Ergonomics for ATA’s Certification Exam: Unspoken Advice with Untold Benefits

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

Shortly after I took the computerized version of ATA’s certification exam in 2017, I received an e-mail from one of the proctors—whom I had thanked for stepping up to proctor at the last minute—in which she commented on the contrast between my “ergonomic” setup and the hunched posture of my fellow test takers. It would make for a great ad, she mused.

I had to laugh. I didn’t go into the exam with ergonomics in mind, but having seen the difference a few ergonomic upgrades to my home office earlier that year had made in my focus and overall well-being, it seemed like a no-brainer to apply the same principles to ensure my comfort and efficiency during the exam.

It may have seemed silly to focus on the details of a workstation I would only use for three hours, but the proctor was right: it ended up making all the difference, not only in terms of comfort, but more importantly, in terms of efficiency and state of mind. If you’re anything like me, sitting up straight and looking directly ahead fosters greater confidence and alertness than does being stooped over a mess of pages and books. Perhaps there’s something to be said after all for social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s widely discussed research on the impact of body position on our confidence and, in turn, our chances of success.1

While ergonomics wasn’t at the forefront of my mind going into the exam, it’s now the first thing I mention when colleagues ask for advice on how to prepare. There’s plenty of guidance out there on the theoretical side of the assessment, but how often do we hear about the importance of a comfortable and efficient workspace?

By sharing some of what worked for me on exam day, I hope to encourage others to discover the difference that straightening up and finding comfort and confidence can make, both during the exam and in our everyday work.

Use a stand to keep your computer screen at eye level and a page holder to prop up the text.

Ergonomics: It’s About More than Comfort

Before we get into the details, let’s consider why ergonomics matters. In short, it goes well beyond physical comfort.

First, what is ergonomics? The authors of an article in the January/February 2017 issue of The ATA Chronicle point out that the concept encompasses more than “office chairs, keyboards, and computer mice.”2 As cited in that article, the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) defines ergonomics as being concerned with the optimization of “human well-being and overall system performance”3—that is, it’s about a lot more than a comfortable office chair.

In fact, one of the three branches defined by IEA is “cognitive ergonomics,” which is concerned with mental workload, human reliability, and the interaction between humans and computers. We’ll come back to this later.

For now, let’s look at recommendations for improving efficiency and performance through one of the more obvious branches: physical ergonomics.

Laptop Height: My number one recommendation is to ensure that your computer screen is at eye level. Most of us set our laptops directly on the desk in front of us, forcing us to angle our necks downward to see the screen—a posture that has been shown to exert a detrimental amount of strain on the neck over time.4

If you work with a laptop on a regular basis, you might consider investing in a laptop stand, which will serve you well not only on exam day, but also in your everyday work. There are many to choose from, but it’s worth procuring one that you can easily carry with you to the exam or when working away from home. I use the Roost Stand,5 a favorite among digital nomads for its transportability: it collapses into a baton that’s just over a foot long and it weighs a feathery 5.5 ounces. It’s also height adjustable. (See photo at left.)

If you’re in a pinch on exam day or you aren’t sold on investing in a new gadget, you could just as well set your laptop on a large book or two—dictionaries work wonderfully.

Do keep in mind that you’ll need an external keyboard and mouse for either of these setups. There are affordable options out there, and I consider it a worthwhile investment, price notwithstanding.

Page Holder: Unlike the source texts in a translator’s daily work, which are almost invariably in digital format, exam passages are on paper and cannot be typed into the computer.

So what to do? Ideally, for the same reasons discussed above, the source text should be positioned at eye level. For this purpose, I used a small, dome-shaped page holder during the exam to prop up the source texts. (See photo above.) I purchased mine on www.etsy.com, but you can find one at just about any major office-supply retailer by searching for a “page-up holder.” Most are priced at under $10. You may need to set the holder on top of a dictionary to match your screen height.

Not only will this relieve neck pressure, it’ll save you time and trouble when glancing from sheet to screen.

Earplugs: Consider bringing earplugs to the exam to block out noise. Chances are you’ll be absorbed in your work, but you never know when the clickety-clack of a keyboard or the hum of a fluorescent light will distract you. Here’s where cognitive ergonomics come in: decreasing distraction lightens cognitive load, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.

Review Techniques: Speaking of cognitive ergonomics, the exam involves the demanding cognitive task of not only translating, but also reviewing, two dense texts in the span of three short hours. This means no opportunity to review with fresh eyes, which is a crucial step in actual practice. And without a computer-assisted translation tool or other application to help break the text into segments, the task becomes even more prone to errors. The accidental omission of a word or an entire line of text can be hugely detrimental. The good news is that these errors can be avoided by employing some simple review techniques.

One of these is to enlarge your font size: try increasing it 300% by using the zoom feature on your word processor (i.e., WordPad or TextEdit, the two applications permitted for use on the exam), or by increasing the font size to 72 points. This will help you catch errors you may otherwise overlook after staring at your translation for so long.

Another tip for getting a fresh perspective: change the typeface itself.

Finally, try reading the completed text “aloud” in your head, or reading it backwards—two old copy-editor’s tricks.

Miscellaneous: With the big ones out of the way, here are a few final pieces of advice to optimize ergonomics during the exam and help you focus on your work:

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor, if possible. You may be able to choose from different chairs the day of the exam, but don’t count on it.
  • Make sure your elbows are at a right angle when typing. Consider bringing a pillow to sit on for this purpose.
  • Have water on hand (drink it).
  • Take at least one stretch break. Do a forward bend and gently stretch your arms, legs, and neck to get your blood flowing before returning to the task with fresh eyes.

Final Word

As the authors of the aforementioned article in The ATA Chronicle propose, taking ergonomics into account “will allow translators to do what they do best instead of wasting time and energy dealing with non-ergonomic conditions, interfaces, and tools.” What better opportunity to conserve time and energy than during the rigorous three-hour ATA certification exam?

I may have been amused by the proctor’s comment about my setup, but it cost me nothing to implement these simple principles, and the benefits of certification are already evident just one year later.

Notes
  1. Cuddy, Amy. “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.” TEDGlobal Video (June 2012), http://bit.ly/Cuddy-body-language.
  2. O’Brien, Sharon, and Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow. “Why Ergonomics Matters to Professional Translators.” The ATA Chronicle (January/February 2017), 12, http://bit.ly/Chronicle-ergonomics.
  3. “Definition and Domains of Ergonomics” (International Ergonomics Association), www.iea.cc/whats.
  4. Bever, Lindsey. “‘Text Neck’ Is Becoming An ‘Epidemic’ and Could Wreck Your Spine,” The Washington Post (November 20, 2014), http://bit.ly/Bever-text-neck.
  5. Roost, www.therooststand.com.

Header image source: Pixabay

Escaping lockdown

Reblogged from SJB Translations’ blog, with permission (incl. the image)

How (and how not) to cope with big projects

A couple of weeks ago I won my freedom, or at least that’s what it felt like. I finally completed a series of big translation and revision projects that had kept me in what amounted to professional lockdown for more that two months. I’m now once again able to take on the projects I want without worrying about where I’m going to find the time to do them. I don’t have the pressure of knowing I still have thousands and thousands of words to translate and revise by a week on Thursday. And it feels great.

It was certainly a very unusual way to start the year. I’m used to January being a bit of a struggle, with things gradually picking up into February and March. 2018, though, has been different. It actually started last November with a phone call. Was I interested in translating a book? Well, as it turned out to be a historical study right up my street, of course I was. So I found myself one morning in Barcelona’s atmospheric Ateneu meeting the author and the publisher of the book.

“This has always been a place for conspiracies,” said the publisher, looking round the lounge where we sat with our coffees. “They still go on in here even today.” My eyes followed his gaze around the leather armchairs and into the dark corners of the room. I could well believe it, especially in the feverish political context of last autumn in Catalonia. But the only conspiracy we were hatching was for me to translate the best part of 100,000 words, one of the biggest jobs I’ve ever tackled. I had plenty of time to do it, and the deadline wasn’t rigid, but it triggered a series of events that led to my becoming “trapped”.

My big mistake was to fill up all the “gap days” I’d negotiated when agreeing the deadline for the history book so that I’d also be able to take on a little other work every week. The problem was that almost immediately along came a client demanding to pay in advance for a job that would fill more or less all this time I’d set aside. I felt I couldn’t say no, and the lockdown began so I was more or less forced to turn everything else away for two months.

Then another client popped up to remind me that I’d promised to revise his book, which was almost as long as the one I was translating. This wasn’t so much a last straw to break the translator’s back as an enormous tree trunk. I resisted. I even went as far as to sound out some colleagues about the possibility of them doing the job for my client and I told him it would be out of the question for me to do the job by the deadline he had given me but that I could arrange for an alternative. But it was no good, he wouldn’t budge: it had to be me. At this point I discovered that his deadline was more flexible than I had thought, so I gave him the earliest possible date I could, more than a month later than the one he had initially told me, and astonishingly he accepted. Now I was saved, but the lockdown had been extended by almost two weeks. It was going to be a long winter, especially as I was rapidly developing symptoms of the flu and somewhere into all this I had to fit in a trip to England to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday.

But I set to work, and really I can’t complain about the progress of the various projects. The work was interesting, I managed to keep my discipline and do it by more or less when I said I would, and the clients behaved exquisitely and paid their invoices almost immediately. There was simply no way I could have turned them down. But I also feel I didn’t always deal with the big projects especially well. So for anyone who is suddenly faced with a 100,000-word project here are some tips I learned, or was forcefully reminded of:

  1. Negotiate a generous deadline. Here, I was fortunate that my clients were willing to be flexible, but perhaps I could have pushed things even further and eased my situation by asking for another couple of weeks.
  2. Negotiate a good rate and never give discounts just because a project is big. I was happy with what I was earning from both these jobs and neither author asked for a reduction, but it is very important not to give one. Big projects bring their own particular problems, particularly concerning our ability to maintain consistency in all areas of the translation. That means anyone agreeing to work cheaply on a big project is highly likely to end up producing shoddy work and also liable to lose money on the project, compared with what they might have made on smaller pieces of work.
  3. Negotiate payment in installments. If you’re working on the same job for a period of several weeks or months you won’t want to wait until the end to be paid. In this case, I asked for three equal payments, one in advance (because it was a big job and I’d never worked for the client before), one in the middle of the work and one at the end. This worked well and the client turned out to be one of the prompted payers I’ve ever come across.
  4. Don’t panic. Seeing you’ve got 100,000 words to translate is daunting, no matter what the deadline. It’s easy to panic, but it’s something you need to avoid. Divide it by the number of working days or weeks you have available to do it and it suddenly seems much more manageable. Then all you you need to do is work in the same way as you always do and it WILL get done.
  5. Be disciplined. One of the big dangers on a large project is getting behind. Somehow, because the work is set out in front of you day after day, there’s a tendency to let things slip. If that happens, you not only end up missing the deadline, you lose money, because you probably wouldn’t have let things slide with short jobs and tighter deadlines.
  6. Learn to say no. I definitely should have done more of this. With hindsight, filling the “gap days” I’d managed to negotiated with another big job was a bad mistake, however enticing it might have seemed. Some work also came in that I couldn’t say no to, from regular direct clients and I had to make time to do this too, which meant working some weekends. For me, this is one of the most stressful aspects of being in the lockdown situation. It got to the stage where I hated looking in my inbox for fear of finding a mail from someone asking me to do another job. Not feeling like that any more is a huge relief.
  7. Refer work to colleagues. Some would say outsource, but I don’t like doing that because in those circumstances I would feel responsible for the work delivered. The last thing I need when I’m busy is the stress of having to project manage and revise other people’s work, even if I know them well. On the other hand, referring clients to colleagues who perhaps need the work and allowing them to deal directly with the client is an absolute pleasure and sometimes a necessity.
  8. Put off the unnecessary. While I had these big projects I’m afraid all non-essential e-mails went unanswered and all requests for forms to be filled in were unheeded. I also cancelled all marketing, not so much for reasons as time, as for fear that it might succeed. Despite the fact that one of the principles of marketing is that it should be consistent, even when you’re busy, in this case the last thing I wanted was for a new customer to suddenly appear.
  9. Don’t neglect your health or family. Despite the fact I had all that work to do, I did manage to continue my regular visits to the swimming pool and spend time with my wife and son. When I’d done my quota of work for the day, I forced myself to stop thinking of everything still to be done on the project. I tried to get ahead if possible without working unreasonable hours, but nightshifts weren’t going to solve anything on a project of that size.
  10. Remember there’s life and work after the big project. There comes a point, with a week or so to go, where it becomes possible to start saying “yes” to offers of work again, but sometimes the word “no” becomes so ingrained that you continue to turn projects down when it’s not really necessary. That’s a mistake, because you don’t want to suddenly go from frantically busy to having nothing to do.

Following this advice will help avoid the worst of the stress inevitably associated of accepting a large project. However, it probably won’t prevent the huge sigh of relief when it’s all over.

The Mentor’s Bounty: How Mentoring Enriches both Mentor and Mentee

During the 59th ATA Conference in New Orleans, a colleague asked me, “What was the motivation that drove a group of translators to create an audiovisual division in the ATA?” I sat for a minute, pondering. “Many different factors motivated each of us,” I said. He then asked, “Well, what do you think was the single most important thing?”

I replied without hesitation, “We want to help the next generation of audiovisual translators succeed.” And I think the most effective tool to achieve this goal is through mentoring. In this maiden edition of our newsletter, I wanted to briefly explore the meaning of the term “mentor,” as well as the benefits and responsibilities of being one.

Meaning

In the epic poem The Odyssey, by Homer, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who stayed in Ithaca in charge of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. Athena appears to Telemachus disguised as Mentor, and acts as his adviser. The common noun meaning “wise adviser” was first recorded in English in 1750, going back through Latin to the Greek character name¹.

Benefits

The benefits for the mentees are evident: It empowers them with essential information, feedback and support, and helps them build confidence and grow, both personally and professionally.

But are there any benefits for the mentor? Yes. There are benefits beyond “it looks really good in your résumé.” It improves your leadership and communication skills. You gain a renewed sense of pride in your profession. You get to share your experiences with a kindred spirit, somebody hungry to hear them, which is very satisfying. Most gratifying of all is to help a colleague succeed.

It will also teach you a few things. When your mentee says, “We do that differently now,” and shows you a more efficient route to doing the same task, you will be amazed. When you are explaining things to a novice, it makes you stop and take a look at how and why you do things, and helps you see everything through fresh eyes and revitalized interest. You will learn while you teach!

Responsibilities

While the mentee has responsibilities― to be open to constructive criticism, to learn and to do homework, to be willing to correct course, etc.― the mentor has greater responsibilities. Our mentee will adopt our way of doing things, both the good and the bad, so we have to be careful when we teach and never lose sight of ethics and values.

We must set a higher standard for ourselves, because we will be leading by example. We must remember our mentee looks up to us and our opinions and advice will carry a heavier weight than normal.

For me, as a mentor, the task is not to carry anyone up the mountain. It’s not even to hold their hand during the climb. For me, it’s preparing them for the climb: letting them know what kind of gear they will need, what kind of terrain lies ahead, if they will find inclement weather, what type of obstacles will be waiting for them, and teaching them how to sort them.

You can be a mentor

But who has time nowadays, with the pressures of work, family and daily life in general, you say? We all do. We all have to. In most cases, this commitment will only require a handful of hours a month from the mentor, but it will have a great impact in the mentee’s life.

All of us could spare that kind of time to give back, right? That’s why mentoring programs are so important. Nevertheless, the need for mentors is great. And the new generation needs you. Yes, you, the translator who is reading this post.

It so happens that the ATA has a mentoring program! You can look at the guidelines in the ATA website and watch the free webinar, here: https://www.atanet.org/careers/mentoring.php

References:

  1. “Etymology of ‘Mentor.’” English 591, Doctoral Colloquium, University of California, Santa Barbara. (October 8, 2004). http://oldsite.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/courses/english591/2004-2005/materials/mentor-etymology.html
  2. Hart, E. Wayne. “Seven Ways to Be an Effective Mentor.” Forbes (June 30, 2010). https://www.forbes.com/2010/06/30/mentor-coach-executivetraining-leadership-managing-ccl.html#174fa4603fd3
  3. Smith, Jacquelyn. “How to Become a Great Mentor.” Forbes (May 17, 2013). https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/05/17/how-tobecome-a-great-mentor/#7f4243694f59

Image source: Pexels

Reblogged from the ATA Audiovisual Division newsletter, 1st edition, with permission

Author bio

Deborah Wexler was born and raised in Mexico City and immigrated to the United States in 1999, where she settled in Los Angeles. She is an ATA-certified English-to-Spanish translator and editor with over 20 years of experience, specializing in audiovisual translation and Spanish orthography. She has translated over 6,000 program hours for television, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, streaming media, and the big screen. She works for a media processing company that provides translation services for Hollywood features and series, and independent and art-house films and documentaries. She is also a freelance audiovisual translator and quality control specialist. She is a frequent speaker at international conferences, and she is an educator that has mentored and trained many translators wanting to get into the subtitling field.

Why provide a forensic transcription translation?

Because of the risks involved, I recommended that instead of this we do a forensic transcription translation (FTT). As an on-site expert witness of the translation or interpreting of an audio or video product, or as an on-site simultaneous or consecutive interpreter of an audio recording or a video, I would not have the tools available for a proper analysis. Interpreting is “the process of first fully understanding, analyzing, and processing a spoken or signed message and then faithfully rendering it into another spoken or signed language. Interpreting is different from translation, which results in the creation of a written target text.”[2]

“The FTT professional must be willing to take the stand…”

According to the Oregon Judicial Department Best Practices for Working with an Interpreter[3], having an interpreter provide interpretation of a recording is not recommended for many reasons. The following is a sample of some of the reasons.

  • From an access to justice perspective, it is necessary to provide a full version that includes both the transcription and the translation to both parties, thus complying with the same rules for evidentiary written materials submitted in a non-English language.
  • The interpreter is required to be a neutral party in the proceedings, but the person providing interpretation on the recordings is an expert witness on the evidence presented. This removes the interpreter’s neutrality in the case.
  • Interpreters are required to interpret without explanation. In a transcription-translation, explanatory notes are provided.
  • The on-site interpreter is able to clear up slang/code terms by asking direct questions. When dealing with a video or sound recording, the FTT professional needs time to research the term.

Resources available

As FTT professionals, we have the following resources available, which are essential for our work:

  • Transcription software, which starts and stops the recording very accurately and allows us to loop a short section. It also allows us to adjust the speed of speech without altering the recording for better accuracy in transcription.
  • Access to a wide variety of dictionaries, including dictionaries of slang and regionalisms used in every Spanish-speaking country in the world.
  • The ability to review our product before turning it in since it will be scrutinized by others. Translation always involves the ability to review our work.

The most updated best practice is clearly explained in Fundamentals in Court Interpreting[4], quoted below.

Use a four-column format in which:

  • the first column (on the left) contains the line number;
  • the second column contains the speaker labels;
  • the third column contains the verbatim transcription of all utterances spoken in the source language as well as relevant contextual information, i.e., legend symbols; and
  • the fourth column contains the English translation.

The legend containing all symbols used in the FTT document should be conveniently available in the document to assist any client’s reading. The use of this format promotes readability and allows for efficient comparison of the discourse with other versions, should a challenge arise.

Chapter 40, section 8.2.1.c, “Using a Four-Column Format”

There is a three-column sample on page 7 of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) General Guidelines and Minimum Requirements for Transcript Translation in any Legal Setting[5], showing how to set up the columns, certify the translation, and develop a cover sheet. However, the standards have been updated since its publication and a four-column format is currently recommended.

Ideally, the same person does the transcription and the translation, and that person has interpreting and translation skills. NAJIT and other associations supported a description of transcriptionist/translator[6]. If the work of transcription and translation are separated, it is essential for the translator to have access to a digital copy of the transcription and a digital copy of the audio source to be able to incorporate metalinguistic data[7].

“…be questioned on every single utterance of the document, and attest to the accuracy of the translation in court.”

When the project is significantly large, it is often divided into sections for a team to produce the initial draft. All drafters produce full transcription-translations of their assigned sections and are under the same confidentiality and non-disclosure rules. Additionally, the team leader is responsible for performing a thorough review of the work of all drafters and is solely responsible for providing expert witness testimony in court regarding the final product.

The FTT professional must be willing to take the stand, be questioned on every single utterance of the document, and attest to the accuracy of the translation in court. FTT professionals often document their terminology research so as to be ready for these questions.

Because taking the stand involves having a very deep knowledge of the recording, translators and interpreters run a significant risk of being wrong if they evaluate a recording on the spot during a deposition or in court, instead of doing a full FTT.

According to the Oregon Courts, this would not provide proper access to justice and is not considered best practices for the use of an interpreter. See Appendix E, page 35 of Oregon Judicial Department Best Practices for Working with Interpreters[8].

[1] Salazar, Teresa C. and Segal, Gladys. 2006. Onsite Simultaneous Interpretation of a Sound File is Not Recommended. Accessed 06/23/2018. https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Onsite-Simultaneous-Interpre.pdf.

[2] ASTM International Designation F-2089-15 Standard Practice for Language Interpreting. West Conshohocken, PA.

[3] Oregon Judicial Department. 2016. Oregon Judicial Department Best Practices For Working with Interpreters. Accessed 06/23/2018. https://www.courts.oregon.gov/programs/interpreters/policies/Documents/OJD%20Best%20Practices%20for%20Working%20With%20Interpreters.pdf.

[4] Dueñas González, Roseann, Victoria F. Vásquez, and Holly Mikkelson. 2012. Fundamentals of Court Interpretation: Theory, Policy and Practice. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.

[5] National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators. 2003, revised 2009. General Guidelines and Minimum Requirements for Transcript Translation in any Legal Setting. Accessed 06 23, 2018. https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Guidelines-for-Transcript-Translation.pdf.

[6] 2015. T&I Descriptions. NAJIT. Accessed 06/23/2018. https://najit.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/TI-Descriptions.pdf.

[7] Dueñas González, Roseann, Victoria F. Vásquez, and Holly Mikkelson. 2012. Fundamentals of Court Interpretation: Theory, Policy and Practice. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.

[8] Oregon Judicial Department. 2016. Oregon Judicial Department Best Practices For Working with Interpreters. Accessed 06/23/2018. https://www.courts.oregon.gov/programs/interpreters/policies/Documents/OJD%20Best%20Practices%20for%20Working%20With%20Interpreters.pdf.


Teresa Salazar, MA, Translation and Interpretation, contributed to developing the content of this article.

[Helen Eby - 2018]Helen Eby is an ATA-certified translator (Spanish > English) and a certified DSHS Translator (English > Spanish) by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. She is also a Spanish state-certified (Oregon) court interpreter and a medical interpreter certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI), the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) and the Oregon Health Authority. She has held volunteer positions in the ATA Spanish and Interpreting Divisions and in NAJIT, and is currently on the leadership team of the ATA Savvy Newcomer.

The Certification Toolbox: Get Ready!

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

Late fall and early winter are traditionally a slow time for ATA’s Certification Program, since no exam sittings are scheduled between ATA’s Annual Conference and the beginning of the new exam year in March. Certification graders take advantage of this respite to select new exam passages, fine-tune grading standards, and tend to other housekeeping tasks.

This period is also a good opportunity for prospective certification candidates to get ready to take the exam in 2017 by exploring ATA’s toolbox of exam preparation resources. Here’s an overview.

Practice Test

It can’t be said enough: completing a practice test and studying the results is one of the best ways to prepare for the exam. ATA practice tests are retired exam passages that the candidate translates at home and returns to ATA Headquarters. Practice tests are evaluated by graders in the same way as the actual exams. However, unlike the actual exam, the candidate receives a marked copy, showing each error with a brief explanation as needed. This is a terrific way for prospective candidates to see what sort of text they could encounter, how the grading standards are applied, and what skills they might need to work on to pass the exam. Best of all, practice tests will be available online in 2017.

New Media

ATA is committed to employing new media for preparing candidates for the certification exam. The latest example is a webinar given in September by Michèle Hansen and Holly Mikkelson. If you missed it, you can purchase a recording from ATA’s website: http://www.atanet.org/webinars. Stay tuned for other new media approaches to candidate preparation!

Website

Translators interested in certification often overlook the valuable information readily available on ATA’s website. The Certification Exam Overview and the Frequently Asked Questions are a good place to start. (See links at the end of this column.) If you’re contemplating sitting for the exam, be sure to check out these essential resources.

Prep sessions

This year’s Annual Conference in San Francisco included workshops to prepare candidates for the certification exam in four languages: Spanish, French, Japanese, and Italian. These in-depth sessions, moderated by certification graders, are extremely popular and considered highly useful by prospective candidates. Watch for them at next year’s conference in Washington, DC—but also think about asking your local chapter or affiliate to schedule a session at your local or regional conference in 2017.

Into-English Grading Standards

One overlooked and important resource for candidates is the Into-English Grading Standards (IEGS). This document, downloadable from ATA’s website, sets forth standards applied by all ATA graders of foreign-into-English language pairs when assessing a variety of issues, such as proper punctuation, nonparallel constructions, and split infinitives. It’s a must for exam candidates translating into English, and is especially useful at computerized sittings, since candidates can access the searchable PDF version on their computers.

Independent Practice

If you don’t translate material on general subjects on a regular basis, and/or you have not done timed tests lately, independent practice should be part of your personal exam preparation toolbox. A simple way to hone both skills—working with expository texts and working quickly—is to search the Internet for texts that resemble the practice test in your language pair. Good sources are articles from online publications written for a general (but educated) audience. Download articles that interest you, copy them into Word files, and set aside time to practice translating parts of them into your target language. If you’re very busy (as most of us are!), just start with one paragraph at a time, minimizing your use of reference tools (print and online dictionaries). After a few practice sessions, you’ll likely see your speed and facility improve.

Translation Instructions

The final tool is not something candidates can prepare for in advance, but it’s still an important part of the exam: paying close attention to the translation instructions that accompany each passage, specifying the source of the text, the reason it is being translated, the audience addressed by the translation, and the medium in which it will appear. This opening statement, which precedes each exam text and, in fact, should be considered part of the overall passage, gives the candidate important information about how to approach the translation task, especially with regard to style and register, but even in such basic regards as terminology and usage.

So, grab your toolbox and put it to good use! 

Links to Information about the Certification Exam

ATA Webinars on Demand
“A Guide to ATA Certification”
www.atanet.org/webinars

Certification Exam Overview
www.atanet.org/certification/aboutexams_overview.php

ATA Certification Into-English Grading Standards
www.atanet.org/certification/Into_English_Grading_2013.pdf

ATA Certification Program: Frequently Asked Questions
www.atanet.org/certification/certification_FAQ.php


Image source: Pixabay

David Stephenson serves as chair of ATA’s Certification Committee. Contact: david.translator@gmail.com.