn from the step-by-step improvements to the English and enabled me to understand approximately what the source text said.

In conclusion, I would encourage you to look out for future translation slam opportunities. Don’t shy away from participating if you get the chance, because it appears to be very rewarding. And don’t rule out sitting in the audience just because you don’t master the source language. If you at least master the target language, you should be able to get something out of it.

If you’d like to read some fascinating reviews of other translation slams, please see Chris Durban’s “Post #5 — Word geeks in the hot seat” and Tim Gutteridge’s “Ingredients for a perfect translation slam.”

By the way, I’m currently preparing to moderate a translation slam for the first time, with a twist: a text I wrote in English will be translated into Swedish, my source language, and I’ll moderate to provide the author’s perspective and answer questions. Do you have any advice or thoughts for me to consider in this exciting endeavor?

Buddies Welcome Newbies 2018

This year Buddies Welcome Newbies will be celebrating its sixth year of welcoming newcomers to the American Translators Association annual conference!

After its debut in San Antonio in 2013, Buddies Welcome Newbies has grown to become a well-known event right before the Welcome Celebration of the ATA conference. Designed as an icebreaker for those attending the conference for the first – or even the second – time, it is the place to get your gears in motion, in a fun, comfortable way.

Buddies Welcome Newbies (BWN) is a part of The Savvy Newcomer, where we are constantly innovating and putting new ideas to the test. Just as last year, BWN is one of the event choices in the main conference registration form, so that instead of having a separate link, you can just check a box when you sign up for the conference itself. However, if you missed that one question during registration, and are interested in being a part of this event, do not despair! We will be happy to sign you up manually. Just send us an email at atasavvynewcomer@atanet.org and we will get back with you.

This year we will continue with our ATA Conference Newcomer Blog, packed with resources for newbies and buddies alike. We thought waiting until Wednesday the 24th to share the myriad of things we want to tell you was kind of mean, plus, we could not possibly do it in 45 minutes! So, check it out, if you have not done so already, and be sure to leave us a comment to let us know how we are doing.

And as an extra incentive for our certified Buddies is the opportunity to earn 2.0 ATA CEPs by participating as a Buddy!

What is Buddies Welcome Newbies, you ask? The answer is simple:

Newbie is anyone who is new to the American Translators Association, to translation or interpreting in general, or a new conference attendee.

Buddies are the life of this event – experienced conference attendees, many of them seasoned T&I professionals, who donate their time and expertise for the benefit of Newbies. All our planning, ideas, and enthusiasm would mean nothing if we did not have the support of our awesome Buddies to make all this a reality.

During our opening session, Buddies and Newbies are paired up (the final ratio of Buddies to Newbies will depend on the number of participants in attendance), and off they go to enjoy the conference with the following “assignments”:

  • Newbies and their Buddies make their own plans to attend a conference session together, have a meal together, etc. The number of activities and frequency is up to you.
  • Attend the wrap-up session on Saturday October 27, for even more great information on what to do next and to have your questions answered by guest speakers.

Pretty simple, huh? Yet it is very powerful, as this event can make a big difference in the life of new conference attendees, and who knows, maybe you’ll make a friend or two in the process. Be sure to come to both the opening session and the wrap-up to see the magic for yourself!

Buddies Welcome Newbies Introduction: Wednesday, October 24 @ 4:45-5:30pm

Buddies Welcome Newbies Debriefing: Saturday, October 27 @ 12:30-1:30pm