ATA Certification Pass Rates 2003-2013, 2004-2014, and Statistical Trends

By Geoffrey S. Koby
Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle with permission from the author (incl. the image)

ATA CertificationThe Certification Committee is happy to report here on certification pass rates for 2003-2013 and 2004-2014. The average certification pass rates for these two sets of data have remained relatively stable, although other factors in ATA’s Certification Program have changed somewhat in the past two data sets. The four sets of 11-year data that have been published in The ATA Chronicle to date (2001-2011; 2002-2012; 2003-2013; and 2004-2014) now allow for some interesting comparisons and analyses.

To describe the results effectively and avoid distortion, the information has been divided into two groups: 1) languages with 40 or more exams in the reporting period; and 2) languages with extremely low volume (ELV), defined as language pairs with fewer than 40 exams in the reporting period. In the following, we report summary statistics for the entire set of exams for 2003-2013 and 2004-2014, broken down by these two groups.

For 2003-2013, the overall pass rate was 14.47%. A total of 6,339 candidates (previous period: 7,033) took the exam in 29 language pairs (previous period: 29), and 917 exams were rated “pass” (previous period: 1,032). Of these language pairs, 16 had 40 or more exams over this period (previous period: 18). The Polish>English and Dutch>English exams have entered ELV status due to low demand for these language pairs, while Finnish­>English is no longer represented. However, Swedish>English has started as a new language pair.

For 2004-2014, the overall pass rate was 15.45%. A total of 5,463 candidates (previous period: 6,339) took the exam in 29 language pairs (previous period: 29), and 844 examinations were rated “pass” (previous period: 1,032). Of these language pairs, 16 had 40 or more exams over this period (previous period: 16). The individual language pairs are listed in Table 1 in alphabetical order with the number of exams and the individual pass rates per language pair for both sets of data.new Table 1 Cert

In both data sets, 13 of the 29 language pairs had fewer than 40 exams. Table 2 shows the combined results for these language pairs. The data is presented this way because these language pairs cannot be averaged reliably due to their low volume. Another reason is that exams in some languages were not offered for the entire period. The Italian>English language pair was suspended in 2007 and was only reinstated in 2015, so it will remain in the ELV category for some time. In addition, Hungarian>English, which had a low volume to begin with, has been suspended since 2008, although work is ongoing to reinstate it.

Table 2 Cert

Figures 1 and 2 show the information on the two data sets in graphical form, in a format slightly different from previous pass-rate reports. The dashed horizontal red line shows the mean pass rate. No standard deviation is provided for the pass rate percentages because the language pairs have widely divergent numbers of exams. Overall, this figure shows that the pass rates differ for each language pair.

Figure 1 shows the pass rates for 2003-2013. The pass rates for the high-volume pairs range from 8.42% for English>French to 28.42% for English>Portuguese. The ELV languages have an aggregated average pass rate of 34.15% (3.23% of all exams), which represent 13 language groups averaging two or fewer exams per year.

Figure 1

Certification Forum Revised LONG.Figure 1

Figure 2 shows the pass rates for 2004-2014. The pass rates for the high-volume pairs range from 9.00% for Arabic>English to 28.97% for English>Portuguese. The ELV languages have an aggregated average pass rate of 35.88% (3.11% of all exams), which represent 13 language groups averaging two or fewer exams per year. A slightly higher or lower number of ELV exams passing in any data set can greatly skew the individual average.

Figure 2

Certification Forum Revised LONG.Figure 2

With four data sets with which to work, it is now possible to show some trends. Figure 3 shows that the number of exams has been declining over time, from 7,585 exams in 2001-2011 to 5,463 exams in 2004-2014. This is not surprising, as the number of candidates for the exam declined in 2002 with the implementation of eligibility requirements. The number of ELV exams has remained small but relatively stable, with just under 100 exams per data set into English and just over 80% into foreign. At the same time, the number of high-volume exams has declined 28% overall, with exams into foreign languages declining 27% and exams into English declining 30%.

Figure 3

Certification Forum Revised LONG.Figure 3

Figure 4 compares pass rates over time, using four data sets (2001-2011 through 2004-2014). The overall pass rate has remained largely stable, with a high of 15.64% and a low of 14.67%. The pass rate for high-volume languages closely mirrors the overall pass rate, just slightly below it, ranging from 15.16% to 13.81%. Not surprisingly, the ELV pass rate is quite a bit higher and more variable. The shift between the low 40% range in the first two data sets and the mid-30% range in the second two sets is attributable to a couple of language pairs with moderate pass rates moving from high-volume into the ELV category, pulling the average down. This did not have a noticeable effect on the high-volume pass rate, however, which shows how small the number of ELV exams is in the overall system.

Figure 4

Certification Forum Revised LONG.Figure 4

It is now also possible to compare average pass rates over the four data sets for each language pair individually. (See Table 3 and Figure 5.) Table 3 shows the pass rates for each language pair over time, sorted by the pass rate (low to high), while Figure 5 is sorted and grouped by language for easier comparison. The standard deviation provided shows that the pass rate in each language pair has remained relatively stable over time.1 Even those language pairs with the largest fluctuations (English>Russian and English>German) have remained within a relatively narrow range over the four data sets (15.25%-21.89% and 22.30%-28.21%, respectively).

Table 3 Cert

Figure 5

Certification Forum Revised LONG.Figure 5

The stability of these pass rates indicates that, although we can calculate an overall average pass rate for each data set, the more realistic figures are the individual average pass rates over time in each language pair. This also makes sense because, although all ATA exam passages are selected, administered, and graded according to the same criteria and all ATA graders are trained in the same methodology, each language pair must be considered a separate test. This is because the populations taking the tests are composed of completely different individuals (except for a very small number of individuals who test in two languages). In addition, the language training background and linguistic-cultural contexts for candidates in each language pair vary widely. This is particularly apparent in Figure 5, where it is possible to compare pass rates where ATA offers its certification exam in both directions.

The differences in pass rates between language directions vary from a low of 0.97% for the language pairs involving Spanish to a high of 10.46% for those involving Polish. In most but not all pairings, the exam into the foreign language has a higher pass rate. Given the relatively less extensive nature and scope of foreign-language learning in the U.S., we might speculate that for many language pairs, the population taking the test into the foreign language would include large percentages of native speakers of that language, while the population taking the test into English may include both native speakers of English who learned the language and are fluent foreign speakers of English trained in other cultures. However, given the data we have, it is impossible to arrive at any conclusions as to why pass rates differ.

We hope this detailed information on pass rates is interesting and useful to our members and potential candidates for the certification exam. The Certification Committee will continue to report the figures on a regular basis.

Notes

  1. Please note that the Polish>English and Dutch>English pass rates are based on only two data sets. This is because these language pairs entered ELV status in the 2003-2013 data set due to low demand for exams in these languages.

Geoffrey S. KobyGeoffrey S. Koby is an ATA director and the immediate past chair of ATA’s Certification Committee. He is an associate professor of German/translation studies at Kent State University. Formerly the coordinator of the university’s BS in translation program and assistant to the chair, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in translation theory and praytice. An ATA-certified German>English and Dutch>English translator, his professional practice focuses on business, legal, and financial translation. Contact: KobyTranslation@yahoo.com.

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

Universidad de Alcalá: A Day in the Life

Cervantes AlcaláI went into my master’s program at Spain’s Universidad de Alcalá convinced I wanted to be an interpreter. A year later I was a passionate translator. Sitting on the edge of my seat in a conference booth interpreting for a Finnish researcher; sandwiched next to an African immigrant across from a Spanish social worker; carefully situated between a Spanish therapist and her American patient—all of these experiences were exhilarating. It’s just that somehow I took much greater pleasure in searching tediously for parallel texts as I translated a 50,000-word European Union bill.

The two internships I did as part of the master’s program couldn’t have been more different: half of my time was spent interpreting for a drug and alcohol abuse program through Madrid’s public health department, and the other half was spent working alongside two classmates to translate a lengthy bill for the Spanish Ministry of Justice on the exchange of criminal background data among EU member states.

Universidad de Alcalá logoInterpreting, though thrilling, made me nervous, while translating made me feel absolutely exuberant. One thing that good translators and good interpreters have in common is that both are perfectionists. I too am a perfectionist—for better or for worse. But studying translation and interpreting at the same time made me realize that I am the kind of perfectionist who cannot live with providing perfection on the spot. I’d much rather take my time finding the perfect solution—and that’s how I came to be a translator.

I began the Master’s in Intercultural Communication and Public Service Interpreting and Translation at Universidad de Alcalá (UAH) in 2013. The university, one of the oldest in Europe, is located in Alcalá de Henares, a small city in the autonomous community of Madrid. Among its claims to fame, Alcalá is the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes and the location of the printing of the first polyglot Bible.

The university has offered a master’s in translation and interpreting (T&I) since 2006, and the program has belonged to the prestigious European Master’s in Translation network (EMT) since 2009. The EMT vets universities based on certain standards for translator education, with the aim of improving the quality of the incoming workforce.

European Master’s in Translation logoThe master’s at UAH is geared towards students with undergraduate degrees in T&I or those who are already working as translators or interpreters, though these are not strict requirements for admission (proof of language command is!). Some of my classmates were already sworn translators or practicing interpreters, while others were medical professionals or paralegals. One was even a teacher who won a popular game show on Spanish TV and decided to spend the prize money on taking his career in a new direction. I myself had been working in education and public services (at a library in the US and later as a cultural ambassador for the Spanish Ministry of Education in Madrid) for three years leading up to my discovery of the field of translation and interpreting.

In line with the program’s goal of improving the skills of existing translators and interpreters, the curriculum is more practical than theoretical. The first half of the program consisted mostly of interpreting role plays and independent translation assignments that we reviewed together in class. Our instructors were all talented translators and interpreters whose engagement in the profession allowed them to offer us relevant insights and anecdotes, giving us a taste of the world outside the classroom.

The program is organized in cohorts based on language pair, with a considerable offering (all in combination with Spanish):

  • Arabic
  • Bulgarian
  • Chinese
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Russian

Students with opposite A and B languages are placed together in each cohort (for example, there were native Spanish speakers as well as Americans and Brits in my cohort), and all students practice bidirectional translation. In my case, this meant translating not only from Spanish to my native English but also from English to Spanish. Translating in both directions allows students to offer better feedback and to benefit from one another’s strengths.  I found that translating into Spanish improved my Spanish writing skills and also deepened my knowledge of equivalent terms and concepts in both languages and cultures.

Some other noteworthy aspects of the program are:

  • An equal focus on translation and interpreting (T&I)
  • Separate units concentrating on the medical and legal-administrative settings, including classes on comparative law
  • Technology and research tool classes (CAT tools, corpora tools, glossaries and termbases)
  • Hands-on internships
  • A biennial conference on public service T&I with presentations by renowned researchers
  • A master’s thesis on the topic of each student’s choice
  • Visiting instructors, researchers, and trainers from other institutions: our class was lucky to host Marjory Bancroft of Cross-Cultural Communications, who gave a workshop on interpreting for trauma survivors, as well as Maribel del Pozo Triviño from Universidad de Vigo, who led sessions on interpreting for the police
  • Unique opportunities to collaborate with other university departments: we had the chance to interpret for a mock trial involving DNA evidence alongside law students
  • Optional intensive training in conference interpreting and the opportunity to interpret for the program’s biennial conference

And I could go on! But at the end of the day, one of the greatest values of the program was being humbled by my fellow students, many of whom have gone from classmates to lifelong colleagues and friends. I still collaborate with some of them on projects now that we are “real-life” translators and interpreters, even though we’re scattered across the globe!

If you live in or near Spain or have the ability to travel, I recommend checking out the university’s conference on public service T&I in early March 2017: 6th International Conference on Public Service Interpreting and Translating. The university is also hosting the 8th International Conference of the Iberian Association of Translation and Interpreting (AIETI8) that same week.

Images used with permission

Goldmines for Professional Growth at FIL in Guadalajara

Congreso San Jerónimo, Feria Internacional del Libro
Dates: November 26 to 29, 2016
Place: Guadalajara, Mexico

Feria Internacional del LibroThe Congreso San Jerónimo is a translation and interpreting conference organized annually by the translators association in Mexico, the Organización Mexicana de Traductores (OMT). The conference is hosted by the Guadalajara International Book Fair, or Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL). The book fair offered the OMT some amazing support for this conference in the form of:

  • Lodging for the speakers, including an extra night to allow for more time at the book fair
  • Free conference space for 250 people

And what do they ask in exchange for all of this? That translators sign contracts with publishing houses! We asked the ATA representative at the Rights Center, Lois Feuerle, for a report, and this is what she had to say:

For the fifth consecutive year, the ATA has had a presence in the Rights Center at the Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara. Better known locally as “FIL,” it is the second largest book fair in the world and the largest in in the Spanish-speaking world. Almost two dozen ATA members from Mexico, Canada, the US and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico explained the ins and outs of choosing the appropriate translator for specific projects and demonstrated how to find them in the ATA Translation Services Directory.

Michelle Aynesworth signing dealAs soon as I landed, a driver sent by the OMT was there to meet me. I dropped my luggage at the hotel and walked to the FIL, about 15 minutes away. It was not hard to spot the activity once I got there. There were people selling book lamps for reading in bed three blocks away! Young people were walking there with empty backpacks, hoping to bring them back full. Just the right kind of way to get to a book fair. This was exciting for Helen the Bookworm.

I checked in at the fair and felt right at home. Books were everywhere! I had wanted to go for years, just for the books. I translate because I love words and text, and these come in… books! Some of the best resources were right there all under one roof, only a couple of blocks’ walk away! I spent about $500, of course. When I returned from a break with a new load in my bag, I was met with, “What did you find this time?” My colleagues were interested in discussing the value of different books in helping us become better professionals. Here is the list of what I bought.

To get to the conference, you had to walk through the fair. At the first session, I met colleagues I had seen in other places, and got my bearings for the first session I would speak in: The Role of Translation Blogs. Sharing the podium with Paula Arturo, Lisa Carter, and Tony Rosado, with Mercedes Guhl as moderator, was fun. We became friends and did not want to stop. Of course, we talked about Savvy! The idea that blogs offer a lot of flexibility in terms of what you can share came up several times. Individuals can speak their minds, and institutional or team blogs like Savvy have a lot of support for their work. Thank you, ATA!

I gave a couple of other presentations as well (both in Spanish): one on the importance of reading a text carefully before translating it and the other on negotiating contracts. The conference attendees were dedicated language professionals with an excellent mix of experience and perspectives, including students, professors and experienced translators. The conversations I had in the hallways, at lunch, and at every break were very engaging.

What was the best part? Listening to some of the other presentations. At this conference, which takes place in Mexico, it is assumed that Spanish language issues are well known. That meant we got to focus on translation issues. There were presentations about:

  • Medical translation (Dr. Fernando Navarro was there!)
  • Good writing
  • Audiovisual translation
  • Legal translation and interpreting
  • HTML
  • Content security
  • Literary translation
  • Projects of social inclusion involving translation and interpreting using Mexican sign language
  • The use of tools (with a focus on dictation software this year)
  • A literary translation forum on Sunday afternoon, for the public at large
  • How to translate culturally difficult concepts

Marta Stelmaszak, Feria Internacional del LibroThe closing session by Marta Stelmaszak gave us an excellent to-do list on how to move the profession forward. Here is her list for translators in the 21st century, based on my notes:

  • Translation is becoming commodified, and we are being asked to lower our rates. So… we must focus on providing a specialty service, not a commodity.
  • The field is being deprofessionalized. People with lower and lower qualifications are being hired to do parts of many jobs—even jobs doctors used to do. So… we must focus on our qualifications and codes of conduct, join professional bodies, and make sure we participate in professional development! We have to be able to explain the value of what we do.
  • Crowdsourcing is becoming common in many fields, even when it comes to counting birds. So… we must point out that crowdsourcing breeds lack of trust and responsibility. When they know who is in charge, they know who to hold responsible!
  • Technological change is unavoidable. In the legal field, paralegals are losing their jobs to technology. So… we must outline what machines cannot do and highlight the added value we provide!
  • A sharing economy means selling the surplus of what you have. So… we can create teams and trade with colleagues. We can trade an hour of translation for an hour of editing.

You can read some more of Marta’s thoughts on this subject here.

Next time, hopefully in 2017, I will go prepared for something different as well: I will research the publishers beforehand and make appointments with them so I can come back with a contract or two. There should be enough publishers in the hall for all attendees to score a few contracts each! That trip would pay for itself.

The Translator Requests a Clarification: Tracking the conversation

By Helen Eby (@EbyGaucha)
Reblogged from Gaucha Translations blog with permission from the author

The Translator Requests a ClarificationTranslators and interpreters face a common problem: lack of clarity in the source message. Interpreters have a standard formula for addressing this: “the interpreter requests clarification”. Although translators deal with the same issue, a standard formula is missing. We deal with acronyms that are company-specific, missing terms, etc. and clarify them with clients over email. In the middle of email chains, however, it is easy to lose track of the changes and of our role. We need a better, more rigorous, method of recording these conversations.

When translating a document such as a contract, a patient handout, or a website, it is important to record conversations about changes to the source text. To do this effectively, I began keeping a change log to serve as a record. I have used this type of table very effectively with my clients on a number of occasions, and an example is shown below. Please note, however, that some text has been changed to protect client confidentiality.

Source text Translator’s comment Client’s comment
In the next twelve we will celebrate all employees’ birthdays. In the next twelve months we will celebrate all employees’ birthdays. [The client must have meant “months”. We must say that.]
Email sent to client February 30, 2016
Please modify source text as follows:
In the next twelve months we will celebrate all employees’ birthdays.
Response received February 31, 2016
Client request: Please include all these changes in the source document. Thank you for your attention to detail.
Please mark them with track changes for me to accept them. This will help us with future clients.

As shown in this change log, these changes are often accepted as permanent improvements to the source text. In this way, the client gets two services in one: a copy editor of the source text and a translator, while keeping the roles transparent.

A translation, after all, is the client’s message in a new language, and changes need to be implemented with transparency and thoughtfulness, mindful of both linguacultures. At Gaucha Translations, we follow a process outlined in this document, and clients know that we treat their message with the utmost respect and advocate for the target audience to be able to understand their message clearly, at a glance, if at all possible.

Header image credit: kaboompics

How language professionals can reclaim their digital lives after Snowden

How language professionals can reclaim their digital lives after SnowdenOur private and professional lives happen increasingly online. However, we often compromise our privacy and put the integrity of data and information at risk. Public and private entities exploit that: invasive ads, tracking across websites, profiling, restrictive digital rights management, attacks on net neutrality, bulk data collection – the list goes on.

It is time for language professionals to reclaim control, especially when handling client data, which can be sensitive or even confidential. This hands-on talk provides practical solutions: from encrypted email and secure wi-fi on the go to safer passwords and having your files available and yet safe.

This session was presented at the American Translators Association’s 57th Annual Conference. Learn more about the conference at http://www.atanet.org/conf/2016 and more about ATA at http://www.atanet.org/.

Header image credit: MMT

Author bio

Alexander DrechselAlexander Drechsel has been a staff interpreter with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Interpretation since 2007. He has studied at universities in Germany, Romania and Russia and his working languages are German (A), English (B), French and Romanian (C). Alexander is also a bit of a ‘technology geek’ with a special interest in tablets and other mobile devices, regularly sharing his passion and knowledge with fellow interpreters during internal training sessions and on the web at http://www.tabletinterpreter.eu.

You can also find Alexander on Twitter as @adrechsel (personal account) and as @tabterp where he shares all things related to using tablets for interpreting.

ATA Written and Keyboarded exams: A personal account

by Helen Eby

ATA Written and Keyboarded examsI prepared for the ATA Translation Certification exam with my Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI) colleagues. The exam has an overall pass rate of under 20%, which varies by language pair and exam year. We took our preparation seriously.

On the ATA exam, every point counts against you. ATA has published a list of errors they check against and a rubric that explains how they assign points to each error. To pass, you cannot accumulate more than 17 points. If you do, you fail! In our OSTI study program, we spent 25 online sessions plus a couple of in-person meetings working on how to internalize these rubrics. This made us all better translators and interpreters.

Some comments from study group members who took the exam in Bend, Oregon:

“I found the test to be very challenging even with our preparations. You can tell they intentionally set the bar very high! Although I can’t pinpoint seeing any specific tripwire on the test that we tackled in our group, it’s clear that our hard work left me much more prepared than I would have been otherwise.” Emily Safrin

“I feel the same way; I found the exam more difficult than the different practice tests I worked on through the study group. Even though I work on a different language pair, the group discussions about the English source texts helped me regarding terminology or tricky sentences.” Myriam Grandchamp

Personally, I was encouraged. I had good scores on my practice tests. I was taking the exam in both directions (Spanish<>English) and had taken two tests in each of my language pairs. For my Spanish to English practice test, I had a score of 12 on one text and 12 on the second text. For my English to Spanish practice test, I had a score of 13 on one text and 11 on the second one I took. Better yet, I knew that my colleagues were also well prepared. Some had decided to take the exam in 2017 and some were taking it this year. We had a good understanding of what we were facing.

Keyboarded exam, September 11, 2016

Keyboarded exams are a new development for ATA. Test-takers are allowed to bring their own computers to the site, but have to save the translation onto a USB provided by ATA, not onto their hard drives. The guidelines for the computerized exam are listed here. See this link for a list of approved and banned websites.

I took the keyboarded exam from English into Spanish in Philadelphia. I had spent the previous day at the Delaware Valley Translators Association (DVTA) conference, enjoying being at an event where I had no responsibilities, being just one of the crowd. There, Tony Guerra, the DVTA president, reminded us that certified translators earn an average of $10,000 more per year than non-certified translators. The pressure was on! But I was relaxed.

Before the exam, I had done some things that helped me focus on good writing. I had just attended the Editorial Freelancers Association conference in New York, which focused on copy editing. I also spent a lot of time reading good literature on my iPad the week before.

Instead of carrying a load of dictionaries from the West Coast, I used the bookmarks on the OSTI resources page and on the Mosqueteras site, a blog focused on good Spanish writing, as my references. That was why we had been setting them up over the year! I also had a few of my favorite quick reference hard copy books.

What did I do during the keyboarded exam?

  1. I started by reading the text, just like I do with every single translation I work on.
  2. I looked for challenges, both in terms of words and in terms of sentence structure. I made a chart of how I would solve those on a sheet of paper before I got started. I actually spent about 45 minutes doing that research on each text before I started writing.
  3. Then I translated the mandatory text. Of course, I found extra things to research, and I changed my mind about a few of the solutions, but my research helped a lot.
  4. I took a break to clear my head. I moved on to the draft of the second translation and repeated steps 1 to 3 with the next text. I had to choose between texts B and C, which were different specialties.
  5. Then I took another break. I colored with some markers I had taken, so I could somehow separate from the translation task.
  6. Then I reviewed the two texts, in order.
  7. Another break. Then I reviewed both texts again.

What did I find in the review process?

I noticed that my typing was bad. I was fixing typos right up until the end of the three hours! Not having spell check affected my ability to type well.

We had to work in WordPad, which does not have a spell check, but I could check terms in online dictionaries. So I did! In some cases, that led me to a better solution.

I used the online resources available effectively. It was certainly nice to not have to travel with a suitcase full of books! However, having a few hard copy books was very helpful.

I also took creative breaks by coloring and doing pushups against the wall on my way back from the bathroom. This helped clear my head from the translation and look at it with fresh eyes. The proctors who observed me coloring told me they had never seen that before. (For online exams, there is one proctor for every five test-takers, to keep an eye on what is on the computer screens.)

Written exam, September 25, 2016

I took the written exam from Spanish to English in Bend, Oregon. Here, I was taking the exam with my friends. It was fun! I walked in with my suitcase full of dictionaries. Because of my practice test results, I felt confident. Regardless, I spent some time the night before reading good literature, so my brain would be tuned into good English and Spanish.

My translation process was similar to the one I had experimented with in Philadelphia. It was fresh in my mind, since I had taken the exam two weeks before. The breaks helped.

In this exam, I didn’t have to worry about typos. I just had to worry about my handwriting. Honestly, it’s just as bad! And I scratched my paper up so much that I really missed the option of doing a cut and paste so the grader could read a clean document. I have attended some sessions where we have been told to not fret over handing over a clean document. They would rather have us focus on just finishing the job. So I did.

Results

While I waited for the results, it was helpful to remind myself that I am just as good a translator today as I was yesterday. In November I learned that I passed the Spanish to English certification exam and did not pass the English to Spanish certification exam. I also recently passed an exam administered by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, so I am now a Washington State certified English to Spanish Document Translator (see this link for more information).

As my study group focused on cracking the certification code, we were focusing on the details of what makes a translation better. Now that I am certified, as I do my regular work as a translator and reviewer of other people’s work, I feel that we should use the ATA list of errors and the flowchart for error point decisions to help us grow and to provide better peer review. Thank you, ATA, for providing a great framework for professional growth! I plan to keep using it.

Header image credit: tookapic

Capacity management tips for freelance translators

By Oleg Semerikov (@TranslatFamily)
Reblogged from 
LinkedIn with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Capacity management tips for freelance translatorsSo your translation business is going well. You’ve got a reliable set of customers who you like and work well with, and projects are coming in on a regular basis. You’re living the freelancer’s dream of steady self-employment. And then one morning, you look at your to-do list and do a double take. You have to do how much work today?

Finding yourself over capacity is something that happens to every freelancer occasionally. It’s a bit of a mixed blessing, to say the least. On the one hand, you know you have work – and therefore money – coming in. But on the other, it can be difficult to look on the bright side when you’re forced to keep working late into the night, fretting about missing deadlines or making mistakes because you’re in a rush. So, in hopes of helping you deal with the problem next time it comes up, we’re here to offer a few handy tips on how to manage your capacity and maybe even de-stress a little.

Although our very first tip is to clear your current workload before settling down to read this article, we hope those of you with a few minutes to spare will read on and enjoy!

Don’t panic!

Yes, we know that’s the last thing a panicking person actually wants to hear. Yes, we know that on-time delivery is a key part of quality customer service – but it’s going to be OK. Trust us. You’re a professional, which means you have the expertise and the skills needed to handle this problem. And even if you do overshoot the deadline slightly, it’s not the end of the world – and we’ll discuss how to handle that situation later in this article.

At the moment when you realise you’ve taken on too much work, it can seem like a disaster, but there’s no sense wasting time by beating yourself up over it. The best thing you can do is make yourself a hot drink, sit down and put those translating skills to work.

Don’t compromise on quality

If the deadline crunch is looming and it’s looking like you can’t get everything done in time, it can be very tempting to rush through a translation, sacrificing quality to get it done quickly. That’s almost never the correct decision. After all, a translation’s life cycle doesn’t end when you deliver it; it still has to be usable by the customer.

A better solution would be to keep the customer in the loop. Apologise, notify them of the delay, and give them a revised estimate of when the document will be ready – and do this as soon as you can, so that they can make a decision about how to handle the situation on their end.

Ideally, of course, you don’t want to let it get to that stage at all. So what can you do to avoid missing deadlines in the first place?

Know your capacity

Observe your own working processes over a period of days and weeks, and keep track of how quickly you’re able to turn a translation around. Measure your results in terms of words per hour or day. Chances are, you’ll start to see a pattern emerging which will allow you to determine how quickly you actually work. Needless to say, this is a much better approach than just guessing, or assuming that a customer’s suggested deadline is feasible without checking it for yourself. Measuring your actual output rate will make it easier for you to provide quotes and estimate how long a given translation will take to complete, which will come in very handy when negotiating rates and deadlines.

Keep an organised calendar

Make a list of everything you’re working on. Write down every job you’ve been given, when it was assigned to you, when it’s due, and how large it is. Then, based on your translation-speed calculations, allocate a block of time in your calendar for working on it. This could be a paper calendar hanging on the wall, but a digital one is even better for updating details, moving projects around, and finding items with a simple search. These days, there are plenty of software products that can help with this. Most modern email software includes calendar functionality, including the reliable old standby Microsoft Outlook, or alternatively you could use a free cloud-based solution like Google Calendar.

However you choose to organise your work, keeping it all together in one place will help you plan ahead and understand how much spare capacity you have for other jobs that come in.

Don’t be afraid to say no

If too much work does come in and you simply don’t have the time to handle it all, don’t be afraid to turn the occasional job down. Most agencies would rather that you be honest with them and tell them when you don’t have time to handle a specific project, instead of accepting it now and having to delay delivery later. Think of it the same way as you would if you were offered a job you couldn’t take because it was outside your field of specialisation: saying no is sometimes a sign of professionalism, and worthy of respect. Besides, if they really want you, specifically, to take the job, then they may be able to offer you an extended deadline. It never hurts to ask!

In the end, it all boils down to a simple rule: think ahead. If you’re aware of your responsibilities and able to plan your work beyond your next few hours and days, you shouldn’t have to deal with these kinds of problems very often – if ever. But tips like these may help even if you’re already the fastest, most organised translator on Planet Earth. After all, one of the great benefits of being a freelancer is your flexibility: if you feel like earning a little extra money, you can always put in a few extra hours here and there. Planning your work ahead of time lets you manage those extra hours, as well, keeping stress levels down and productivity up. And your customers receive the translations they need, exactly when they need them – so everybody wins!

Author bio

Oleg SemerikovOleg Semerikov started as an English to Russian freelance translator ten years ago. Nowadays, he runs his own company, Translators Family, a boutique translation agency specialising in Russian, Ukrainian and Polish, with expertise in English, German, and other European languages. Many long-term customers of Oleg as a freelancer became the permanent customers of his agency. Translators Family on social media: FacebookTwitterGoogle+ 

Beat the January doldrums starting now

Beat the January doldrums starting nowThe holiday season is an interesting time in the freelance business cycle. For many freelancers, some much-wanted/needed time off turns into an unwelcome amount of down time when work is slow in January. Following are some tips on how to beat the January doldrums in your freelance business, starting now:

Tip 1: Work over the holidays if you need or want to. Many established freelancers may look forward to a holiday lull. And if you work with clients in Europe, they may all but shut down until about January 9, the first Monday after New Year’s. But especially if you’re just starting your freelance business (or if you need to bring in some more income before the end of the year), consider working over the holidays. This is an especially good time to land new clients, when all of a translation agency’s go-to translators are out of the office and they have no choice but to branch out.

Tip 2: Assign yourself some work for January. What do most freelancers do when work is slow? Panic. Assume that no client will ever call them again. What’s a better option? “Assign yourself” to those non-paying projects that (if you’re like me…) remain eternally on the back burner because they’re not due tomorrow. Demo some accounting software. Upgrade your website. Take an online course. Start researching a new specialization. Write an e-book. Pre-load your blog with 10 posts. The key here is to plan ahead, so that the “assignments” are in place when you sit down at your desk in the new year, and before panic mode sets in.

Tip 3: Do a marketing push ahead of your slow periods. The time to get on a client’s radar screen is before they need you. For next year, schedule a marketing push in early December, before your clients wind down for the holidays. For now, prepare a marketing push for the next big work slowdown (such as July and August, when a lot of clients and translators go on vacation). For example, write a warm e-mail that you can send to prospective clients; resolve to send at least three e-mails a day, starting two to three weeks before you expect your work volume to drop off. Check in with all of your current clients (anything in the pipeline that you might help with?) and prospect for some new clients.

Tip 4: Evaluate your business expenses. Many freelance translators spend *too little* on their businesses, in a way that can lead to stagnation. But it’s also important to look at what you’re currently spending, and where you could reallocate some money. This is especially critical if you tend to sign up for services that require a monthly fee, but then you don’t end up using as much as you anticipated. It’s also critical if you pay for big-ticket expenses such as health insurance or office rent. Otherwise, think about what expenses might make you happier and more productive in your work (an accountant? a better desk?) and allocate some money for those.

Along those same lines, the end of the year is a good time to rack up tax-deductible business expenses. For example, make sure to renew your ATA membership and any other professional association memberships before December 31, so that you can claim the business expense for this year. If you need office equipment or a new computer, Black Friday and after-Christmas sales are a great time to shop for deals. Software companies may even run end-of-the-year specials. In future years, you may even want to earmark some money to spend in December.

Tip 5: Plan a “think swap” activity with other freelancers. January is a great time for types of activities that seem like a good idea, but for which you never have time. Invite three or four (or more) other freelancers, block out a couple of hours, and pick a topic. Maybe you invite other people in your language pair and everyone translates the same passage before you meet, then you go over your translations together. Maybe you invite freelancers of various flavors and trade marketing ideas. Go over each other’s resumes or LinkedIn profiles. Practice interpreting using YouTube videos. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and in January you may actually have the time for some of them!

Thanks for reading, and happy translating!

Header image credit: MTT

Author bio

Corinne McKayCorinne McKay, CT, is an ATA-certified French to English translator and the current ATA President-elect. She specializes in international development, corporate communications, and non-fiction book translation. She is also passionate about helping beginning and established translators launch, run, and grow successful freelance businesses. Her book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, has become a go-to reference for the industry with over 10,000 copies in print, and her blog, Thoughts on Translation, has been a lively gathering place for freelance translators since 2008. You can keep in touch with Corinne on Twitter @corinnemckay, or on LinkedIn.

A Translator’s Grown-Up Christmas List

A Translator’s Grown-Up Christmas ListAh, the age-old question: what do you get the translator or interpreter who has everything?

If your December is anything like mine, throughout the month your family will try to subtly (or not-so-subtly) ask you for gift ideas, and you’ll try to come up with a better response than “extra hours in the day” or “a nap”. This year, we at The Savvy Newcomer are here to help. It’s not too late to get in your last-minute wish list for the holidays, and there is surely something on our list that you’ve been wishing for this year, whether you realized it or not.

One thing to keep in mind as you share gift ideas with your loved ones is that many business-related expenses are tax-deductible. Before you put a big-ticket item on your wish list to be purchased by someone else, consult your accountant and think about whether you will be able to deduct the expense on your taxes or whether you may be better off spending it on the company credit card to earn rewards points. On the other hand, the nice thing about gifts is that they’re free – so maybe it’s worth foregoing the tax deduction anyway!

Without further ado, here are some ideas to help you make the most of holiday gift-giving time and perhaps give you an idea for the translator or interpreter on your shopping list. Readers, we would love to hear your ideas as well; leave us a comment and let us know what you’re looking to give and receive for the holidays!

Technology

Tablet: The Amazon Kindle Fire was on sale on Black Friday for about $35; prices are a little higher now but still pretty reasonable. Tablets can help you keep connected while working at home, allowing you to carry your work throughout the house. Also great for working while traveling.

Echo Dot: The Echo Dot is a surprisingly affordable “smart home” product from Amazon. You can keep one or several in your house and use the voice-activated “Alexa” to connect to your cloud and perform a variety of functions, such as telling you the weather, reading off your calendar events, and so forth. Went on sale for $40 apiece on Black Friday and are around $50 each now.

Power bank: The battery life on my Galaxy S4 is not what it used to be, so I always keep power banks in strategic places so that I’m never left without a way to charge my phone – my desk, my car, and my purse. Power banks are a good gift for anyone who is on-the-go and can’t always connect to an outlet. You can get cheap ones at most electronics stores or even order a few with your logo on them – a great form of advertising that you can give to family, friends, clients, and potential clients to surreptitiously get your brand out there.

Personal power supply: A step up from a power bank, PPS’s such as the one at this link are good to keep in cars (great for interpreters who are traveling to many different locations). This one will charge via USB, has a flashlight, can charge certain types of laptops, and can even jump start a car! I didn’t know this product existed until a few years ago when my father-in-law got us one for Christmas, and it’s wonderful to have peace of mind knowing I’ve always got one in my car.

Scanner/printer/copier: Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a printer that works 100% properly, 100% of the time… anyone? A nice, high-functioning wireless printer can mean the difference between spending four hours of your workday on the phone with tech support or spending four hours of your day doing paid work. Enough said!

Digital Gifts

Invoicing software: A nice way to streamline your accounting procedures; perhaps you’re working with spreadsheets now and haven’t made the upgrade, or you’re using the lower-priced version of some software and know you would enjoy the functionality of the premium version. Examples include Xero and QuickBooks.

Extra storage space: I am chronically short on space for Dropbox and Norton Remote Data Backup. Most cloud storage services offer an upgrade option for a slightly higher price. Or splurge on your own personal cloud with an NAS system. This gives you access to wireless backup and secure storage that doesn’t leave your own home network. A nice touch if you have clients with NDAs containing strict data security provisions. Some contracts even prohibit you from storing the client’s data in the cloud (i.e. Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive etc.).

SDL apps: Did you know that Trados has an App Store? Many of the apps are free but others aren’t; this could be one that you’ve exhausted the free trial for, or one that you’ve always wanted to try. Other CAT tools may have paid apps, but I’m not familiar with them.

Memberships: Many membership dues may be tax-deductible, but sometimes it’s hard to justify spending the money. Some memberships that would be nice holiday gifts include dues to work at a coworking office, ATA membership, your local translation/interpreting association, a local chamber of commerce, or Payment Practices.

Office Supplies

Ergonomic mouse and keyboard: Carpal tunnel is no joke. Ergonomic mice and keyboards can help with or help prevent wrist, hand, and arm pain caused by prolonged amounts of time clicking your mouse and typing at your keyboard. The shape and position of some ergonomic keyboards can even be adjusted to suit the exact position that is most natural and comfortable for your hands. I have my eyes on the Microsoft 4000.

My Savvy teammate David has sworn by the TypeMatrix 2030 with a Colemak skin for years. You can choose skins with different keyboard layouts, including ones localized for different languages. David used the HandShoe Mouse for years before switching to a Contour RollerMouse Red in 2015. Trackball mice such as the Logitech M570 are also an affordable way to relieve the strain on your shoulders and arms a bit, since you can move the cursor on the screen with just one finger.

Office heater/fan: Depending on where you live, it might be counterproductive to heat or cool your whole house all day when you’re the only person there. When the weather isn’t too extreme and I’m not planning on leaving my office for the day, I often turn down the heat in the house, turn on the space heater under my desk, and close the office door so I can stay warm without it costing me a fortune.

Roost: This laptop stand that a colleague recently told me about can help relieve back and neck strain by lifting your laptop to the proper height so you don’t have to slouch. It’s collapsible and very portable; good for frequent travelers.

Slidenjoy: This one is pretty cool. Slidenjoy is a startup company with the brilliant idea to add additional screens to your existing laptop. It isn’t cheap, and involves sending your laptop to the company so they can custom-fit your device to the new screens and ensure that everything is in working order. Then you can use the screens as additional monitors, turn them around to share your screen with others around you, and collapse them for travel and storage.

Spontaneous Pop-Up Display: This could be really cool for translators and interpreters on the go. It isn’t available yet, but can be pre-ordered through Kickstarter for expected delivery in June 2017. The only catch is the poor resolution at 720p…

Handibot: An interpreter’s “office” is often very different from that of a translator – for those of you who have to drive often and navigate with your phone to get places, Handibot is a good hands-free way to view your phone while you navigate, without taking your eyes off the road. Looks like the Walmart link no longer sells these online but there are surely other similar options available.

Work-Life Balance

Books: We’re language professionals; of course books are going to be on our wish lists! Some ideas include books from this list, translated works in your language pair, and target language books related to your specialization.

Massage: Sitting at a computer or working the interpreting circuit can take its toll on you. Working out the knots in a complex source text often creates knots for you as well! A massage can be a great stress reliever for the over-worked translator.

Fitness tracker: My colleague David just bought one of these on Black Friday and is loving it. It’s great for translators because you can set an idle alert: if you haven’t moved for a certain number of minutes, the watch vibrates and reminds you to stand up and stretch.

Pet: This is not a joke! One of the things we miss out on the most by working from home is companionship. I’m not ashamed to admit that I sometimes talk to my cat throughout the day, and often ask her for business advice. She has yet to respond with anything of value. Check with the recipient first to make sure it’s something they want and can afford, but even a guinea pig or bird can bring enrichment to the freelancer’s long and lonely day.

Workout classes: A great way to get out of the house, stretch a bit, and interact with other human beings. Disclaimer: husbands, purchasing this gift for your wives unsolicited may send the wrong message. Tread with caution.

Branded gear: One of my favorite gifts my husband has ever given me was a t-shirt with my company logo on it. He surprised me with it after an ATA conference one year and it was a great reminder that my significant other supported me and was proud of me! I liked it so much that I got one for him, too. Many different online and brick-and-mortar companies offer personalized products: Vistaprint, 4imprint, Promotions Now.

Readers, we’d love to hear your ideas as well, and go ahead and send this link to your family so they don’t have to resort to gifting you socks and gift cards for yet another year!

 Header image credit: Pixabay