ATA59: Making the Most of my First Conference

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

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

Conference Preparation

Understanding What to Expect

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

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

Goal-Setting

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

Pre-Networking

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

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

At the Conference

Events Attended

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

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

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

Follow-Up

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Author bio

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

#ATA59 Session & Book Review: The Business of Translation

When I attended the ATA59 conference in NOLA, many colleagues encouraged me to attend a session about a topic outside my specialty. So, I browsed the booklet trying to choose a session about a topic that I’d like to know more about. I chose the Business of Translation” session listed under Language Services Companies and Independent Contractors, and I’m glad I did. The speakers, Renato Beninatto and Tucker Johnson, were informative and funny. Renato told his story of going from freelance translator to project manager, to finally owning his own business. So, in a presentation on the business of translation, he was speaking from experience.

At the end of the session, the colleague who was sitting next to me asked the first question: “How can I get a copy of your book?” The presenters immediately said, “We’ll give you a free copy. Here it is, it’s yours!” The audience didn’t expect the response, so we laughed and told our colleague to get it signed, which he eventually did. I took the book from my lucky colleague and quickly skimmed it, then decided to get myself a copy. I ended up reading it on the plane back to New York after the conference. After finishing it, I’ve decided to write a summary so I can encourage others to read it.

The General Theory of the Translation Company provides information on the business of translation. It addresses a few main elements that are market influencers within the field of translation, as well as seven support activities and core functions such as providing accurate translations in a timely manner (terms defined below). It touches on the enduring factors and changing elements that will impact the field of translation. Market influencers are basically the forces within the translation business that bring risk and opportunity. One example of a market influencer is the number of translators who open a business with minimum costs. Support activities are activities that create a framework to minimize risks and maximize opportunities to empower core functions. Core functions are the functions that add value to a translation business. Adding value here refers to creating economic value that customers are willing to pay for.

The book then talks about five forces that were introduced by Michael E. Porter to analyze competition within any business market. The five forces are competitive rivalry, the bargaining power of suppliers, the bargaining power of customers, the threat of new entrants and the threat of substitutes, products, and sources (reading material, documents, or paperwork). One advantage within the translation business is that it does not require much cost and is not tied to many government regulations. Anyone can start a translation business by having a computer, a website, and a PayPal account. Most people do own a laptop or a computer today, and creating websites and accounts is no longer a huge challenge. The field of translation grows proportionately to the growth of content.

The book elaborates on how translation businesses face competition due to the simple requirements needed to start up. How, then, do clients differentiate between a good service and an average one? Here, the book highlights the need to have an advantage that will drive one’s business to the forefront over competitors. This angle, which addresses service quality, goes under the competitive rivalry for a translation business.

Next, there’s the bargaining power of suppliers, which needs to be addressed by anyone planning to excel in the field. One needs to know how cheaply they are willing to offer their services without compromising quality. At the same time, one needs to ensure that there is breakeven or profit within the business that will allow it to thrive. Thus, it is crucial for those who want to start a translation business to understand the dynamics within conducting a translation business itself. If they are going to be employed with a translation company, then they might want to consider the benefits of working independently compared to being employed.

Also, there is the threat of new entrants: new businesses and new experts appear in the translation business on an almost daily basis. The book discusses how such challenges can be addressed and how one can stay in the translation industry despite the competition.

The reality for each translation expert may be different based on the country or city where they are located. Thus, the book serves as a framework that offers translators important tips for conducting business. New entrants may have trouble securing business offers without a track record. Hence, they must work hard to gain clients, who may prefer to go to translation experts, who are well established. However, if new entrants can offer additional perks, such as lower prices or faster turnover, then they can gain clients quickly. Here, the need to balance the various factors, such as quality, time, and service offered, will determine whether a translator will be successful in a competitive environment.

The book then proceeds to detail the seven support activities that are important for any translation business. These consist of management, structure, finance, culture, human resources, technology, and quality assurance. Of course, individuals are free to arrange their business as they see fit, but the guidance in this book serves as a helpful framework. The book stresses the importance of financial margins, and focuses on net margin. Just like any other business, the goal in the translation business is to make a profit. This means making a surplus after charging clients and paying suppliers. The book also addresses how changing technology will impact the translation process. Translators need to realize the importance of continuously updating their businesses and knowledge with the latest technology so that they can provide their clients with the best services.

In conclusion, the book focuses on how one can conduct a successful translation business by considering factors that can impact the business in both the short and long term. It may not be relatable to every single translator out there, but the book serves as a good guide for translators around the globe regardless of their business environment. In the end, a business is a business, and one needs to be familiar with challenges and obstacles before venturing into the business of translation.

Author bio

Amal Alaboud is a PhD candidate in the Translation Research and Instruction Program at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She holds an MA in Arabic/English Translation from the University of Salford in the UK. Her research interests include literary translation, translation project management, and volunteer translation. Currently, she is a project coordinator at TransPerfect in New York.

ATA’s Virtual Conference Is Back

Did you miss out on ATA’s 59th Annual Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana? Or maybe you attended but weren’t able to make it to as many sessions as you would have liked. Don’t fear! The ATA Virtual Conference is here and back for its second round.

What is the Virtual Conference?

The 2018 Virtual Conference is a collection of 50 sessions given at ATA59 in New Orleans, Louisiana. There are sessions for both translators and interpreters, covering a wide range of topics in law, medicine, science, technology, and more. All 50 sessions are available on-demand, and the recordings are accompanied by the speakers’ original PowerPoint presentations in video format. You can view the full list of sessions offered here.

This year’s Virtual Conference comes with extra perks for ATA-certified translators, as its sessions are approved for Continuing Education Points. You will earn one point for each hour viewed, up to a maximum of 10 points.

How Much Does It Cost?

3-day attendees of ATA59 have free access to the Virtual Conference. To access the sessions, go to the Virtual Conference webpage. ATA members can also access the Virtual Conference by logging into the “Members Only” area of the ATA website. All 3-day attendees were sent their usernames and passwords in an email with the subject line “ATA59 Virtual Conference is Now Available!” Search your email to find your username and password there. If you cannot find your login credentials, please contact ATA at webmaster@atanet.org.

If you did not attend the conference and would like to purchase access, go to the Virtual Conference webpage and click on “Purchase It Now.” The Virtual Conference costs $79 for ATA members and $129 for non-members. You can watch four free sample sessions on the Virtual Conference website.

The 2017 Virtual Conference is also available for purchase for the same price. Go to the 2017 Virtual Conference website for more information.

How Did ATA Decide Which Sessions to Include?

Presenters did not apply to participate in the Virtual Conference. Just as last year, ATA was limited to recording in just 4-5 rooms at a time. Their strategy was to pick the 4-5 rooms that contained session topics with the widest appeal for translators and interpreters. Therefore, the session topic and the room where the session was given were the only two items used to determine what was included in the Virtual Conference. Presenters whose sessions were chosen to be included in the Virtual Conference received no form of compensation.

What Can We Expect for ATA60?

ATA’s 60th Annual Conference will be held in Palm Springs, California from October 23-26, 2019. ATA expects to receive approximately 1,600 attendees from more than 60 countries and at this time has not determined whether or not the Virtual Conference will be offered again.

Would you like to speak at ATA60? Presentation proposals are now being accepted. Each proposal must be submitted as a Conference Session, but you may also request to be considered to offer an AST (Advanced Skills Training) Course. Proposals must be received by March 1, 2019. For more information and to submit your proposal, go to the Call for Speakers.

About the author

Molly YurickMolly Yurick is a Spanish to English translator specialized in the tourism, hospitality and airline industries. In the past she has worked as a medical interpreter in Minnesota and as a cultural ambassador for the Ministry of Education in Spain. She has a B.A. in Spanish and Global Studies and a Certificate in Medical Interpreting from the University of Minnesota. She is currently living in northern Spain. You can visit her website at: http://yuricktranslations.com/

ATA59 Conference Session Review: “Textspeak in the Courtroom,” Parts I and II

It can be a bit intimidating to attend a “Part I” session at conferences, knowing there is a lot of information to be absorbed. That said, “Textspeak in the Courtroom” was a two-part lecture I did not want to miss! As a Spanish translator and transcriber, I come in contact with textspeak and slang on a regular basis—not in the courtroom per se, but in transcripts, interviews, handwritten notes, and more. The speaker for this session was Ellen Wingo, a Spanish court interpreter, and her session abstract describing how slang can seem almost like Egyptian hieroglyphs drew me in. Her fascinating presentation had me captivated for over two hours as we learned about the various challenges linguists often face with slang and possible solutions.

The first half of the “Textspeak” session centered on abbreviations and slang, while the second half was on emojis. Both were very interesting topics that were made even more fascinating by the range of perspectives and experiences in the audience! We covered slang in both English and Spanish (and sometimes Spanglish) that court interpreters and transcribers see not only in text conversations (which may need to be sight-translated by interpreters) but also in handwritten notes, emails, and other forms of written media, since textspeak has permeated so many aspects of written language in today’s culture.

Ms. Wingo provided helpful glossaries of English and Spanish slang and offered ideas for equivalents. Though glossaries of slang, a rapidly evolving form of language, are only useful for so long before they become outdated, I found it really valuable to discuss the current gang, prison, and street slang and to connect with fellow linguists who experience some of the same challenges I do.

The emoji portion of this session was also of great interest to attendees. The speaker discussed how the more modern emojis (images a smartphone user selects and inserts within written text; like the ones in the image below) differ from an earlier iteration of textspeak wherein writers used “emoticons” (representations of objects or facial expressions using the regular keyboard and characters; e.g., “:)”) and addressed how modern emojis can pose challenges to interpreters and sight translation. Whether to even interpret or mention an emoji was discussed, since an interpreter’s understanding of the emoji may differ from the writer’s intention. Differences in smartphone platforms can also introduce confusion to the sight-translation process, since an Android device may portray a slightly different emoji than would an iPhone, leading to different interpretations of the message.

To me, the most enjoyable aspect of this session was the fact that the speaker used real-life examples of slang to demonstrate her points and involve the audience in the practice of decoding emojis and text messages. Several times throughout the two session blocks, she shared an example of either a cartoon with confusing language or an actual (redacted) text message and asked members of the audience to read the Spanish text—which was a challenge in itself since the textspeak was so strongly coded—and then offer a suggestion of how to sight-translate it into English.

These exercises brought out the wide variety of experiences and perspectives in the audience: some were acquainted with textspeak, meme language, and other aspects of pop culture, while others were seeing these new forms of speech and writing for the first time. I found it particularly interesting that some members of the audience were very familiar, for example, with pop culture references to the “I can has cheezburger” image below, while others were flummoxed by the popularity and widespread use of such an odd meme.

As far as audience involvement, attendees were invited to participate to the extent that we wanted to, and this was a perfect opportunity for us to ask questions and share our experiences without taking away from the speaker’s main points. I felt that Ms. Wingo struck an excellent balance of sharing her very useful knowledge and giving others the opportunity to share their own perspectives.

For my work in particular, the “Textspeak in the Courtroom” sessions were helpful in terms of understanding slang terms I’ve heard and read about on UrbanDictionary.com but never interacted with in real life, such as “chavala” (a rival gang member) or “palabrero” (a gang member who calls the shots). The session also provided me with new resources to check when I have questions, as the speaker provided handouts and websites for reference. Overall I really enjoyed attending this session and found the speaker’s wealth of knowledge and presentation style to be great assets to the ATA Conference.

Translation Slams: Can You Benefit without Working in the Source Language?

Reflections on the ATA59 Spanish-to-English Translation Slam

Inspired by poetry slams, translation slams are a forum for comparing multiple translations of the same source text. The participants are usually a moderator and at least two translators, or “slammers.” The translations are done in advance of the event, so that each of the translators, the moderator, and the audience can jointly discuss the texts to learn from the experience.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every translation slam I’ve attended. However, I previously thought I would only be able to follow those where I work with both the source and target languages. But the Spanish-to-English translation slam at ATA59 proved me wrong.

It seemed like I was one of only about two or three people who did not have both Spanish and English as working languages in a packed room of around 100 people. But I was determined not to let that stop me from enjoying a translation slam and supporting two of my Savvy teammates.

Three slammers

All of the other translation slams I’ve witnessed or read about had two slammers and one moderator. This one had three slammers, and I thought that added quite an interesting dimension. One thing that fascinated me was that all three translations had their moments. At first, I started to inadvertently form an opinion about which one I liked best, only to realize later that I liked one of the other versions better for certain terms, sentences, and passages. All three translators generally reached a consensus in their discussion on what was most effective. This impressed on me their willingness to seek the best possible translation ahead of their own egos or competitiveness.

A relatively long narrative source text that showcased strengths and weaknesses

The source text was around 700 words in length. This is slightly longer than other translation slams I’ve read about, and sure enough, they did not quite make it to the end. However, one advantage of it being slightly long was that it helped provide a range of opportunities for all three translations to display their strengths and weaknesses. As mentioned, I liked one better initially, whereas another showed its strength closer to the end. A shorter source text may not have allowed for this sort of range.

Complementary skill sets

The slam was moderated by Savvy’s Jamie Hartz. She did a good job of maintaining a constructive tone and balancing commentary from each of the slammers and from the audience. I’d say that is the most important role of a moderator, apart from all the prep work.

The three slammers were Cathy Bahr, Savvy’s Emily Safrin, and Sarah Symons Glegorio. It was fascinating to see how their skill sets and approaches complemented each other. Cathy showed skill in holistically recasting paragraphs and sentences to break free from the source text. On the other hand, Emily’s attention to detail and Sarah’s legal translation background resulted in a stronger focus on mastering individual phrases and words, finding natural English equivalents for tricky Spanish wording. When you put it all together, these macro- and micro-focused approaches make for a winning combination that would lend itself well to a translator-reviser pairing.

My takeaways

I felt that this translation slam did a good job of exemplifying the challenges translators face. Ambiguities in the source text and other wording that was difficult to interpret sometimes resulted in translations that played it safe and stuck too close to the source. On the other hand, there were some translation choices that did get away from the source, but still missed the mark in terms of the intended meaning as best approximated by the collective wisdom of the moderator, the other slammers, and the audience.

It seemed as if the only way to really master some of these passages would be to consult with the author of the source text and combine the writing, research, and reading skills, and unique approaches of all three slammers. In lieu of the source-text author, there were at least native speakers of the source language in the audience who were able to help.

To me, this reaffirms the value of working with a reviser, especially one with a complementary skill set, and of engaging the client in dialogue.

Yes you can!

Although I do have a basic understanding of Spanish (having studied it a long time ago) that helped me understand the source text, I would still assert that I would have been just fine if I hadn’t understood a word of the source language. The comparison of the three translations into my native language was easy to follow. I could judge what read better in the target language and grasp the more straightforward aspects of the source language by comparing the three translations. I was also able to understand the more complex issues, because they came up in discussion.

Another example of a session I attended with a source language I don’t work with is was that of Claudio Cambon, entitled “Being a Faithful Cheat! Betraying Source Texts to Provide Better Legal Translations” about how to get away from the source in Italian-to-English legal translations. My knowledge of Italian is far more limited than my knowledge of Spanish, but that didn’t matter. The presenter shared a word-for-word translation on the screen and then showed how he would completely rewrite it. This made it easy to follow and learn from the step-by-step improvements to the English and enabled me to understand approximately what the source text said.

In conclusion, I would encourage you to look out for future translation slam opportunities. Don’t shy away from participating if you get the chance, because it appears to be very rewarding. And don’t rule out sitting in the audience just because you don’t master the source language. If you at least master the target language, you should be able to get something out of it.

If you’d like to read some fascinating reviews of other translation slams, please see Chris Durban’s “Post #5 — Word geeks in the hot seat” and Tim Gutteridge’s “Ingredients for a perfect translation slam.”

By the way, I’m currently preparing to moderate a translation slam for the first time, with a twist: a text I wrote in English will be translated into Swedish, my source language, and I’ll moderate to provide the author’s perspective and answer questions. Do you have any advice or thoughts for me to consider in this exciting endeavor?