Study resources for translation certification

Study resources for translation certificationOur team leader Helen has been a busy bee compiling a list of resources to help translators interested in taking the ATA certification exam. Even if you are not seeking certification, we felt there are many useful resources here we would like to share with you—from exam guidelines & translation tips to English & Spanish language, technology and copyediting resources. Use them to hone your craft and please let us know if you found them useful.

This list was reblogged with permission from Gaucha Translations blog.

From the ATA Certification program

From the WA DSHS Certification program

ATA Computerized exam

What is translation?

Articles on how to approach translation

English resources

Bilingual references

  • Word Reference
  • Linguee
  • Word Magic
  • Google Translate and Proz are not approved resources for the ATA computerized exam. No interactive resource (where you can ask a live question on a forum) is approved. The resources listed above are OK.
  • Click here to see the official ATA guidelines for computerized exams.

Plain Language

English copy editing training

Canada copy editing (includes certification)

Medical copy editing (AMWA has a certification program)

Resources from other translation certification programs

Copy editing tools to produce clean documents

Other training on translation, technology and other

Readers, would you add anything to this list of resources? Have you used any of these resources and found them useful?

Header image credit: tookapic

What I Care About

By Helen Eby

hand-577777_1280What have I learned over the last few months?

I care about people.

María Díaz. Wow! She was one of my students in a class in Woodburn. She was a nurse in Mexico, and came to the US because her son needed medical treatment. She knew no English when she came, but she had been managing five clinics in Mexico. She went from being in charge of the medical treatment of many people to having no understanding of the world around her while her son was in and out of doctor appointments. However, she never gave up. Almost thirty years later, she showed up in my medical interpreting class. She had worked in the kitchen at a restaurant and at a paintbrush factory, had taken ESL, and was now a case manager at a clinic. Read her story here:

Emerlinda. She grew up in rural Mexico. Her parents only let her go to school up until 6th grade. She was working at a childcare center, and I was using space in the center to teach interpreters how to write better. She jumped in and joined us, despite the fact that she hadn’t written anything for a class in over 40 years. In my class, I teach people by getting them to read good literature and write paragraphs based on what they think about the readings, and then we discuss grammar topics based on what they’ve written. Before I knew it, Emerlinda was explaining to the class what her “Teacher Chola” had told her in 4th grade, and was telling one of the other students how to understand stories by Cortázar, one of the great Argentine authors. Dictionaries don’t really help us understand certain things. Emerlinda had the cultural background to understand this, which John was lacking. I would have loved to take her into a college Spanish literature class to explain this story! In a few months, she had improved her writing significantly based on what we were doing. She was telling others how important it was to read. When her husband made it difficult for her to attend our sessions, I left a suitcase full of books at the center so she could read during lunch breaks. Nothing could stop Emerlinda once she had been bitten by the reading bug!

Emily. She just got back from getting her Masters in Interpreting in Spain and she signed up for my medical interpreting class in Woodburn. By the luck of the draw, she also asked the ATA for a mentor, and they assigned her to me! Wow! She’s awesome. We are working on how to help her to launch. Just helping her connect with local people, local needs and opportunities, and having lunch for a few hours once in a while is a privilege. And it sure is weird to teach someone else a class about what I learned by experience, while she studied it in a Master’s program, and one of her professors is the author of the book I’m teaching from! Emily and I have become friends. She wrote a document based on her Master’s research for a group of members of the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI) to take to Washington DC in April (read more here).

Cynthia. She just graduated from college. She has a major in Linguistics and a minor in Spanish. She has so much to offer, and I have so much to learn from her! She’s my daughter, and I want to support her as she starts on her own path – it’s her path. She is already starting to tell me what I should be doing better… and she is right, almost all the time.

The Savvy Newcomer team. This team is amazing. I’m not going to go down the list (except for Cynthia), but each person is truly amazing and has taught me something special. Together, we work together and make great things come together for the benefit of others.

There is always something special in everyone around us. Every job we do is for someone who deserves our respect. If we do our jobs with that in mind, thinking of María and of Emerlinda, who still remembers what Teacher Chola taught her, we will do our jobs differently.

And then… I did something totally insane.

This summer, I organized a Training of Trainers for The Community® International here in Oregon. Twenty highly qualified interpreters came, fifteen of them from Oregon. After that, I walked with a lighter step. Now, if anything happens, I rest assured in the knowledge that we can work as partners and we can work together to solve problems. If a health issue comes up, one of my colleagues can teach my class. As a trainer, that is a huge relief! Knowing that others also care about training interpreters in Oregon is wonderful, too.

This training event would never have happened without support. It was, again, a team effort. Who helped out?

  • Western Oregon University. They wanted to reach out, and help ASL interpreters and spoken language interpreters to reach out to medical interpreters in Oregon together.
  • An organization that coordinates quite a few healthcare providers scattered throughout Oregon contacted me to offer support. The medical providers told us they needed us to be available to train staff and interpreters throughout Oregon, and Western Oregon University gave us a significant break in the cost of the space.

It seemed impossible. But with these partners, the impossible happened. We brought the training down to a cost that interpreters could afford, and they came to a retreat. It was awesome, and now we have a team that cares about others. We’ll see where it goes from here:

Interpreting is teamwork. Even when we interpret, we are a team with the person we interpret for. When I say, “The interpreter requests a clarification,” it means, “I need your help to get your message across clearly. You and I are on the same team.” In simultaneous interpreting, of course, we have a partner in the booth who is tremendously supportive. We also are a team with the person who helps set up the project.

Translation is teamwork. I usually send a list of queries to my client: “Where you said this, I thought you should have said this, and translated it this way for now. Is that OK, or should I change it to something else? Please let me know. And you have a typo here. Please clarify.” The clients love it. Of course, there is also the reviser – a translator who is just as qualified as I am and who can tell me, “Helen, this is a better way to say it.” Or, “Helen, your translation is too literal; I think you’ve traveling into Calque-Land here. You may want to travel back to the land of good writing.”

We don’t ever work alone. We are a team. But, back to the original issue: people matter. The people I work with and work for really matter. When I train interpreters, blog about my work, and lead The Savvy Newcomer, I keep people in mind and I do it all with their support.

MIIS: A Day in the Life

By Erin Teske

MIIS Branding Identity Change logoMy first glimpse of what it would be like to be a student at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, formerly the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), came when I received the results of my Early Diagnostic Test (EDT), which is an essential part of the application process. The Spanish program coordinator suggested that I spend a few more months improving my language skills in a Spanish-speaking country before enrolling in the program. When I told her that I was already living in Argentina, she promptly sent me a list of Spanish grammar classes offered in Buenos Aires and even put me in touch with a former MIIS professor who happened to be living around the corner from me at the time. Continue reading

Century College Translating and Interpreting Certificate/AA: A Day in the Life

By Kristen Mages

Century_college_logo_lrgIf you fall into the vast majority of the population, you may never have heard of Century College in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. I hadn’t either until I recently moved back to the Twin Cities and was looking into options for studying interpretation as a career. That’s when I stumbled upon Century College’s Translating and Interpreting (TRIN) program, which came highly recommended to me by my new boss at a large pediatric hospital in the area.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that the TRIN program at Century College has been around since the fall of 2009, when it was created to help meet the increasing demand for professionally-trained interpreters in Minnesota. As one of two such programs in MN, the Century program is unique in that it offers two tracks of study. There is a 30-credit certificate program and a 60-credit Associate in Applied Sciences Degree. All of the classes are language-neutral, meaning that any language pairs are acceptable for students, and all classes are taught in English. Language reviewers are brought in periodically each semester to give feedback to students on language specific elements of their work.

Classes are offered in a variety of formats. Some, such as Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Skills of Interpreting, are evening classes held on campus. For these, you must be either physically present at Century or at one of its partner schools, located in more remote areas of MN, where an ITV (Interactive Television) system is used. Other classes are entirely online, and yet others are a hybrid of the two formats. By offering a variety of options, Century College enables students to study in the TRIN program while holding down a day job or raising a family.

As I already have a Bachelor’s degree, I opted for the certificate program. The first step was to take the introductory courses and get to know my classmates and professors. From the onset, I knew I had made an excellent decision in choosing Century. Classes were small, ranging from 7-20 students, which allowed for us to develop close relationships witheach other. One of the best parts of the program was getting to know the other students since we all came from such different walks of life. We were pretty evenly split between students born in the United States and students born in other countries, and the languages among us included Spanish, Arabic, Hmong, Russian, and Korean. Some of us had previous university education, even master’s degrees, while others had never attended college. Some of us had chosen translation and interpretingas our first career while many others were coming back to school after working in other fields or raising a family. And finally, some of us had already been working in the field as freelancers while others had never interpreted a single encounter. Despite all of these differences, we were united in one common goal: developing ourselves professionally so as to become trained interpreters ready to take on the challenges of a rapidly evolving field.

At the end of the first semester, each student is required to take the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) in both of their working languages. We were required to score an Advanced High or Superior on both in order to continue in the program. Admittedly, we were all a little nervous about this. But in addition to working on interpreting and translation techniques in our first semester, we had also learned how to be confident in our abilities.

As students advance through the program, they are able to personalize their courses to their particular areas of interest, whether that be inthe medical field, legal field, educational arena, or all of the above. In each higher-level class, the Century College language lab is utilized, and we quickly became proficient in using both recording programs such as Audacity and Sanako. Additionally, a frequent assignment is to go out, observe and interview working interpreters in the courtroom, classroom or another setting. We would then write reflection papers on what we learned and share it with our classmates.

Toward the end of the program, students are placed in internships according to what setting they plan to work in. This is an opportunity to gain some real-world experience and of course, a great way to connect with potential employers. Another wonderful networking opportunity for students is the Student Success Day TRIN panel that takes place every semester. For this event, the TRIN program brings in a panel of speakers to answer students’ questions and share the triumphs and challenges of being an active interpreter or translator in the field. These panelists include interpreter services managers at hospitals, hiring personnel from translation agencies, freelance interpreters running their own businesses, etc. Oftentimes this panel features Century TRIN program alumni who share their firsthand experiences of transitioning from being students to full-fledged professionals.

Besides the diversity in in the classroom, another excellent part of the program is the TRIN potluck at the end of the semester. You have never seen such a spread of food as everyone proudly brings a dish that represents the culture they most identify with! Plus it’s a great opportunity for all of the different levels of students to meet up and chat in a relaxed setting.

Overall, the Century TRIN program has been exactly what I wanted! It has enabled me to take my career to the next level by equipping me with the necessary tools to do my work well and connecting me with many valuable resources in the area. I feel more than prepared to fully enter the field after I finish my last semester this fall!


About the author: Kristen Mages is a TRIN student and freelance interpreter based in St. Paul, Minnesota. She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, with a B.A. in Honors Spanish and Communications. She then went on to live and work in the Dominican Republic for two years. Upon returning to the United States, she began the TRIN certificate program at Century College. She has completed two semesters of the program and will take her final classes as well as complete her internship in the fall of 2014. When not studying, she works as a freelance interpreter in various medical and educational settings. She is a member of the Upper Midwest Interpreters and Translators Association (UMTIA) and NAJIT.

An Invitation: “A Day in the Life”

megaphone-297467_640As you may have noticed, the ATA Savvy Newcomer blog will be running a series in the coming months on the many options for education in translation and interpreting that exist in the U.S. We have had posts by NYU and Kent State students, and we are in the process of reaching out to other institutions that have certificate and/or degree programs in T&I to have their students write a “Day in the Life” post about their school. Ideally, we would like to feature traditional programs, as well as language-neutral programs and/or those focusing on languages of lesser diffusion.

Although we realize that posts of this nature may provide an advertising opportunity for each school, the primary goal of the series is to serve as an impartial source of information. We like to keep posts on The Savvy Newcomer short and sweet—as close to 900 words as possible. The article can come from one single student author or multiple authors covering different aspects of life at the school, and each contributor is asked to provide a bio of approximately 100 words.

If you are a student or a staff or faculty member at a school that has a translation and/or interpreting program, and are interested in helping to coordinate a post for your institution, please contact From there, a member of our team will connect with you to provide more information about submission specifications and deadlines. We look forward to hearing from you!

Kent State University: A Day in the Life

student-149643_640The Program

Kent State University’s Department of Department of Modern and Classical Language Studies is home to an active and vibrant translation department boasting bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD programs in translation and translation studies. Five languages are currently offered in the master’s program (French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish), and one more will be added in Fall 2014 (Arabic). The master’s program, a part of the Institute for Applied Linguistics, is a four-semester degree consisting of several core language-specific classes that target three basic domains in translation (Scientific/Technical/Medical, Legal/Commercial, and Literary/Cultural). It also includes a variety of courses that are not specific to the student’s language but which are targeted at increasing other translator competencies, including skills with CAT tools, software localization, terminology management, and project management. All master’s students are required to complete a case study (thesis) during their final semester in order to bring together the skills they have learned.

Below you will find an overview from three current Kent State MA students of some of the main aspects of study, work, and life at Kent State. Enjoy!

Teaching Assistantships
Written by: Meredith Cannella

One of the aspects that makes Kent State University particularly attractive to prospective students is that it offers applicants the opportunity to fund their graduate education through teaching assistantships. The MCLS department currently employs 28 graduate teaching assistants who provide instruction for elementary through advanced foreign language classes. Assistants are expected to dedicate 20 hours of work per week to service in their departments, and the award provides them with full tuition and fees as well as a living stipend.

Kent State graduate assistants gain valuable experience in a variety of teaching strategies and approaches. As language courses are commonly given in the target language, assistants must quickly adapt to the challenges of teaching exclusively in their respective languages of study.  Not only do assistants learn how to conduct these types of courses effectively, but they are also exposed to the educational research behind specific teaching methods. Depending on the needs of each academic department, assistants can opt to be involved with more than just traditional classroom instruction and may be responsible for conducting conversation courses, extra help or laboratory sessions, blended learning courses or even online, distance classes.

Both the university and the foreign language department offer support for graduate assistants throughout the course of the academic year. Prior to the start of classes, all assistants are required to attend workshops that deal with the challenges unique to college teaching at Graduate Student Orientation and must also complete a rigorous orientation program within their respective language departments. Both faculty and staff are used to working with graduate assistants and are sensitive to the needs of new teachers, especially those who may be teaching in the American college setting for the first time. With the help of this extended support network, assistants often report that they are able to effectively combine their teaching and graduate studies.

International Students
Written by: Laura Gasca Jiménez

One of the characteristics that makes Kent State University unique is its richly diverse student population. Kent State has more than 2,000 international students from over 100 countries around the world. The opportunities for international students at Kent State are endless. The International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) office offers many opportunities for international students to meet other international and domestic students through various programs and events, from trips to Washington D.C. and Canada, to shopping trips, to country-specific cultural events. The ISSS advisors also help with cultural adjustments and other issues that international students may face living in a new country and being exposed to a new language and culture.

In addition to the ISSS office, the MCLS department, a comprehensive foreign language department providing a wide range of programs in foreign languages, offers the ideal working and studying environment for international students, which make up 40% of the school’s translation students. The MCLS department is well known for its Master of Arts in Translation degree as well as for its PhD in Translation Studies.

The courses given in the MA and PhD programs include both domestic and international students. As an international student you find that you become the voice and representative of your culture within the department, which is treated as a treasure by your professors and peers. In addition to its cosmopolitan classes, the MCLS department offers a variety of diverse cultural events. In the 2013-2014 academic year, for instance, it hosted two film series: the French and the Spanish and Latin American film series. These two film series provided students–both international and domestic–teachers, and the broader community unique opportunities to watch and discuss foreign films rarely available in the U.S.

Written by: Christopher Merkel

It goes without saying that the graduate programs in translation and translation studies at Kent State are top notch, but another unique aspect of the Kent State experience is the MCLS graduate student organization KentLingua. I was personally attracted to Kent State because it provides unrivaled instruction in technical translation and in the application of computer translation tools. But I assumed that I would simply spend a couple of years in Kent, Ohio learning what I’d gone to learn and then leave it behind me. As it’s turned out, however, I’ve become very involved with and invested in KentLingua, which has made my graduate studies at Kent State all the richer.

KentLingua supports Kent State translation students from before incoming students even arrive at the program through a peer mentor system geared toward easing new students’ transitions into graduate studies and to life in Kent. Once the academic year begins, the officers of KentLingua continue to act as liaisons between new students, faculty, other translation students, and the greater graduate student body. As the year moves on, KentLingua organizes a variety of social and professional events designed to foster community, collaboration, and the success of Kent State students both within and beyond our coursework and our programs. In addition to emails on upcoming events, KentLingua also sends out a regular newsletter that keeps students, faculty, and alumni abreast of MCLS-related activity. Its officers work to maintain and grow a collection of translation resources available to all translation students and works to organize discounts on computer tools. The organization also represents the department in the Kent State Graduate Student Senate, which provides students opportunities for domestic and international travel funding, whether for summer internships or for attendance or presentations at conferences, including the ATA conference in the fall.

About the authors:

Meredith Cannella is a first year master’s student in Spanish Translation and a graduate teaching assistant. She is simultaneously pursuing a MA in Audiovisual Translation from the Universidade de Vigo in northern Spain, where she worked as an English instructor within the Translation and Interpreting and Philology departments. Originally from New York City and a dual citizen of Ireland, she works from Spanish and Galician into American and European English.

Laura Gasca Jiménez is a second-year MA student in Spanish translation at Kent State University, where she also works as a Spanish instructor of two undergraduate courses. She is a native speaker of Spanish and Basque. She was born and raised in the Basque Country, in the north of Spain, and she completed a five-year BA degree in English with a minor in translation at Complutense University in Madrid. She is specialized in linguistics and education, and has experience in legal and literary translation. She will be starting a PhD program in Spanish Linguistics at the University of Houston this coming August.

Christopher Merkel is a first year master’s student in Japanese-English translation and the current president of KentLingua. He holds a BA in Japanese and a BA in International Studies from The Ohio State University and has worked as a copywriter, a copyeditor, a book reviewer, and a freelance translator. He likes to ride his bicycle and will be serving as a Japanese-English technical translation fellow at the World Intellectual Property Organization this summer.

A Day in the Life: New York University’s M.S. in Translation Program

By Samantha Liskapple-256261_150

The first thing I realized when I began my master’s in New York University’s online Master of Science in Translation program was that it was going to be a completely difference experience from my bachelor’s.

I attended a small, private liberal arts college for my undergraduate degree, earning a B.A. in English with a Spanish minor.  At the time, this college offered no courses in translation or interpretation, and the only way a student could take an online course was if there was absolutely no way he or she could make it to campus in person.

My experience at NYU has been completely different. Not only was I required to take several of the available courses on translation, but the courses are even divided up by language and subdivided by specialization. Furthermore, depending on the student’s language pair, none of the courses in the program is offered on campus; the entire program is conducted online.  It has been an entirely different experience from taking a program on a college campus, but when I graduate this May, I think I will be able to look back on it and say that it was equally as rewarding.

NYU’s master’s program offers three language pairs for study: Spanish to English (my language pair), French to English, and Chinese to English.  The program is 36 credits and can take from 15 months to 5 years to complete, depending on whether the student is attending full-time or part-time.  The curriculum is similar for each language pair:

  • 2 required courses in language and translation theory plus 1 elective in pragmatics, contrastive stylistics, or a similar topic;
  • 1 required course in subject matter background (either comparative banking & accounting systems or comparative legal systems) plus 1 elective on either corporate practice or global economics;
  • 3 required translation courses (e.g. legal translation, financial translation, & software and website localization) plus 3 further electives that go more in-depth into the translation specialization (e.g. patents translation, translation of contracts, & translation of accounting documents); and finally,
  • The thesis project, which can be either a theoretical paper or a complex translation of at least 10,000 words.

During my first semester I enrolled in the program as a full-time student and worked part-time as a tutor.  Full-time enrollment amounted to 4 courses.  I can’t speak for all graduate students everywhere, of course, but in my case 4 courses was too many.  Graduate-level work is difficult regardless of the institution, and it takes a great deal of time management skill, focus, and sheer determination to pass, not to mention knowledge of and aptitude in the field of study.  I passed all 4 courses that semester (and I have passed all of my courses since) but it was very difficult.  After that semester I reduced my course load to 2 or 3 per semester and my enrollment status to part-time, and it’s been much more manageable.

e-learning-218593_150The most challenging part of the program for me, however, has been its online nature.  Each professor has his or her own requirements for each particular class, but here are some of the characteristics and/or requirements most of my classes have had in common:

  • Live class sessions involving video and text chat held at a day and time (usually a weeknight) when the majority of students are available
  • A set number of forum posts, and responses to other students’ posts, that students are required to make per week
  • A set number of blog posts that students are required to make
  • Weekly homework assignments, including readings, video viewings, and actual work to be completed
  • In the generalized classes, tests and exams; in the specialized classes, one or two major projects

The program has gone through two platforms since I first enrolled—first Blackboard, now Epsilen—and each has had numerous technical bugs and kinks that we’ve had to deal with.   These problems have ranged from minor inconveniences to major impediments in the effects they have had on classes and assignments.  At times we have simply had problems hearing each other during live sessions as the audio cuts in and out; at other times we have been unable to attend sessions because the system kicks us out every time we log in.  For a program that is offered solely online, these issues are very serious and have proved to be one of the major drawbacks of the program.

Fortunately, however, technical problems have not prevented me from meeting new friends and colleagues through the program.  We are assigned group work as well as individual assignments, just like in on-campus programs; the difference is that we have to work out times to talk on Skype, instant messenger, or over the phone based on time zone differences.  In my experience, this has not been an impediment to completing assignments, but rather has been an opportunity to meet and talk with colleagues all over the world whom I might not ever meet in person.  It has helped me to grow my professional network and to form relationships just as can be done in an on-campus program.  The only difference is that if we talk over coffee, I’ll be in North Carolina and my classmate(s) will be in New York or Paris or Brazil.

All in all, I have found the M.S. in Translation program at NYU to be completely worthwhile.  I have learned about translation theory, gained practical experience in translating real-world texts, and formed relationships with colleagues around the world.  Not bad for two years and a summer!

Further Recommended Resources