Chapter Conferences: A Great Place to Start

For me, fall means conference season. There’s the American Translators Association (ATA) conference in late October or early November, but even before that is the conference organized by my local ATA chapter, the Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters (MATI). I started attending MATI’s annual conferences when I was a graduate student, and I’ve been a regular attendee ever since. Over the years, these conferences have been a valuable source of continuing education and networking.They have also provided opportunities for me to get involved with the association.

If you’re new to the world of translation and interpreting, you’re likely eager to meet others in the field. You’re probably also seeking opportunities to improve your translation and/or interpreting skills in addition to general business skills. If so, attending a local conference is an important step in the right direction. Though I encourage translators and interpreters to attend ATA conferences whenever possible, I know that it’s not always feasible at the beginning. Newcomers may be looking for a smaller-scale, local event to dip their toes into the water. That’s where a chapter conference comes in.

So, what are the benefits of a chapter conference for new translators and interpreters? Read on for some inspiration. Hopefully afterwards you’ll be looking up your next local conference!

Learn about hot topics in the field

At all stages of your career, it’s important to keep up with the latest developments in translation and interpreting. Whether you want to know about your colleagues’ experience working with speech recognition software or see demonstrations of the latest CAT tools, this is the place to do it.

At this year’s MATI conference, for example, I particularly enjoyed Allison Bryant’s session on working with flat PDF files using optical character recognition (OCR) software. I always enjoy learning how other translators use various tools in their day-to-day work, and this session was no exception!

Get the best tips for running your business

Maybe you’ve completed a long list of translation and/or interpreting courses as a student in an MA or certificate program. But do you feel fully equipped to manage a business all on your own? Attending a conference can help you put together some of those pieces as you’re building the foundation of your business. At this crucial beginning stage, advice from those who have been there before is extremely valuable.

Daniela Guanipa’s session at this year’s MATI conference, called “How to Bullet-Proof Your Translation Process,” presented many practical tips for translators that can be applied at any career stage. Her presentation featured strategies such as a checklist to manage the entire process based on each project’s specifications. She also shared some questions to ask clients to help determine their specific needs.

Meet other newbies

When you’re getting started, it’s helpful to meet and share experiences with others in a similar situation. Not only is it comforting to connect with a fellow newbie at a conference, but it’s also an opportunity to compare notes on how your early stages are going. Someone else’s success story might be the inspiration you need for your next achievement!

Some of my first connections at MATI conferences were with fellow graduate students. Over the years, we have ended up working on projects together, attending numerous conferences and other events, and getting involved in the association’s many volunteer opportunities.

Find a mentor

In addition to connecting with other newbies, it’s never a bad idea to seek advice from seasoned professionals, or even those who were in your shoes just a few years ago. A chapter conference is a great way to make those connections and chat one-on-one for valuable career advice.

With memories of being a newbie not so long ago, I’m always happy to pay it forward by connecting with and advising newer translators and interpreters. We might first meet at the MATI conference, and later meet up for coffee or a phone call to chat in the weeks that follow.

Start a long-term connection with the association

Without a doubt, the biggest impact MATI conferences have had on my professional experience is that they sparked my involvement with the association itself. By becoming a regular conference attendee, I got to know the association’s long-term members and board. I saw that the chapter’s success with a wide range of educational opportunities and events relies entirely on a team of highly dedicated volunteers, and I knew that I wanted to get involved.

I served on MATI’s Board of Directors for two terms, spanning four years total. During this time I was able to participate in many projects and events to ensure that the association was a constant source of support, education, and networking for translators and interpreters in our area.

By attending your chapter conferences, you’ll see that there are many ways you can get involved. There’s something to fit any level of commitment you’re able to give—whether it’s writing an article in the newsletter, recruiting webinar presenters, or serving a term on the board of directors. I truly feel that the more involved you are in your association, the more rewards you’ll reap in your career as a whole.

Chapter conferences are an excellent way to make connections with fellow newbies and long-time professionals, learn about the latest tools, and get tips for running your translation and/or interpreting business.But it doesn’t stop there. These events are a stepping-stone for you to get involved and make a lasting impact on the association itself.

Ready to attend a chapter conference? Check out ATA’s chapters at http://www.atanet.org/chaptersandgroups/chapters.php and ATA affiliate groups at http://www.atanet.org/chaptersandgroups/affiliated_groups.php.

Image source: Pixabay

About the author: Meghan (McCallum) Konkol is an ATA-certified French to English freelance translator specializing in corporate communications, human resources, marketing, and financial documents. She holds an MA in Language, Literature, and Translation (concentration in French to English translation) from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Before going freelance, she worked in-house for several years at a global language services provider, serving as a project manager and quality manager. She currently serves on the ATA Board of Directors and is the coordinator of ATA’s School Outreach Program. She served on the Board of Directors of the Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters (an ATA chapter) from 2013 to 2017.E-mail: meghan@fr-en.com. Website: www.fr-en.com. Twitter: @meghan_transl8.

6 Reasons Why New Translators Should Specialize

When you’re starting out in the translation industry, you hear a lot about specialization. People tell you to find your niche and become a specialist, not a generalist. Why? This article will give you six reasons why new translators should consider developing their specialist fields.

Becoming a specialist isn’t an overnight process. There’s nothing wrong with being more of a generalist at the beginning of your career. But, as a new translator, specializing in a few related fields over time will help you in the long run. Here’s why.

  1. Work faster

The more you know about a subject, the faster you can translate texts related to it. If it’s an area where you have expertise, you can work more quickly without this affecting quality. You don’t spend as much time on researching terms because you already understand them.

Maybe this field has a particular jargon or terminology and you’re familiar with it. Perhaps there’s a certain style that’s often used and you’re already up to speed. Compare that with translating in a field you don’t know about; you’d be much slower.

Specializing might allow you to work faster because you’ve worked in the field before, or it might be because you’ve translated a lot in that area. However you get there, expertise and familiarity with the subject will mean you can work more quickly than in areas you don’t know as well. Specializing can help you become more productive.

  1. Earn more

Being more productive (while still ensuring quality) means you can be more profitable. It’s simple mathematics. If you can produce good quality work quickly, you have time to accept more work. But it’s not just about volume.

Specializing or becoming an expert in your field changes the kinds of customers you can attract. Think about it: Your car breaks down. Do you call in a qualified mechanic or try to fix it yourself with the help of YouTube? Most people will choose the person with expertise and/or experience.

Customers want someone they can trust. They want an expert. By being a specialist in their field, you can position yourself as their go-to person. It’s all part of building a relationship of trust. Specializing makes you more productive and a more attractive proposition to potential customers, both of which are very important to new translators.

  1. Find clients

Become a specialist to find customers. Part of specializing means you start to make contacts with people in the same field or industry. Maybe you used to work in that field and these are connections from your time in the industry.

Offering translations in a particular niche means you can use your contacts to meet potential customers—people who might need translations. Because these potential translation buyers work in niche areas they may also be prepared to pay more for a translator they can trust to do a good job.

  1. Develop profitable relationships

Become your customers’ trusted collaborator and develop long-term relationships. Being the customer’s go-to person and someone they can rely on means you can use your specialism, not only to attract these clients but also to keep them.

  1. Grow your business

New translators need to grow their business. If you’re already offering translations to a particular industry, then you can use that expertise to begin to offer other services. Maybe your clients need a related service, like copywriting.

Tourism expertise might lead you to gain contact with industries like beauty and wellness. Starting from a position of knowledge about one area can gradually lead to opportunities in other areas. You might need to do some further study or team up with colleagues, but the opportunities are there.

  1. Enjoy your work

Last, but not least, specializing means you can concentrate on doing what you enjoy. Many new translators become specialists simply by gradually doing more and more of the work they enjoy most. They might go on and do some further study to back that up, but it’s often how a specialism begins.

I specialize in tourism and fashion and both have developed gradually as I accepted more and more work in those fields. These specialist fields can be quite varied and encompass many types of customers and projects. That means I’m never bored; working on projects and with customers I like means I enjoy my job.

First steps to specializing

Think about the skills you already have that might help you decide where you could specialize. Perhaps something you have studied? An industry you have experience in? Maybe a particular field you are interested in? It might be possible to do some further study and use this to leverage some opportunities. For more information about how to specialize, read my article How to Choose a Translation Specialisation. Good luck!

Image source: Unsplash

Author bio

Lucy Williams is a freelance Spanish-to-English translator and translator trainer. She holds the IoLET Diploma in Translation (two merits) and has been working as a translator since 2009. Lucy specialises in fashion, tourism, art, literature and social sciences. She is also a copywriter/blogger. You can read her blog at translatorstudio.co.uk. Twitter: @LucyWTranslator.

International Translation Day 2018 – Go out, tell the world, be bold!

Have you heard? ATA is encouraging translators and interpreters to celebrate International Translation Day (ITD) in a BIG way this year! A new United Nations resolution passed in 2017 celebrates the work of translators and interpreters, and to celebrate this huge step in gaining recognition for our profession, ATA is hosting a social media blitz on September 28, 2018. We just need your help to make it happen!

What’s the big deal?

How often do you meet people who don’t know what translators and interpreters do, or how many times have you cringed when you heard a translator referred to as an interpreter and vice versa? How often have you had to explain to friends or family members that yes, you do make a living as a translator or interpreter? How often do you encounter people in your community who have much to learn about language services and their role in our world? Probably all too often!

What’s the plan?

On September 28, 2018, the Friday before ITD, ATA will unveil a series of six informational infographics intended to debunk myths about translation and interpreting, for use on various social media platforms. From the difference between translation and interpreting to why it’s important to use a professional for language service needs, the infographics will help you get the word out to your personal network—friends and family who may not be familiar with what you do—about the importance of your profession and your role in it.

I’m in. What do I need to do?

  • Follow ATA on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram) and share their posts throughout the day on September 28.
  • Find out if your local ATA Chapter or affiliated group will be hosting a gathering to celebrate translators and interpreters. If not, consider hosting one yourself!
  • Schedule a School Outreach presentation in honor of ITD. Now is the time to teach the next generation of translators and interpreters about our exciting and growing profession. Materials and inspiration can be found at the School Outreach website.

Go out, tell the world, be bold!

ATA’s goal is to use the platform of ITD 2018 to raise awareness for the profession within our personal networks with this social media blitz. We have an incredible opportunity to change the way the world views translators and interpreters just by being bold and sharing more about our jobs. Debunking the unfortunate myths and misunderstandings about translation and interpreting will help pave the way for a better future for our profession, and it can start right here in our own backyards. So mark your calendars, follow ATA on social media, and help spread the word by participating in the blitz on September 28, 2018!

Image source: Freepik

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 Confidentiality Dilemma in the Language Profession

Where should interpreters and translators draw the line?

Last month, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee proposed to subpoena the American interpreter present at the private meeting between the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and President Trump on July 16, 2018. Although it sounds like a blow to the profession, it may actually be good news that Congress turned its attention to the occupation of translators and interpreters.

Republicans did their thing: They blocked the request, and professional translators and interpreters everywhere were able to breathe again. The question remains, however: Are interpreters, like attorneys and priests, bound by confidentiality at all costs and under all circumstances?

The answer is neither clear nor simple. For one thing, no specific regulations exist for interpreters or translators. There are no state or federal standards of accountability, no governing bodies or professional oversights at any level, no board exams or education requirement of any kind. In other words, it is a completely self-regulated profession. Anyone can practice as an interpreter or a translator regardless of their background or knowledge.

Unlike attorneys or doctors, translators do not have to prove their qualifications to anyone or operate under any particular professional standard. It is truly up to the person or entity contracting the service to check credentials and provide any non-disclosure agreements required for the particular job or relationship. If this is not done properly, however, the consequences can be disastrous. Let’s recall the story out of Tampa, Florida last December that made national headlines, where a woman claiming to be an American Sign Language interpreter “signed” nonsense at a police press conference announcing the arrest of a suspected serial killer who had been terrorizing the city for months.

Despite all this, for every unqualified person out there, there are dozens of truly dedicated and educated language professionals who operate with integrity. Of course, it only takes one questionable experience to create mistrust within the profession. So, while some of us may have been outraged at the idea of subpoenaing the interpreter at the Trump-Putin summit last month, it may be a good idea to start filling in the gaps of the profession, looking more closely at ethics and confidentiality, including diplomatic settings under the protection of the U.S. Department of State.

Now, whether Congress can really subpoena the interpreter is another question. Surely, this interpreter was bound to secrecy under an iron-clad non-disclosure agreement. And even if not, the rules of conduct and ethics for interpreters and translators require confidentiality in the language profession. The American Translators Association (ATA) Code of Ethics states that language professionals must “hold in confidence any privileged and/or confidential information entrusted to us in the course of our work.” However, this statement cannot be absolute or understood as such, nor is it even legally binding alone. It is merely a guideline set forth by a professional association in an attempt to unify an unregulated profession.

Consider this: In 48 states, physicians, counselors, mediators, and other designated professionals are compelled to file a mandated report when they suspect child abuse, harm to others, and harm to oneself. These are all logical and reasonable exceptions to confidentiality, and interpreters should not be the exception in that regard.

In the case of one state, the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, in accordance with Act 172 of 2006 (42 Pa.C.S. §§ 4411(e) and 4431(e)), has established a confidentiality exception for interpreters: “In the event that an interpreter becomes aware of information that suggests imminent harm to someone or relates to a crime being committed during the course of the proceedings, the interpreter should immediately disclose the information to an appropriate authority within the judiciary who is not a party to the proceeding and seek advice in regard to the potential conflict in professional responsibility.”

Now, in cases of suspected child abuse, the line is pretty clear. The safety and well-being of a child trumps any non-disclosure agreement, without question. But what about when an interpreter is being asked to disclose the nitty-gritty of a private meeting that may expose risks to our national security interests? Perhaps that should become another concrete exception.

Yes, the nature of a bilateral meeting is based on privacy. The interpreter is not a microphone to the public nor a reporter of the meeting. The interpreter is the voice of the participants, who, typically, citizens trust to represent them. The interpreter is not a spy for the American people, nor should he or she be compelled to disclose any details of a meeting… that is, unless the interests of the American people are not being faithfully represented. And to that effect, the U.S. Congress should most certainly issue a ruling.

So far, this matter has been handled from the political perspective. But interpreters in all settings should be prepared for more incidents like this during the next few years. If this issue comes up again—and it very likely will—what happens with this situation in Congress will set a precedent for us all.

Image source: Pixabay

About the authors

Salua Kamerow works as a Spanish linguist for Penn State University – Berks campus. She is a Colombian Esq., Master of Laws from Penn State University, and Master of Science in Translation from New York University. Her interests vary among contrastive stylistics and terminology. She has extensive expertise in the fields of law, energy, community justice, and alternative dispute resolution.

Nikki DiGiovanni is an Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French translator, specializing in financial translation, with a Master of Science from New York University. She currently works as a quality manager for the Italian translation and interpretation provider Intrawelt S.a.s. and volunteers as a translator for Translators without Borders.

Arugula—Rehashed: The Mean Streets of Culinary Translation

After 35 years as a translator, these two things I know: we translators love words, and we love a good meal. The more exotic the meal (or the words), the better. Need a good Burmese take-out in Oklahoma City? Ask a translator! A colleague and I recently had a discussion on the taxonomy of the world’s dumplings, from Russian pel’meni to Japanese gyoza. I had to own up that I had never sampled a Filipino siopao. Horrified, he explained the Chinese origins of the term, then procured a sample for me straightaway. Terminology management can be a delicious undertaking!

When I asked my translation students what market niches they wanted to study, it came as no surprise when they suggested culinary translation. What translator is not a subject-matter expert in this field? In preparing my first lecture on the topic—which grew into a presentation at ATA’s 2016 Annual Conference—I did, however, have to put the past behind me. I eventually called the ATA talk “Arugula by Any Other Name.” The choice of title was part of my professional therapy.

You see, a trauma had befallen me years ago, late one Friday afternoon, at my day job. After years of dealing with texts about pandemics and weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the finer points of tariff nomenclature, nothing should have fazed me. But that afternoon it happened: the career buster, in the form of an innocent menu translation for a VIP dinner, naturally a rush job. An outstanding colleague translated the menu swiftly into flawless Spanish, and since the office was clearing out for the weekend, he asked me to do the review. “But I don’t translate into Spanish,” I protested. We decided that the risks of having me step into the breach were minimal, so I proceeded to review. I could find nothing wrong. Perhaps to justify my newfound reviewer’s hat, I ventured that the translator might have found something “more Spanish-sounding” than “arúgula” for the salad green featured on the menu. Armed with my stack of dictionaries in that pre-Internet age, I hazarded a suggestion: use “oruga.”

The translator’s lips and eyelids tensed. He drew a deep breath, then explained that he was aware of the venerable term “oruga,” but that to the native ear, this first and foremost meant “caterpillar.” “Which, of course, would be unappetizing to most people in a salad,” he exclaimed. I will never forget how his tone dropped when he slowed to say, “Of course.” I wilted like a plate of baby mesclun under a restaurant heat lamp.

And—of course—I knew about the caterpillar thing, at some level of my brain. But in the zeal of the moment, I had forgotten it. I never reviewed into Spanish again! And I learned a valuable lesson: in culinary translation, being accurate is important, but being appetizing is perhaps even more so.

You have seen the botched menu translations as you travel the world. My favorite was the comical rendering of the emblematic Peruvian dish lomo saltado at an otherwise very decent restaurant in Arequipa. On a bilingual menu, the translator has some choices:

  • Sautéed loin: short and to-the-point, but very literal, and with no indication of what critter is being cooked. Is it pork, beef, or something else?
  • Stir-fried sirloin, with onions and tomatoes: this gives a nod to the dish’s East Asian origins, and a bit more information on its ingredients. And now at least we sense it is beef.
  • Stir-fry of sirloin, onions, and tomatoes, served with French fries and rice: gotta love English, where “stir-fry” can exist as a noun. Carb-conscious diners will appreciate this translation, which is almost a recipe, though it might not fit on a narrow menu column!

Unfortunately, whoever translated the menu I read that evening had neglected to ask for my sage advice. The menu listed the dish as “jumped loin.” Enough said. Culinary translation clearly merits serious study . . . and sensitivity training.

When I gave that ATA talk in 2016, I was surprised how many attendees mentioned that they work in this niche. Together, we explored the mean streets of culinary translation. What makes it so hard to translate innocent-looking menus, not to mention restaurant reviews, or other gastronomic prose? I came up with five reasons:

  1. Ornate Names: A century ago, the dining room at the Hotel Marlborough, one of the finest in New York City, featured a dish it labeled simply as “Broiled sweetbread on toast, with mushrooms and peas.” However rarefied the dish, it wore a fairly plain moniker. One century later, the Inn at Little Washington, one of the best restaurants in the DC area, proudly served sweetbreads in a dish it dubbed “Bourbon-glazed crispy veal sweetbreads with pappardelle pasta and Blenheim apricots.” We describe the hell out of our food today, and naming dishes becomes as much of an art as plating them. Imagine translating the name of the latter-day dish into French or Spanish. Then imagine translating it into Urdu, or Korean!
  2. Concern for Freshness, Health, and the Environment: I dine out enough to be unfazed by phrases such as “heirloom tomatoes,” “pole-caught tuna,” and “locally sourced radishes.” But when I dine with visitors from other countries, I see how these labels—which remind us how far from the land and the sea we can be in the US—can actually be a turnoff for my guests. I have seen them read the words “fresh-cracked eggs” on a menu and swear they would never eat an egg in the US again, disconcerted as they were by the reminder that any other kind of egg could possibly be served. These competing food concerns make the translator’s job a lot more difficult. How would you translate this menu announcement: “Game may contain shot”? Is this a case of TMI—one that might cause you to pass on the medallions of the venison, in any language?
  3. The Transnational Palate: It struck me, as I was recently offered a dollop of “sriracha aïoli,” that we live in an odd and fascinating world—one in which Thai and Provençal condiments commingle on our plates, and menus assume we are prepared for this. The name of a single dish these days can send the translator scurrying through three or more languages and cultures, with forays into botany, zoology, geography, and history.
  4. Culinary Culture Clashes (or C3 as the cognoscenti say): I once worked at an Inter-American conference at which the US hosts vowed to serve chili con carne—a proud dish that I enjoy—to their Latin American visitors. The organizer handed me the menu in English and assured me that “chili con carne” was one term that would certainly need no translation into Spanish. How could he know that for much of South America, a chile (note final vowel!) is an ají? And that the dish is virtually unknown to most Dominicans, Argentines, Colombians, and even Mexicans! How about this translation: Guiso picante de carne de res? Is it accurate? Appetizing? One translator said, “Don’t they know?—one should always serve chicken.”
  5. Exotic Ingredients: A leading restaurant in Lima, Astrid y Gastón, now serves dishes featuring a trendy herb called “sacha culantro.” The name reflects Peru’s Quechua-speaking heritage. Few diners are aware that what is often called “cilantro” can either be an old-world plant (Coriandrum sativum), or a new-world plant (Erygium foetidum). Sacha culantro belongs to the latter strain. Again, the translator becomes a botanist, and is left to find a space-conscious way to reconcile accuracy and appetite.

I grew up in 1960s US suburbia. Exotic dishes (mostly from my Polish and Italian grandparents) were generally limited to weekends and holidays. Most weekdays, plainer fare prevailed. Indeed, a typical midweek menu item at my house would have read: “Meat and potatoes, with overcooked hybrid vegetables, indifferently sourced, un-sauced, seasoned with salt and pepper.” My father had a different name, somewhat more exotic: “yeiayli” (“You’ll eat it and you’ll like it”). What a happy life we grown-up translators lead, ambling down the mean streets of culinary translation, able to explore the taxonomy and etymology of every dish we encounter. And filling our hungry termbases along the way.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Joe Mazza (mazzajp2@state.gov), a 1984 graduate of the George Washington University (BA in International Affairs), joined the State Department’s Office of Language Services (LS) in 1989 as a translator of Romance languages, following five years as a translator of Russian and Romance languages with the Navy Department. In 2006, he became Chief of LS’s Translating Division, with responsibility for most State Department translations. In 2015, he began teaching Spanish/English translation at the University of Maryland’s Graduate Studies in Interpreting and Translation (GSIT) program. He currently serves as Administrator of the ATA Government Division. Joe’s first job was washing dishes at La Bonne Auberge in New Hope, PA, where his boss smoothed out his high-school French and taught him to appreciate a good plate of coquilles Saint-Jacques à l’armoricaine.