Stumbling on the Vocabulary of National Life (Part Two)

by Joseph P. Mazza

This post is part two of a two-part series by Joe Mazza. Read last week’s post here (you won’t regret it): Stumbling on the Vocabulary of National Life (Part One).

Having survived the surly eviction from a Latino grocery store, I decided long ago to pursue the vocabulary of national life on less dangerous turf—namely around the dining room table, followed up by copious online research. Then I check my research after the next meal, just to keep things real.

In some cultures, it is not uncommon to spend a good hour or more chatting around the table after any meal, and there have been times in my life when these talks have lasted far longer, with one meal simply blending in with the next. In Peru, they call this post-prandial prattle la sobremesa, which in itself is one of those hard-to-translate cultural bywords. Naturally, after countless sobremesas in Lima and DC, spread out over two decades, my storehouse of Peruvian expressions is enormous. And my information extraction techniques have become more refined with the passage of time!

At last year’s ATA Annual Conference (2018), I delivered a session focused on eight words that stood out in this 20-year campaign to master the Spanish of Peruvian life. Each word had been a challenge for me, and each challenge had a story. The input from the Peruvians and non-Peruvians who attended my session was invaluable. The hardest part of preparing the talk was deciding which eight expressions to pick.

Criollo and cholo

Two words were ethnographic labels—criollo and cholo—that have proven supremely difficult to translate. The first term is a cousin of “creole” in English, so an ATA Annual Conference in New Orleans was the perfect venue to discuss it. You have to take on a word like “criollo” in a single-country context, so “creole” is of little use as a translation.

In Peru the word suggests a mixture of cultures, particularly along the coast, where European blended with African and Native American. Yet the focus is on the sum of the parts, not the parts themselves, and when a Peruvian says something is “criollazo,” (super-criollo), you think of how some in the United States say “all-American.”

Peruvians are fond of citing examples of their innate ingenuity, using the phrase “la chispa criolla” (the spark of criollo genius). I have been called “el gringo criollo,” and take that to mean I have earned my merit badge in Peruvian studies!

But so often these are loaded words, ones that can include and exclude, depending on one’s perspective and intent, and ones an outsider such as me had best be careful about using.

Cholo” is perhaps even more fraught, focusing as it does on the Native American contribution to Peruvian life, acknowledging the blending with other cultures, and ranging from the proudest epithet to the vilest insult. Peruvians will call out to their buddies, “Oye, cholo…” (Hey there, cholo), and one of my wife’s cousins refers to me in direct speech as “cholito de mi corazón” (literally “little cholo of my heart”). Here, the word is almost denatured from its original meaning.

There is a comic series called Super Cholo, and a popular YouTuber named El Cholo Mena which tempt one to think the word is safe to use. Yet examples of disparaging uses of cholo are easy to find in print, on the Internet, and in everyday speech. It is a word that invites a translator’s note, which invites even more trouble!

El Señor de los Milagros

Turning to the spiritual side, we looked at the Catholic devotion to el Señor de los Milagros (the Lord of the Miracles), to whom most of October (el mes morado) is dedicated in Peru. The primary miracle occurred when an image of Christ, painted on the wall of a church in Lima frequented by Afro-Peruvians, survived an 18th Century earthquake.

If you are Peruvian, you are expected to know that el Cristo de Pachacamillo, el Cristo negro, and el Cristo morado all refer to el Señor de los Milagros; that you will see hundreds of people each October wearing robes known as la túnica morada, la indumentaria morada, or el hábito morado, and that you will be eating the traditional cake known as el turrón de doña Pepa.

Armed with all this cultural knowledge, we were ready to take on this 2014 headline from El Comercio: “Despide el mes morado con el turrón de los feligreses.While the uninitiated might be tempted to translate this as “Saying goodbye to the purple month with the nougat of the parishioners,” during my presentation, we were able to infuse authenticity into our translation, and came up with “Month-long religious festival concludes as the faithful flock to buy traditional dessert.” I thought “flock” added a nice spiritual touch!

Los conos

Next we turned to the terminology of urban planning in greater Lima, the sprawling metropolis that more than a third of Peru calls home. There, the term “los conos” (the cones) refers to the newly developing triangle-shaped areas (or “Lima emergente”) to the north, south, and east, as contrasted to “Lima tradicional,” which includes the city center (aka Cercado de Lima—because there was a wall around it once) and its outlying districts. Somewhere in the middle is the old port city of Callao.


Most demonyms (gentilicios) in Peru fit predictable patterns. Hence those from Arequipa are arequipeños, and those from Chachapoyas are chachapoyanos. But the proud people of Callao are chalacos, and they consider themselves a breed apart from their neighbors, los limeños. The good-hearted sparring between chalacos and limeños is not unlike the exchanges I have overheard between the denizens of the various boroughs of New York City. One piece of advice learned the hard way: when you land at LIM (Jorge Chávez International Airport), never tell a chalaco cab driver you are glad to be in Lima. You are likely to hear “You mean you are glad to be in Callao—you’ll be in Lima in a few minutes!”


Suyo” is a Quechua word meaning “quarter,” and it is often mistaken for the Castilian possessive pronoun el suyo (which maddeningly translates to his, hers, its, theirs, or yours). This double entendre is rich fodder for clever journalists. The Quechua suyo comes from the four quarters into which the Inca Empire, or Tahuantinsuyo (Land of the Four Quarters), was divided.

The boundaries of the quarters radiated from the capital at Cuzco, the “navel of the world” (qosco in Quechua). One needs this deep history to understand the term’s modern usage. For the contemporary Peruvian, “los cuatro suyos,” means “from all corners of the country.”

The famous “Marcha de los Cuatro Suyos” (March of the Four Quarters) in July 2000 was a nationwide protest march converging on Lima. The Peruvian diaspora in the United States is sometimes referred to as “el quinto suyo,” (the fifth quarter), which should be an oxymoron.

La U/Alianza

As a nod to the soccer fans in my audience, I included the Janus-faced pair La U/Alianza—two rival crosstown soccer teams in Lima. Loyalty to one team or the other is a point of honor among many Peruvians, and the outsider must tread with a good set of chimpunes (cleats) on this dangerous playing field!

The Club Alianza Lima, aka los aliancistas, los blanquiazules, or los íntimos, was established in 1901, and plays in a neighborhood known as Matute, which also serves as a byname for the team in sports commentary. Their archrivals are the Club Universitaria de Deportes, aka los cremas, los merengues, or la U, established in 1924, and playing at a stadium in the Ate neighborhood.

Each year, the teams face off at a grudge match called the “superclásico,” and the country goes wild.

Incidentally, despite their rivalry, the two teams have been known to help one another in times of trouble, and this show of unity is commemorated in the popular dessert known as the combinación clásica, a dollop of rice pudding (for La U—perhaps emphasizing the Castilian), next to a dollop of purple corn pudding (for La Alianza—perhaps emphasizing the African and the indigenous). Five millennia of cultural movement and a century of athletic brinksmanship, served in a glass dish!


We ran out of time before getting to the last word—las yungas. This is another Quechua loanword, and often refers to the warm valleys high up in the Andes.

When we study Spanish in the US, we learn that several Andean countries have three regions—coast, mountains, and rain forest (costa/sierra/selva). And many of our fellow students in these very countries learn the same three subdivisions.

But a noted Peruvian geographer named Javier Pulgar Vidal (1911–2003) delivered a paper in 1940 called Las ocho regiones naturales del Perú, in which he posited that there were not three, but eight natural regions to his country, to which he attached indigenous names. One of these was la yunga, in the singular.

Such words inspire us to reclassify our world, to question convention, to reach back into the past, and to mine it for the future. Which is, in essence, our overall mission as language learners, as we stumble on the vocabulary of national life . . . in all its glorious varieties.

Image source: Pixabay

Stumbling on the Vocabulary of National Life (Part One)

by Joseph P. Mazza

I envy those who take up foreign languages spoken in a single country. Sure, there may be regional varieties within that country and émigré communities too. Yet these happy colleagues have the institutions and lifeways of only one country to tackle. Japanese linguists will be the first to dispute how easy this really is!

Having been a Romance/English translator for years, I find the sheer number of national variants of Spanish, French, and Portuguese both invigorating and overwhelming. Even with Italian, one has to stay on top of Italy, Switzerland, and Vatican City, not to mention San Marino, with its co-heads of state called “Captains Regent” (gli Eccellentissimi Capitani Reggenti); its 8 subdivisions called “Castles” (Castelli); and its dates cross-reckoned “from the foundation of the Republic” (dalla Fondazione della Repubblica, or d.F.R.), which, by tradition, occurred in 301 AD. If you have ever dealt with a document from that Most Serene Republic, you know what I mean.

Let’s face it, why else did we venture down this career path, if not to visit with the people, see the sights, hear the music, and learn the history that come as part of the package? To me, mastery of what I call “the vocabulary of national life,” that is, the words used by a community of language speakers within a country to describe the unique features of their national existence, is the most fascinating part of language learning.

Yet in our zeal to conquer the legal, technical, and other terminology that peppers our source texts, we translators sometimes neglect this vocabulary of national life—some of which defies translation, to the eternal frustration of term base builders. The systematic study and charting of this ever-changing vocabulary should indeed be part of our continuing education. To bring structure to what is often a random learning process, I have set down ten categories, in no particular order:

·         Geography ·         History
·         People and society ·         Business
·         Government ·         Cultural life (including sports!)
·         Infrastructure and resources ·         Spiritual life
·         Education ·         Food and drink

Although born of reflection, the list is my own invention, and the categories are flexible. If you are a soccer fan, you can merge two categories, and use the spare for that much-loved sport, in which case you could relabel “culture” as “all culture outside of soccer.”

The point is to stay well rounded, and to make sure that some categories are outside your comfort zone. Then go to it. Find out what sports teams are tops in Tegucigalpa; what dance tunes are pulsating in Punta del Este; what folks eat for Sunday breakfast in Badajoz; and who is the patron saint of Cochabamba. Do this systematically, and your Spanish will be all the richer for it. So will your translations.

If you are a multi-Romance linguist, repeat the process for French, Portuguese, and Italian. Ten categories, several hundred terms for each, multiplied by 60 or 70 countries . . . you had best start young!

When I married a Peruvian nearly two decades ago, I acquired a ringside seat beside one of the two dozen national cultures played out in Spanish. I vowed to stop at nothing to explore every lexical byway of the Peruvian experience in Spanish, leaving Quechua and Aymara for another lifetime. My glossary entries numbered in the hundreds. Some Peruvians looked at me with admiration. Others thought I was a spy.

Sometimes, the quest has had unintended consequences. One summer day, my wife and I ventured into a Latin American grocery store in the DC suburbs. I quickly became distracted by a rack of herbs in plastic packets, each with its name in what seemed to be authoritative Spanish and English. So taken was I by this lexical herbiary that I whipped out a notepad and started jotting down words. The store owner/bouncer lumbered over and said “Buddy, you gotta leave . . . I don’t need anyone here writing down my prices. I know the competition sent you!” I sensed he had little appreciation for the vocabulary of national life, so we turned tail and left. My wife was not pleased—“They had the best tamales in DC, and now we can never go back.” To me, this was acceptable collateral damage in the translator’s eternal quest for truth.

Tune in for part two of this article, in which Joe Mazza will delve into the vocabulary of national life in Peru. [You can now read part two here.]

Image source: Pixabay

Are you who you say you are? Being honest about your credentials and skills

You turn on your computer, take a sip of coffee and see a potential project come in. What are the chances, knowing nothing about the project, that you will accept it? If your answer is close to 100%, it might be time to re-think your strategy. You may be providing subpar service to your clients and hurting your potential future in the translation and interpreting (T&I) industry.

Is this assignment a good fit for you?

I regularly turn down work when I don’t have the expertise for it, don’t have the exact qualifications they are needing, or don’t have the time to give the client the quality I expect of myself. Is it that my business is already so solid I can’t take on any more work? Absolutely not. Don’t I have bills to pay? Of course I do! The thing is, I care about what I do and I insist on providing excellent service to my clients. As a result, when I know, for one reason or another, that I can’t do that, I believe the best thing for my long-term business and my clients is to turn down the assignment, even when it hurts. I also take the ATA & NAJIT Codes of Ethics seriously and both require that translators and interpreters accurately represent their credentials.

Some assignments are easy for me to turn down: You need a Spanish into French translator? I translate Spanish and French into English. You need a French court interpreter? I am a Spanish court interpreter, but don’t interpret in French. Some jobs are harder to turn down, though. Take, for example, a French transcription that I received from a favorite client of mine, a few days after doing a similar French transcription for them. I always try to prioritize this client’s assignments; I hate saying no to them and luckily almost never have to. I listened to the file and just wasn’t confident, so I had to turn it down. I felt like I let them down and I hated that feeling. However, they were able to find someone else who was able to provide a better service, and my time was freed up for another assignment that came in just after that.

Misrepresenting your qualifications to get more work

Just don’t do it! Saying you’re a Certified Translator when you’re not puts you at risk of being called out publicly for an ethics violation and causes people to question those who do have that credential. If you’re serious about the T&I industry, you’re hurting your future self because people may not trust your credentials when you do attain them.

When helping others can hurt you

In Texas, in order to interpret at depositions, county courthouses, and in any court of record, the law states you must be a Master Licensed Court Interpreter (with a few exceptions that are beyond the scope of this article). I have a great relationship with a colleague who does not have this qualification. He recently got a call from a lawyer asking him to interpret at court. My colleague explained that he was not a Master Licensed Court Interpreter and the attorney told him he didn’t care. He told him it was an easy case and it was hard to find people with the right qualifications available for hearings. This colleague is the kind of guy you can count on⁠—he really wants to help people. He hates disappointing clients and he felt like this attorney needed him, so he was contemplating helping him. I pushed back and explained that this was his decision, not the attorney’s, and that he was better positioned to know the risks and consequences. I emphasized that he could get into trouble for taking on this assignment. I was shocked to be having that conversation with this person, whose ethics I normally admire. This just goes to show how “being helpful” can make us lose sight of real issues.

How to turn down work in a way that gets more work later

Remember that transcription assignment I mentioned earlier? Two weeks later, the client offered me the best assignment they’ve ever offered me, and I was ecstatic to take it on. They know that when I say I can do something I can do it!

Half the battle is getting a client to find you and reach out to you. Once you’ve won this part of the battle, use the opportunity to talk about what you can do for them. Rather than ignoring the email, respond back and let them know that while you don’t have the expertise or qualifications needed for this assignment, you can do XYZ.

It’s also a good idea to network with other colleagues in your language pair, and in the opposite language pair, so that you don’t have to leave clients out in the cold. A few weeks ago, I was asked to do 30 pages of handwritten medical reports by a client from whom I was really hoping to get some repeat business. I like electronic medical reports, but I just could not decipher these handwritten ones. I did a search in the ATA directory and found two people I thought were qualified. I took the risk and told a client with whom I really wanted to build a better relationship that I couldn’t decipher the handwritten medical reports and gave them the names of people who I thought could. I wanted them to get the best translation they could get, and I highlighted what I can do for them in the future, as well as my desire to continue working with them. Fingers crossed—hopefully they learned they can trust me.


It’s important to grow your business in ways that bring back more business. That means only advertising on your business card, website, LinkedIn profile, CV, etc. qualifications and certifications you actually have. Take a good look at assignments before accepting them and don’t take jobs you know you aren’t qualified for, hoping you’ll just figure it out, or think that the client won’t know the difference. Remember, if this is the career of your dreams and it gives you the lifestyle and intellectual challenges you want, focus on the long-term: creating a reputation for excellent work and helpful customer service.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bio

Jessica Hartstein is an ATA-Certified Translator (Spanish>English, French>English) and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter (Spanish-English). She holds an MA in Conference Interpreting and Translation Studies from the University of Leeds and graduated Cum Laude with a BA from Rice University.

Prior to working freelance, she held full-time, in-house translation positions at a marketing firm in Luxembourg and an oil and gas engineering company in Houston. Jessica specializes in legal, medical, asylum, and oil and gas translation and interpreting projects. She has been fortunate to have lived abroad in Spain, China, Japan, England, and Luxembourg.

Email:, Website:

Translators vs. Translation Agencies: How Falling Rates Have Turned Once-Allies into Enemies (and What We Can Do to Fix it)

We’ve noticed something strange: though demand has risen for language services, it would appear that prices are falling. Whether due to advances in technology, economic issues, global supply, or simply more aggressive buyers, we find ourselves in an industry that’s never been more in demand and yet has never been more precarious. This understandably leaves many of us overworked, underpaid, and seriously stressed out.

So why aren’t translators and translation agencies banding together to form a united front against this downward race to the bottom? Instead of saying no to unreasonable demands or rates and seeking better clients, many of us have turned our antagonism inward and, unfortunately, at each other. How is it that translator and agency—once sworn allies—are now seemingly always butting heads?

Constant downward pressure has caused a serious rift between translators and translation agencies that did not always exist. Agencies, translators say, bring little to the table and do nothing more than take a cut of an already smaller pie. Translators, agencies assert, don’t fully understand the value in having a company bring them work, advocate for them, and pay them even if the client defaults.

However, speaking as both experienced freelance translator and now proud translation agency owner, I can say it’s not too late. Both agency and translator can work together to separate the wheat from the chaff by finding serious clients.

Growing at a compounded average growth rate of 7.76% every year, the translation industry is expected to be worth approximately US$68 billion by 2020. What’s more, due to the ever-increasing trend toward globalization, translation is often considered recession-proof. The businesses of translation, software localization, and interpreting generate revenues of US$37 billion a year—and that’s for the software-assisted segment of the market alone.

By anyone’s metrics, that’s more than enough money to go around. So how do we repair this rift and start working together again? Below, I will introduce some helpful ways both translators and agencies can remember to work together.

Translation agencies are not the enemy—translators just have to know who to choose

One step toward cooperation is realizing that translation agencies on the whole are not the enemy. For every agency employing fly-by-night tactics and offering a pittance, there is another that could serve as a worthwhile source of income.

As a translator, think of every agency you work with. Are they a serious outfit? Do they pay on time? Do they take the time to match a translation with the best translator for the job? Have any colleagues worked with them, and if so, what did those colleagues say? There are vast resources online for translators to perform due diligence before accepting work.

The main idea here is to stop accepting work from any old agency. One way to achieve that is by carrying out due diligence on every translation agency you come across. Read their website carefully; see if their copy focuses on quality over quantity. And, pro tip? If the agency doesn’t list their rates on their website, it’s probably a good sign. Excellent translation agencies know that a one-size-fits-all approach to translation is not the way to go.

It’s okay to be picky about who you work with and who you work for. At the end of the day, you bring immense value to the table, so doing what you can to protect it is just plain smart. Now you might be asking yourself what can agencies do to make translators want to work with them?

How agencies can attract excellent translators

First things first, as an agency, your job is to serve your clients’ needs. But that doesn’t mean you have to bargain hard with your language service providers, shortchange them, or overwork them.

A reputable agency should be able to strike a happy medium between happy clients and happy freelancers. It’s okay to be competitive on price, but it’s not okay to expect that your translators will work for peanuts. Setting your rates at or above the industry average is a good place to start. The better your rates, the better the translators you can work with. And for clients seeking quality, this is a winning combination.

Oh, and those translators who work for you? If you want to be a translation agency worth its salt, make sure that you take the time to call them by name in emails. If you don’t value the people doing the translations, why would they want to work with you again? And never, ever, ever mass-mail a job to every translator on your roster. Not only would your client hate this, your translators will as well.

Beyond the above, translation agencies would do well to pay on time, every time. When a client (hopefully never) defaults on payment, this is not an excuse to stiff a translator who has already handed in work.

Finally, translation agencies must take care to recognize that not every translator is suited for every job. It takes a professional translation agency to match a job with the right translator—you should never hand a finance job to a generalist or a medical job to a bilingual attorney, for example.

Putting it all together—and working together in 2019 and beyond

As translators and translation agencies, we are all part of an industry that our agency has noticed is both growing and facing downward pressure like never before. However, this does not mean that the proverbial pie is getting smaller for all of us. Instead, the best pies are now bought at the specialty shops and the artisanal bakeries. In other words, the best agencies are now concentrating on finding clients who appreciate good, quality work. They’re not interested in packaging up a million pies for wholesale distributors.

The best pies are now bought at the specialty shops and the artisanal bakeries.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think the best translations are born of organic relationships between translator and agency that are based on mutual respect and cultivated over time. Getting to know each other goes a long way—and is certainly better than a mass-mail call for the lowest rate.

So, to that end: reach out to the person behind the screen. On the one hand, translators should get to know who’s behind the agencies they work with. Conversely, agencies should make a concerted effort to know their translators: their strengths, their weaknesses, and the catalogue of services they offer. Only by communicating clearly and effectively with each other can we continue to prosper and attract better clients for all.

Image credit: Pixabay

Author bio

Prior to founding Metropolitan Translations, Audra de Falco was a freelance legal translator and interpreter for 15 years and holds a BA in Jurisprudence and an MSc in Law and Public Policy. She knows the translation industry intimately as both freelancer and translation agency representative, and believes we can all land excellent, well-paying clients.

When she’s not helping clients get the incisive (and accurate) translations they deserve, she’s working her way through the family cookbook and walking her brother’s dog (he’s the best boy!).

You can visit Metropolitan Translations at or on Twitter at @translatenyc.


ATA59: Making the Most of my First Conference

I finally found the perfect opportunity to attend the ATA’s flagship event, the ATA Annual Conference: ATA59 in New Orleans. It was everything I had hoped it would be and more!

As you think ahead to attending your first conference, I thought it might help to learn a bit about how I prepared for, attended, and followed-up on my first ATA Conference. I’m sharing some of what I did to ensure it was a wise professional investment and not just fun.

Conference Preparation

Understanding What to Expect

I wrote to or spoke with at least a half-dozen colleagues to ask them about their experiences and to ask if they had any advice for me. A few tips I got a lot: 1) plan your conference ahead of time, 2) don’t try to do everything, and 3) stay away from enormous events. I followed tips 1 and 2 but chose to attend the massive Spanish Language Division Dinner with 200 other people, and it was great. Already, on the walk over, I bumped into two Texas interpreters I had been meaning to connect with but didn’t know would be at ATA59.

I also listened to a few podcasts about the event. One was the official ATA Podcast, hosted by Matt Baird. He conducted several interviews with candidates running for the board and led an informative episode with ATA President-elect Ted Wozniak about anything and everything to do with the conference. The Speaking of Translation Podcast, hosted by Corinne Mackay and Eve Bodeux, also has episodes dedicated to the topic of ATA conferences. They discussed making firm plans with anyone you want to meet well in advance, mentioned that the CAT tool companies offer their best discounts at the conference, and recommended choosing your shoes very wisely.


My ATA Mentor (you can read about my ATA mentoring experience here), former ATA President Dorothee Racette, CT, suggested I think long and hard about what my main goal for the conference was and to plan my conference experience accordingly. She suggested reading about sessions and events with my goal in mind, but also encouraged me to allow enough flexibility to miss a session or two in order to spend time in the Exhibit Hall or to continue a great conversation with someone.


Two of the best connections I made while at the conference came from reaching out to people I knew beforehand who connected me to others they knew. These two new connections were a wonderful and professional agency owner, as well as a veteran conference attendee who became my unofficial conference mentor, inviting me to join his group for a few meals, and introducing me to a number of his colleagues. Both of these connections made a huge impact on my experience; I treasure the wonderful insights they shared about their working life and was pleasantly surprised that these interesting conversations even led to some work offers after the conference.

Translators and interpreters are a nice bunch, so if there is someone you have noticed on ATA forums, or whose writing has caught your eye in the Chronicle or on the Savvy Newcomer blog, or that you’ve heard about somewhere else, reach out and start a conversation before the conference.

At the Conference

Events Attended

I thought it might be helpful to see how much you really can pack into a few days, so here’s a bit of what I did while at ATA59.

In addition to thought-provoking educational sessions (there were 180 to choose from during 12 slots), I also attended the Buddies Welcome Newbies events held on the first and last days, the Welcome Reception, the Exhibit Hall, the Mentor-Mentee meet-up, the Annual Meeting of All Members, the Law Division lunch, the Spanish Language Division dinner, the Career Fair, and I even was able to enjoy the “Breakfast with Board Members” by sitting at a table with a number of board members.

Meeting people at these events was not only fun, but talking shop face-to-face in informal settings gave me great knowledge of what others in my field are doing. It also led to fantastic conversations with Savvy Newcomer leaders Jamie Hartz and David Friedman, which ultimately resulted in me writing this article. You just never know what might happen!


The Buddies Welcome Newbies event offered on the last day of the conference had a lot of great tips about following up. Helen Eby, one of the Buddies Welcome Newbies leaders, tallied up the cost of attending the conference, both in terms of actual travel and conference costs and the opportunity cost of not working on those days. Helen asked what we would spend that kind of money on and then just throw away, never to think about again! This obviously highlighted the importance of post-conference follow-up.

I did personally follow-up with a number of people I met, and that has led to many interesting conversations. That being said, have I made the most of the momentum I felt after I returned from New Orleans? I have not thrown away the experience by any means, but I will admit that I have not done as much as I could to incorporate new business skills I learned, for example. I also recognize that I could do more to strengthen connections made.

Next time, I will probably pre-write a to-do list of what to do after I return and pre-schedule those tasks into my calendar before I leave for the conference, so that when I return, I can head to my office and let my calendar remind me to do everything I know I need to do.


My best advice is to recognize that your conference fate is really in your hands, and it is up to you to figure out exactly what you want out of it and to make a plan for how to achieve that. I hope my experience can give you food for thought about how you can make that happen for you. Attending the ATA Annual Conference was a wonderful investment in my career and business, and I am ecstatic when I think about all the conferences in my future. I hope to see you there!

Author bio

Jessica Hartstein is an ATA-Certified Translator (Spanish>English, French>English) and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter (Spanish-English). She holds a MA in Conference Interpreting and Translation Studies from the University of Leeds and graduated Cum Laude with a BA from Rice University. Prior to working freelance, she held full-time, in-house translation positions at a marketing firm in Luxembourg and an oil and gas engineering company in Houston. Jessica specializes in legal, medical, asylum, and oil and gas translation and interpreting projects. She has been fortunate to have lived abroad in Spain, China, Japan, England, and Luxembourg. E-mail:, Website: