ATA’s Certification Exam Preparation Workshop in Boston

Reblogged from The ATA Chronicle, with permission

ATA’s Certification Exam Preparation Workshop presented opportunities for participants to learn how the Certification Program works, including the general characteristics of exam passages and how exams are evaluated and graded.

ATA held a Certification Exam Preparation Workshop on January 20 at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Training has always been an important part of ATA’s mission, and organizers wanted to see if a full-day workshop led by graders of ATA’s Certification Program could successfully benefit both exam candidates and the program.

The workshop consisted of two sessions designed to help participants understand how the exam is graded and the common errors candidates make. The morning session was for those interested in taking the exam from English into Spanish, while the afternoon session focused on those interested in taking the exam from any language into English. The two of us (Rudy and Diego) were in charge of the English>Spanish session (aside from grading, we work in the English>Spanish workgroup in ATA’s Certification Program). The other two graders, Bruce Popp and Andy Klatt (who work in the French>English and Spanish>English workgroups, respectively) led the into-English session.

Session I: Preparing for the English>Spanish Certification Exam

To develop and tailor this session, participants were mailed a sample practice test to translate and given about 10 days to complete and return it. These tests were then graded applying the same criteria used for the actual certification exam. The purpose of this exercise was to target each participant’s common—and not so common—errors. The results were then discussed during the session, although any specific examples used were kept anonymous.

The main benefit of this exercise for participants was that they were able to learn from comparing each other’s translations and discussing why one rendition worked and another didn’t. It allowed participants to gain a better understanding of where errors happen and identify if they are word-, sentence-, or passage-level errors. This analysis also allowed participants to see how errors impact the comprehension of the entire translated passage. There was plenty of back and forth discussion, including participants’ explanations of their choices and decisions. Each participant received his or her own marked-up practice test at the end of the workshop.

Session II: Preparing for the Into-English Certification Exam

Just like the morning session, the afternoon session began with an introductory talk with visual aids to provide a detailed explanation of the nature and expectations of the certification exam, the error categories and what they mean, and grading criteria and standards. Participants were introduced to the common criteria for grading into-English tests regardless of language pair. The Into-English Grading Standards (IEGS), which are available on ATA’s website, form an essential basis for grading all language pairs in which English is the target language.

The concept of evaluating errors based on the extent to which they detract from the usefulness of the translation to a potential client was also covered. The discussion then switched to some of the essential characteristics of an effective translation, the principles for exam preparation, and test-taking skills. After this, participants were divided into two groups.

Since a large proportion of the into-English group was composed of Spanish>English candidates who had taken the morning session, that group met separately to review the errors on the sample Spanish>English practice test that many of them had taken in preparation for the workshop. The second group was composed of candidates who work from a diverse set of languages into English. The presenters at this session were able to use materials that had been provided by several into-English certification workgroups to exemplify some of the challenges faced by candidates, including carrying over the linguistic organization of a text into a very different, sometimes unrelated, language. As was the case in the morning session, candidate participation was strong and enthusiastic.

A Favorable Response

The workshop proved to be a success, based not only on the number of attendees (the workshop sold out), but also on the diversity of the participants: people from as far away as the West Coast, Texas, Florida, and even Venezuela attended. With its maritime view, the University of Massachusetts Boston proved to be an attractive venue, even in winter. We were fortunate that the weather was cooperative that day, as Boston was experiencing a particularly rough winter. Many people signed up for both sessions, and while the content of the morning and afternoon sessions was different, they built upon each other.

Comments after both sessions were positive, as were most of the comments made in the post-event evaluations. As with any pilot program, some kinks need to be worked out. For example, one comment indicated that too much time had been spent on the administrative aspects of the testing and grading process, forcing presenters to rush through the more interesting part where passages were put under a magnifying glass and reviewed in detail.

As a direct result of the evaluation comments, we prepared a video that explains many of the generic details regarding the exam and presented it at a subsequent workshop that took place as part of the “Spring Into Action” conference co-sponsored by ATA’s Spanish Language Division, the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida, and Florida International University. In this way we were able to devote the entire workshop to analyzing the candidates’ proposed translations. The event in Miami was not part of ATA’s Certification Program, but the changes implemented for the workshop demonstrate that the Association and its graders respond to membership feedback to make its programs as rewarding, informative, and fun as possible.

ATA’s Certification Exam Preparation Workshop presented opportunities for participants to learn how the Certification Program works, including the general characteristics of the passages and how exams are evaluated and graded. In addition, participants were able to learn from the graders about the specific challenges found in exam passages and gain a better understanding of the common and individual mistakes that arise.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

ATA’s Certification Exam: Introduction
http://bit.ly/ATA-certification

ATA Practice Test: Benefits
http://bit.ly/ATA-practice-test

Explanation of Error Categories
http://bit.ly/error-categories

Flowchart for Error Grading
http://bit.ly/grading-flowchart

Framework for Standardized Error Marking
http://bit.ly/ATA-error-marking

Into-English Grading Standards
http://bit.ly/into-English-grading

Rudy Heller, an ATA-certified English>Spanish translator, has been a grader for ATA’s English>Spanish certification exam for over 12 years. He is a federally certified court interpreter and has been a professional translator for over 40 years. He is a former ATA director. Contact: rudyheller@gmail.com.

Diego Mansilla, an ATA-certified English>Spanish translator, is a grader for ATA’s English>Spanish certification exam. He is the director of the Translation Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he also teaches advanced courses in translation. He is a member of the board of directors of the New England Translators Association. His areas of research are translation pedagogy, collaboration in translation, and online education and assessment. Contact: diego.mansilla@umb.edu.

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

Universitat Pompeu Fabra: A Day in the Life

By Carmen Salomón Hernández

pompeu-fabra.I finished my high school degree, including the International Baccalaureate Diploma in 2011 and decided to study Translation and Interpreting (T&I) because I love languages and reading, and through Latin and Greek, I learned to love translation itself. The lessons consisted mostly of epics and poetry texts. These two subjects taught me to be patient and to translate as if I were solving a puzzle where the original text contained pieces I had to put in place to reveal the beautiful final image. Like most degrees in Spain, Translation and Interpreting lasts 4 years.

Admission to most Spanish T&I colleges requires a specific test besides our university entrance tests. That’s why I had to make my mind up early enough not to miss any relevant test dates. I decided to go to Barcelona, mostly because I loved the city and it was the furthest from home I could reach without boarding a plane, so I applied to both Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF). UAB is outside the city on a beautiful campus surrounded by nature and forests. It offers a huge variety of foreign languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Russian. The UPF Communication Campus, on the other hand, is located in the middle of modern buildings at the heart of Barcelona. It offers fewer options, with only Continue reading

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

University of Lund: A Day in the Life

Who wouldn't fall in love with this beauty? Photo courtesy of Mikael Risedal

Who wouldn’t fall in love with this beauty?
Photo courtesy of Mikael Risedal

By Marie Eriksson

I came to Lund University for the first time as winter was just giving way into spring. My father drove me from one side of Sweden to the other in a shaky, noisy truck in a snowstorm, while I tried to sleep against the car window on an itchy old pillow. I arrived with no more than two hours of sleep and armed with a big bag of candy, ready to write my entrance exam for the translation program. Over the lunch break, my father and I walked around campus and discovered the university library.

I decided right then and there that I wanted to stay and study in Lund. Love at first sight is real.

Needless to say, I passed my entrance exam and I’m currently taking the program’s third of four terms. At Lund University, students can select to take a one-year or two-year MA in translation. I chose two years because the courses offered during the second year seemed interesting and because I thought writing the master’s thesis would deepen my understanding of translation studies and research. Of course, there are alternatives for students that aren’t interested in the master’s thesis at all, such as taking three of the four terms and not writing the final master’s thesis.

This program is focused on translation, so there are no interpreting courses or training. Although some assignments include translating fiction, the main focus is translating non-fiction texts. The program is offered entirely in Swedish, with Swedish as the target language and English, French, Spanish, Italian and German as source languages. English is offered every year, but the other source languages have been split up so that two are offered each year. New students can choose English, French or Spanish one year and English, Italian or German the next. It’s also a campus-based program without any online courses, which fits me perfectly.

The first year includes translation courses where the students work with texts from various genres. For example, we were given excerpts from a software user manual for one assignment, followed by a popular science text about sharks for the next assignment. The combination of this level of variety and the tips and tricks from the experienced teachers gave us the resources we needed to handle different genres and find appropriate sources for fact checking and terminology. We also studied Swedish grammar and text analysis, and were introduced to CAT-tools such as SDL Trados Studio and MemoQ.

In the second year, students can choose between translation from a second source language and translation from Danish. Since I don’t speak any of the other source languages offered, I went with Danish. I suppose I can’t say much about my skills, since I haven’t actually passed the course yet, but I feel much more comfortable with Danish now than I did three months ago. The teachers have given us a lot of information on how to think about the small but important differences between Swedish and Danish and how to familiarize ourselves with the language and culture in order to become better translators. The second course of the second year is focused entirely on translation studies and theory. This is partly because it’s an integral part of the program, and partly because it prepares us for the master’s thesis and our future work after graduation.

In addition, the teachers do their best to prepare us for life as a translator after graduation. They give us helpful pointers based on their own professional experiences and regularly send us information about interesting lectures or job offers. There was quite a fuss among them about the EU entrance exams for translators into Swedish earlier this year, and we even had a whole (optional) lecture dedicated to practical information about applying for and taking the exam. They also provide us with links to groups focused on advising and helping translators in the beginning of their professional life and give us information about translator associations such as the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (SFÖ).

I feel much more confident about my language and translation skills after these three terms. I’ve developed a much keener sense of the Swedish language as well, since the natural flow and sound of the resulting target text is such an important part of any translation. Thanks to my education and the network of friends and professionals I’ve developed during my time at Lund University, I now have a solid foundation for my future career.

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About the author: Marie Eriksson is a current student of Lund University, in her second year of the translation program. She studied English, Swedish and Japanese at Dalarna University, and graduated from there with a BA in English. She spent four months in Tokyo between graduating from DU and going on to Lund University. She is considering studying medicine to get the skills needed for medical translation, and dreams of translating fantasy novels. Website: http://www.eovers.com