ATA 2020 Election: Candidate Statements

ATA will hold its regularly scheduled election during the upcoming virtual 2020 ATA Annual Conference to elect three directors for a three-year term. In addition, members will vote on two proposed amendments to ATA’s Bylaws. The Annual Meeting of Voting Members will be held October 22, 2020.

Director | Three-Year Term
Robin Bonthrone, CT
rb@robinbonthrone.com
I’m honored to be nominated for a position on ATA’s Board of Directors. My first direct experience with ATA was in 1997, when I attended the 38th Annual Conference in San Francisco. I subsequently gave my first ATA conference presentation in St. Louis in 1999. Since then, I’ve presented 11 regular sessions and 10 preconference/Advanced Skills and Training Day seminars, as well as several sessions at ATA’s Financial Translation Conferences in 2001 and 2005. I’m also an ATA-certified German>English translator.

I’ve been training translators for most of my 31-year career as a professional German>English financial translator, not only for ATA, but also at workshops, seminars, and conferences in many European countries—mainly in Germany, where I lived for over 30 years. I trained in-house translators at the specialized translation boutique in Germany I co-owned for 20 years and taught financial translation to students in the legal translation MA program at City University, London.

This brings me to the strategy I believe must be anchored at the heart of ATA’s mission in the years to come: education, education, education.

COVID-19 has changed everything—not just our lives and our profession but also ATA. Compounding the other challenges we’re facing, including AB 5, neural machine translation, and remote interpreting technologies, the pandemic has exposed the urgent need to refocus ATA as an agile, responsive, and intelligent learning organization that challenges its members to actively embrace continuing (and continuous) professional development (PD) and supports them across all stages of their journey.

As a member of ATA’s Professional Development (PD) Committee, I drafted a PD roadmap containing several very ambitious proposals. I hope it will serve as a basis for discussion for significantly reshaping our PD activities and positioning ATA as the go-to leader in specialized/subject area training in particular. ATA’s stated position is that specialization is key to future professional success, and we now have an opportunity and a duty to help our members acquire the specialized knowledge they need to safeguard a sustainable future and remain competitive and financially secure.

In 2019, I urged ATA to step up its public opposition to AB 5 in California, and my ATA activities this year have focused on encouraging members to apply for federal funding programs, in particular the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). In addition to keeping members informed on the Business Practices listserv, I authored a guide to PPP and other federal assistance programs for ATA members and presented a webinar on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act/PPP for the New York Circle of Translators, an ATA chapter. This is tangible evidence of my efforts to provide valuable support to ATA members.

I also proudly serve as a member of ATA’s Finance and Audit Committee and Business Practices Education Committee and represent ATA as co-chair of the International Federation of Translators’ International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standards Committee, in which capacity I authored the “ISO 17100 FAQs for Freelance Translators.”

I’m asking for your vote so I can focus firmly on the future of ATA in a rapidly changing world. Working with fellow Board members in the interests of all ATA translators and interpreters, I will be a strong, principled advocate for embedding PD at the heart of ATA.

Director | Three-Year Term
Veronika Demichelis, CT

veronika@veronikademichelis.com
I’m honored to be nominated to run for ATA’s Board of Directors.
Since 2016, ATA has been my home and my community that helps me grow and inspires me. All the events that have unfolded this year have shown us that now is not the time to stand still and that we need to be creative and proactive to shape our future and the future of our profession. It would be my honor to help do that for ATA.

My Background

I’m an ATA-certified English>Russian translator based in Houston, Texas. I have an MA in linguistics and intercultural communication, an MBA in human resources management, and a certificate in translation and interpreting. I’m an adjunct professor in the Translation and Interpretation program at Houston Community College, where I teach localization and audiovisual translation and serve on the program’s advisory board.

Before starting my freelance career, I worked in the oil and gas industry for 18 years in such areas as human resources, communications, ethics and integrity, risk management, and social responsibility. This experience shaped my specialization, skills, work ethic, and values.

My Volunteer Experience

I enjoy giving back to the translation and interpreting community. I served as the professional development director for the Houston Interpreters and Translators Association (HITA) from February 2018 until June 2020, and I continue to serve HITA by creating a mentoring program for its members. I helped ATA’s Slavic Languages Division start its own podcast, which I co-hosted until November 2019. As a volunteer on ATA’s Membership Committee, I help ensure that membership in ATA is valuable and highly regarded. As chair of the Professional Development Committee, I focus on offering ATA members a variety of relevant, high-quality professional development opportunities that strengthen their skills and professional future.

My Goals

I believe that volunteering is not just about good intentions, passion about our profession, and great ideas. It’s also about being willing to put in time and effort, engaging in dialogue and understanding other people’s opinions, and working hard to strengthen our association and bring value to our members.

More importantly, I know that being a Board member is not about what I think is right, but what you as members want ATA to represent—both for you, for our profession, and for the outside world.

If elected, I will continue to live up to these values and beliefs and work tirelessly to strengthen ATA. To this effect, I would focus on:

  • Making ATA a trusted source of excellent professional development opportunities that help members improve their skills and grow their businesses.
  • Offering our members the services and resources they need.
  • Advocating on behalf of members, with their best interests at heart, and increasing awareness of translation, interpreting, and localization.
  • Helping integrate ethics and social responsibility into the processes and best practices of our profession.

I would be honored to get your vote, represent you on the Board, and use my expertise and skills for the benefit of ATA.

Director | Three-Year Term
Antonio Guerra

aeguerra@aol.com
During the past three years, I’ve been privileged to serve as an ATA director. None of us on the Board could have anticipated the demands of governance in these unprecedented times during the pandemic. However, we tackled this enormous challenge as a team. We’ve remained focused on our mission and priorities while responding to the constantly changing parameters of the crisis.

In the midst of this disruption, never has unity, clarity, collaboration, and deliberate visionary resolve been more important for the survival of our great association. The Board and ATA Headquarters consist of a brilliant, thoughtful, and committed group that continues to work tirelessly to make certain we weather this storm successfully, much stronger, and with a well-grounded path to ensure ATA’s prospects. We’ve all been deeply impacted professionally, socially, economically, and personally, both physically and mentally. As such, ATA’s role as the voice of interpreters and translators is now more important than ever.

COVID-19 has affected all ATA Board activity and committee work, from initial response time, to short-term planning, and ultimately long-term financial, structural, and organizational forecasts. The following are essential to ATA’s future:

Adaptation/Flexibility: We must accommodate the “new normal.” For example, the Board voted unanimously to hold ATA61 virtually and conduct Board meetings online.

Vision: This means facing the pandemic head-on and strategically anticipating the outlook for the industry, calculating members’ needs, and meeting the shifting professional development requirements in the depths and eventual wake of the pandemic.

Economic Solvency: The substantial financial losses for ATA as a result of the modified Annual Conference platform requires judicious and sound financial stewardship, which the Board has carefully calculated and will implement.

Advocacy: Members look to ATA to represent their interests and concerns to the general public. ATA’s Public Relations (PR) Committee, on which I serve, continues to actively promote our profession.

Information: Because this pandemic is as unpredictable as it is potentially lethal, ATA is the reliable source for accurate, relevant, and current updates that inform ATA members.

Membership: Economic hardships for some may result in a drop in our numbers. However, the value and benefit of being invested in ATA’s community is a lifeboat in perilous times.

With 20 years of experience in the industry, and as a former director of interpreting services as well as a practicing interpreter, I’ve made significant contributions to ATA’s Board. Besides serving as an ATA director, I’m proud of the results of my work on various committees, bringing fresh ideas and new initiatives as chair of the Chapters Committee and my involvement on the Mentoring and Membership Committees and PR Committee’s Speakers Bureau. Previous volunteer efforts have included two terms as assistant administrator of the Medical Division, as well as serving on the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee, Interpretation Policy Advisory Committee, and Professional Development Committee.

I’m told by colleagues that I’m an open communicator, an innovative thinker, and a diplomatic consensus-builder. I’ve based my standards and Board actions on the core values of ATA’s mission statement and a true passion for this profession. I ask for your vote and appreciate your consideration.

Director | Three-Year Term
Manako Ihaya, CT

manako@ihaya.org
One of the first things I did after immigrating to America in 1995 was finding out about the American Translators Association, requesting information (by mail, back when that was still the norm) and wondering if I had a future as a translator in my new country. I was a mother of three with a fourth on the way and totally dependent on my then-husband, having left my job in Japan as an English-language journalist. I couldn’t even afford the ATA membership fee then, but the fact that there was a huge professional association of would-be colleagues who specialized in translating their respective languages was encouraging and comforting. It took some time to build up enough experience and confidence, but in 1999 I became a member and an ATA-certified Japanese>English translator. Now, more than 20 years later, I am humbled and honored to be nominated to run for ATA’s Board of Directors.

I grew up uniquely bilingual, moving around in Japan and the United States before graduating from Tokyo’s Sophia University with a BA in English literature. I learned to make friends everywhere I went to school, a trait that became invaluable for networking later in life. While I started out mainly as a translator, now that my children are grown, I have been working primarily as an interpreter, traveling wherever my assignments take me. I also act as an agency when I have large projects requiring multiple interpreters. In addition to ATA, I became a member of the Japan Association of Translators, serving on its board of directors from 2006 to 2010 and as president for two years.

While a member of ATA, I made use of my experience as a staff editor and writer at The Japan Times Weekly to serve as the editor of the JLD Times, the newsletter of the Japanese Language Division, when it was still in print form. I have also been involved in the Certification Program, serving as a grader of the Japanese>English exam since 2008 and as language chair since 2019. I am also a member of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators and International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters.

If elected, I want to help make sure ATA remains the reassuring presence it was for me when I first contemplated becoming a translator in America. These days, that will mean more than just being a welcoming body for newcomers. With pressing issues affecting our livelihood such as the California AB 5 law that redefines and threatens independent contractors and the pandemic that has turned our world upside down, we will need ATA more than ever to advocate for our profession, offer guidance, and provide a venue where we can all work together. With your support, I hope very much to have an active role in this effort by serving as an ATA director.

Director | Three-Year Term
Elena Langdon, CT

elena@acolalang.com
It’s an honor to run again for ATA’s Board of Directors after serving on it for the past three years. When I first ran, I campaigned on three main issues: interpreting, policy, and training. I think I’ve been able to make a difference in those areas (see below).

The Guidelines for Board Members state that the main duty of the Board is to “define the Association’s policies” through “collective decisions,” and during my first term this has rung very true. Discussions at our quarterly Board meetings are lively, respectful, and often full of diverging opinions. We are able to take action on even the most controversial issues and listen to each other’s perspectives. My term has not been without surprises nor external pressure, and yet we have accomplished much in the name of our members. For this I’m proud and encouraged to serve again.

Here are some examples of what I’ve accomplished while on the Board.

Interpreting: I strengthened the voice of interpreters with my input at Board meetings and with direct actions. As the webinar chair on the Professional Development Committee, I procured five presenters who spoke directly to interpreters—roughly 40% of the webinars presented during my short stint. Beforehand, the bulk of webinars focused on translators—there were two webinars for interpreters in 2017, one in 2013, and nothing else in between. I wrote the first draft of a position paper about remote interpreting and published five articles about interpreting for our Public Relations Writers Group. I helped revise the new ATA client-facing guidelines on hiring interpreting services. I was interviewed by three media outlets about the effect of the pandemic on interpreters and the people they serve. Director Melinda Gonzalez-Hibner and I co-hosted an episode of The ATA Podcast for interpreters.

Policies and Procedures: The Board has been very active recently in terms of change and revision. I was particularly involved with opening certification to nonmembers, revising policies on elections and conflict of interest, issuing a statement on racism, and helping reduce the cost of webinars.

Training: I helped organize a legal seminar in 2019 and started a roadmap for the future of the Professional Development Committee. I recruited new committee members and co-organized a seminar for conference interpreters that was canceled because of the pandemic. I spoke at multiple professional events and networked with educators across the country.

As a child, I moved from the U.S. to Brazil and grew up between the two countries. Code switching and bicultural negotiation were constants for me. In my mid-twenties, I started translating for a living. Only when I became actively involved with professional associations, and especially with ATA 16 years ago, did I see myself as a translator and soon after as an interpreter. Along with certification and a master’s degree in the field, membership in this organization has kept me alive and kicking, continually opening up new paths and connections.

It would be an honor to continue to represent ATA members on its Board of Directors. Thank you for your consideration.

Director | Three-Year Term
Lorena Ortiz Schneider, CT, CI

lorena@ortizschneider.com
I was born in Ecuador and raised in Mexico, Spain, England, France, and California. I earned an MA in translation and conference interpreting from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in 1992.

I’m an ATA-certified Spanish>English translator (since 1996), an ATA credentialed interpreter, and a California state-certified administrative hearing interpreter. I’ve worked for the U.S. Department of State as a liaison and seminar interpreter, as a conference interpreter for private industry, and as a community interpreter in mental health and workers’ compensation settings, at Social Security hearings, and for the California Employment Development Department and the Department of Motor Vehicles. I’m also a licensed interpreter trainer and have helped over 120 curious bilinguals learn about our profession.

I served two terms as assistant administrator of ATA’s Interpreters Division and I’m currently a member of ATA’s Advocacy Committee. I also served on the board of the California Workers’ Compensation Interpreters Association effecting legislative changes that provided for improved working conditions and remuneration for California interpreters. I’m the founder and lead advocate of the Coalition of Practicing Interpreters and Translators of California, an organization that helped earn an exemption from AB 5, a California law that misclassified all translators and interpreters as employees unless proven otherwise.

While serving on the board of a Waldorf School (dedicated to nurturing the whole person through an experiential, age appropriate, and academically rigorous approach to education), I began practicing a collaborative, empathic approach to reaching consensus. I’ve brought this approach to all my other relationships in life because it’s essential for agreement on the simplest to the most divisive issues we encounter.

While I continue to interpret and translate daily, I’ve run a successful small business for 20 years. I’ve benefited from seeing things from the perspective of both a practitioner and business owner. This informs my belief that we are part of a symbiotic relationship—we need one another to thrive. This has never been more salient than it is now, when our professional independence is threatened by government regulation and venture capital-funded companies that know little about our industry.

I maintain deep relationships with colleagues in almost every association representing both translators and interpreters. As such, I’ve been able to form alliances amongst stakeholders with competing interests to achieve common goals, tap experts in specific fields, and share the knowledge I’ve acquired along the way for the benefit of all. I will bring this community-building ability to benefit ATA’s Board. I plan to bring ATA members closer together, working in concert toward the same objectives. Some of these objectives are to continue to raise the profile of what we do as professionals, promote respect among one another regardless of the chosen field of practice, increase awareness with the public and government around the work we do, and advocate for the importance of choosing professional language services.

I’m honored to have been nominated to run for a seat on ATA’s Board of Directors and hope you will vote for me in October to represent you.

Director | Three-Year Term
Robert Sette, CT

robert.sette@gmail.com
I’m pleased to accept the nomination of my colleagues as a candidate for ATA director. I’m ATA-certified from Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian into English and also work from Catalan into English. Recognizing the importance of our credential early on, I earned my Spanish and French certifications in 1989 at the start of my 30+ year career as a professional translator. I’ve lived in Denver, Colorado since 2013, and currently serve as secretary of the Colorado Translators Association, an ATA chapter.

As an ATA volunteer, I previously served on the Board of Directors and have been a frequent presenter at ATA conferences and at events hosted by the European Language Industry Association. I’ve served as a member and chair of ATA’s Nominating and Leadership Development Committee, a grader for the Spanish>English certification exam, and a mentor.

I’m a firm believer in client education. Providing tools to educate direct clients and end users of our work about best practices for contracting translators is an important part of ATA’s role. Our profession faces many challenges, including federal and state “worker reclassification” legislation, unskilled practitioners, and downward pressure on rates. To successfully address these and other challenges, ATA must focus on educating clients on the benefits and value of working with professional certified translators and interpreters.

Increasing respect for our profession is an important goal. I heartily support concrete, tangible actions that ATA leadership and members can undertake to pursue that objective. While ATA’s recent efforts in this regard have focused exclusively on decoupling the certified translator (CT) credential from membership—a step that I believe is ill-advised and could have disastrous consequences for ATA’s future—much broader work needs to be done in the form of targeted client education. Lobbying on behalf of our members’ concerns is important for ATA, as is promoting professional translation with specific organizations representing potential buyers of translation and interpreting services.

As we emerge into the post-COVID world, ATA’s educational and networking opportunities are evolving to align with our “new normal” environment. Online and virtual events will likely have to be expanded to supplement future in-person conferences and seminars. ATA is uniquely positioned to provide such offerings, and we can draw on our extensive experience with remote work in the translation and interpreting professions.

Lastly, as an ATA Board member, I will be reachable and communicative. I will dedicate the time necessary to respond to members who contact me. I will also work to ensure that information on leadership activity is clear and readily available to the membership, and I will advocate for Board meetings to be remotely accessible.

If you have any questions regarding my candidacy, please feel free to reach out to me via email or text at your convenience. I’m eager to hear about the issues important to you, my professional interpreter and translator colleagues.

In closing, I ask for your vote and look forward to the opportunity to serve ATA and its members.

________________________________________________________________________________

Proposed Amendments to the Bylaws to be Presented to the Membership for Voting in October 2020

In addition to electing Board directors, voting members will also vote on two proposed Bylaws amendments. The proposed changes appear below. Please note that material proposed to be deleted is struck through; material proposed to be added is underlined. ATA’s Bylaws may be altered, amended, or repealed by a two-thirds vote of the voting members.

Proposed Amendment to the Bylaws: Rights and Privileges

Proposed Amendment to Article III, Section 3 – Rights and Privileges

  1. Active members have the right to attend any of the Association’s membership meetings, use all of its membership facilities, and receive all of its regular publications free or at special membership rates. They also have the right to take certification examinations, to vote, to hold Association office, and to serve on the Board of Directors and all committees of the Association. They also have the privilege of free or reduced rates for use of the Association’s membership resources, including professional development events, certification examinations, and all of its regular publications.

[…]

  1. Institutional and Corporate members have all the rights and privileges of Active members except the right to vote, to hold Association office, to serve on the Board of Directors or standing committees, and or the privilege to take certification examinations. The rights and privileges shall be exercised through a person appointed by the organization holding the membership. This appointment does not confer individual membership on the designated person.

Amended clause of the Bylaws without markup:

  1. Active members have the right to attend any of the Association’s membership meetings, to vote, to hold Association office, and to serve on the Board of Directors and all committees of the Association. They also have the privilege of free or reduced rates for use of the Association’s membership resources, including professional development events, certification examinations, and all of its regular publications.

[…]

  1. Institutional and Corporate members have all the rights and privileges of Active members except the right to vote, to hold Association office, to serve on the Board of Directors or standing committees, or the privilege to take certification examinations. The rights and privileges shall be exercised through a person appointed by the organization holding the membership. This appointment does not confer individual membership on the designated person.

The ATA Board of Directors recommends approval.

Commentary
The ATA Bylaws state that the Association shall support “programs of accreditation and certification for translators and interpreters who meet specific standards of competence.” Best practices among certifying associations allow nonmembers to take certification examinations.

Allowing nonmembers to acquire certifications enhances the recognition of such certifications and eliminates potential perceptions that a certifying association may be controlling the supply of certified individuals. Allowing nonmembers to take the ATA certification exam would also raise awareness of ATA certification in the translation industry, recognize the competence of professional translators regardless of their membership status, generally increase the credibility of the translation profession, and enhance the credibility of the ATA certification examination.

The Board of Directors therefore considers it in the best interest of the Association to open the ATA certification exam to nonmembers of ATA. The wording of the current Bylaws allows differing interpretations regarding the right to take the ATA certification exam and the Board of Directors’ authority to set policy in that regard. Clarity with respect to both issues is desirable and necessary to avoid disputes and to obtain the benefits described above.

This amendment eliminates ambiguity about the right to take the certification exam, clarifying that a reduced rate for the certification exam is a privilege of membership and that the exam may be offered to nonmembers.

Proposed Amendment to the Bylaws: Multiple Candidates for Elective Office

Proposed Amendment to Article VII, Section 2 d. 2):

2) The Nominating and Leadership Development Committee shall propose multiple candidates for each elective position of the Association, including at least two (2) candidates for the position of President-elect when that position is up for election. The names of the candidates proposed, whose written acceptances must have been obtained by the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee, shall be presented to the Board of Directors for publication to the members.

Amended clause of the Bylaws without markup:

2) The Nominating and Leadership Development Committee shall propose multiple candidates for each elective position of the Association, including at least two (2) candidates for the position of President-elect when that position is up for election. The names of the candidates proposed, whose written acceptances must have been obtained by the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee, shall be presented to the Board of Directors for publication to the members.

Commentary
An uncontested slate is not in the best interests of member participation and involvement. Historically, ATA Nominating Committees regularly offered members a choice of candidates for both officer and director positions. An effective nomination process produces a balanced slate of candidates that is not only representative of the membership but also presents a plurality of candidates for critically important leadership positions. The Association is strengthened when members make meaningful choices in their votes for leadership positions. This proposed Bylaws amendment would remove reliance on the “nomination by petition” process (Article VII, Section 2 d. 4) of the ATA Bylaws) to ensure that choice. While the Elections Policy may be revised from time to time, or even from one Board meeting to the next, it is appropriate for its fundamental aspects, namely the assurance that members will have a choice when voting for officers, to be guaranteed in the Bylaws.

 The Board of Directors chose not to take a position on the above amendment, but the Board notes that, if approved, this amendment will require that at least two candidates be proposed for each officer and director position up for election each year. This means at least six candidates for three open director positions and two candidates each for secretary, treasurer, and president-elect when those positions are on the ballot. 

Be an Informed Voter
Take time to learn what these changes will mean to the operation and governance of the association before you vote. Check out the additional information below for each proposed amendment.

 

 

 

 

Member Opinions: Discussion on Two Proposed Bylaws Amendments

We received a variety of opinions, both pro and con, regarding two proposed Bylaws amendments on this year’s ballot: 1) clarifying the rights and privileges of membership, and 2) having multiple candidates for each elective position of the Association.

Decoupling: It’s the Right Thing to Do

Ted R. Wozniak, CT
ATA President
ATA-certified (German>English)
New Orleans, Louisiana

The issue of removing membership as an eligibility requirement for taking the certification exam (aka “decoupling”) has been around for at least 20 years now. ATA’s Board of Directors is proposing a Bylaws amendment that, if approved, would clarify that taking the certification exam is not an exclusive right of membership. (The proposed amendment appears in this issue.) This would allow ATA to move forward with decoupling as approved by the Board in 2013.

Arguments and statements both in favor of and against decoupling have been published in The ATA Chronicle. If you have not read them, I encourage you to do so. I won’t repeat all the arguments in favor or against here. But I will present what I personally believe to be the most pertinent reasons why decoupling membership from the certification exam is the right thing to do.

First, however, I would like to comment on the arguments made by opponents of decoupling. Opinion pieces and letters to the editor arguing against opening the exam to nonmembers were published in the January/February 20201, March/April 20202, May/June 20203, and July/August 20204 editions of The ATA Chronicle. In every instance, these concerned members presented rebuttals to the pro-decoupling arguments and made arguments for why decoupling is not a good idea. Some asked valid and pertinent questions about ATA’s Certification Program. I can even acknowledge that some of their rebuttal arguments may have some validity. But not one of these members presented a single argument or statement on why membership is a valid eligibility criterion for taking the exam.

And that’s the crux of the matter. Membership is not a valid eligibility requirement. This is why the Hamm Report5 specifically recommended that “the current membership-based requirements for eligibility should be eliminated” and why the recently commissioned opinion by Lenora Knapp, another certification specialist, stated that “requiring ATA membership is contrary to, and inconsistent with, current, accepted practice and quality standards pertaining to professional certification programs.”6

Both statements were based on principles and standards for eligibility requirements for certification programs. When applied to the certification exam, these principles require that eligibility requirements should be directly linked to the ability to translate from the source to the target language. There is no direct link between membership and the ability to translate—as Hamm stated, “paying dues…has nothing to do with one’s knowledge, skills, or ability.” These standards also require that eligibility criteria should not be used to limit the number of applicants or exclude qualified candidates. A membership requirement does just that.

Most important to my mind, however, is the fact that limiting the exam to members only is inconsistent with, if not directly contrary to, our Bylaws. The first objective stated in our Bylaws is “to promote the recognition of the translation and interpreting professions.” They go on to say that ATA shall strive to meet its objectives by “supporting programs of accreditation and certification for translators and interpreters who meet specific standards of competence” (emphasis added). They do not say that ATA should support certification programs for ATA members only. Membership in ATA is not a “standard of competence” and therefore restricting certification to members only flies in the face of our Bylaws.

Restricting the Certified Translator designation to members only is something one would expect from a protectionist-based medieval guild composed of “masters” and “journeymen,” not a modern professional association such as ATA. Based on our own Bylaws and recognized standards and principles for valid certification programs, membership should be eliminated as an eligibility requirement for the certification exam. It’s the right thing to do. I therefore urge you to vote in favor of the proposed Bylaws amendment so that ATA can follow its stated objectives and adhere to current, accepted practice and quality standards of professional certification programs.

Notes
  1. “Member Opinions: Discussion on Opening ATA’s Exam to Nonmembers,” The ATA Chronicle (January/February 2020), 12, http://bit.ly/opinions-Jan-Feb.
  2. “Member Opinions: Discussion on Opening ATA’s Exam to Nonmembers,” The ATA Chronicle (March/April 2020), 10, http://bit.ly/opinions-March-April.
  3. Letters to the Editor, The ATA Chronicle (May/June 2020), 5, http://bit.ly/letters-May-June.
  4. “Member Opinions: Discussion on Opening ATA’s Exam to Nonmembers,” The ATA Chronicle (July/August 2020), 14, http://bit.ly/opinions-July-August.
  5. ATA Accreditation Program Report (Michael Hamm & Associates, 2000), http://bit.ly/Hamm-report.
  6. Knapp, Lorena. “Certification Consultant’s Statement on the Membership Requirement for ATA Certification,” The ATA Chronicle (July/August 2020), 12, http://bit.ly/consultant-statement.

Statement in Support of Proposed Decoupling Bylaws Amendment

We, the undersigned former officers and directors of the American Translators Association, do hereby voice our support for the Bylaws amendment proposed by the Board of Directors clarifying that taking ATA’s certification exam is not an exclusive membership right and that, therefore, nonmembers may be allowed to take the certification exam in accordance with policies and procedures approved by the Board of Directors.

We urge all Active and Corresponding Members of ATA to vote FOR the proposed Bylaws amendment.

Ann Macfarlane
President/President–Elect (1997–2001)

Corinne McKay
President/President–Elect (2015–2019); Director (2012–2015)

David Rumsey
President/President–Elect (2013–2017); Director (2008–2013)

Jiri Stejskal
President/President–Elect (2005–2009); Treasurer (2001–2005)

Caitilin Walsh
President/President–Elect (2011–2015); Director (2007–2010)

Thomas West III
President/President–Elect (1999–2003); Director (1996–1999)

Rudy Heller
Secretary (2015–2016); Director (2013–2014)

Jane Maier
Secretary (2016–2017); Director (2013–2016), (1988–1994)

Alan Melby
Secretary (2003–2007); Director (1997–2003), (2007–2013)

Boris Silversteyn
Secretary (2011–2015); Director (2005–2011)

Beatriz Bonnet
Director (2000–2005)

Robert Croese
Director (2001–2004)

Evelyn Yang Garland
Director (2013–2019)

Jean Leblon
Director (2003–2006)

Odile Legeay
Director (2009–2015)

Jacki Noh
Director (2005–2008)

Frieda Ruppaner–Lind
Director (2009–2012), (2015–2018)

Faiza Sultan
Director (2012–2018)

Izumi Suzuki
Director (1997–2000)

Liliana Valenzuela
Director (2005–2008)

Madeleine Velguth
Director (2001–2002)

A Membership Association or a Worldwide Credentialing Body?

Jessica Hartstein, CT, CI
ATA-certified (Spanish>English and French>English)
Credentialed Interpreter Legal (Spanish)
Houston, Texas

Burden of Proof: The first sentence of our Bylaws describes ATA as a “membership corporation.” The onus is on ATA to make a convincing case that our membership corporation should open its exam to nonmembers. General, nice sounding statements that decoupling (i.e, opening the exam to nonmembers) will positively impact the profession and ATA have been provided without evidence, but some very real risks to the Association have also been presented.1

Are members missing out on concrete opportunities because only ATA members can take the certification exam? For most, probably not. ATA has not provided the names of any large freelance translation buyers who do not recognize ATA certification due to this. No indication has been made that coupling membership with certification has hurt our credibility among any large segment of translation buyers. We have a credible and valuable program thanks to the hard work of so many.

Members Decide on the Future of the Certification Program: Thanks to the Certification Program being established in the Bylaws as a member right, the future of the program is in your hands if you choose to vote in this year’s election.2

Bylaws Amendment Wording Is Indirect: I expected that when members were asked to vote on decoupling, the proposed Bylaws amendment would say what it means and mean what it says. I thought the Bylaws amendment would be presented as follows:

Article III, Section 3—Rights and Privileges
a. Active members have the right to attend any of the Association’s membership meetings, use all of its membership facilities, and receive all of its regular publications free or at special membership rates. They also have the right to take certification examinations, to vote, to hold Association office, and to serve on the Board of Directors and all committees of the Association.

With this wording, we would know exactly what we were voting for: opening the exam to everyone.

I was disappointed to see that the actual amendment that will be presented to members includes several other (arguably unnecessary) changes, making the intention and impact of the amendment less obvious.3 Members should not have to read between the lines of the amendment wording to know what they are voting for. Certainly, some members will only look at the wording of the amendment and carelessly miss the fact that a vote to give members the privilege to take the test “at a discounted price” will be considered by ATA as a vote in favor of opening the exam to nonmembers. This is a very indirect way of presenting this issue.

For your information, the Board takes an AGAINST vote to mean “I do not want to open the exam to nonmembers.”

Opening the Exam Does Not Directly Help Most Members: I have yet to see ATA provide a clear, logical, and specific example of how the average member who supports themselves with translation and interpreting work will directly benefit from opening the exam to nonmembers. I would like to share some things that otherwise happy members who have not been participating in these public discussions have told me: “What would be the point of ATA, then?” “I’ll be the first to leave if they do this!” “This will not help my business.” These members don’t see tangible benefits for the Association or their own businesses. If the fact that members expect ATA to prioritize the professional lives and Association benefits of paying members seems outlandish or in conflict with our purpose, perhaps we need to rethink our purpose. Are we fundamentally a credentialing entity or a membership association?

I recently saw longtime ATA Spanish Division members with decades of translation experience discuss leaving the industry because they are unable to support themselves. I wish we were having this passionate of a debate about what we, as an association, can do directly to change this. We have limited resources and opening an exam to nonmembers does not seem like the most direct route to positive change.

I want to recognize that ATA has presented the first concrete example of one subgroup of ATA members who would directly benefit from decoupling: active members of the armed services. Their employer, the Department of Defense, would pay for their exam if we decoupled.4 ATA’s Government Linguist Taskforce has been hard at work recruiting active members of the armed services and ATA has recently offered military personnel 50% off their first two years of membership.5

Experts Weigh In: ATA’s Certification Program Needs Eligibility Criteria for the Sake of Credibility: Lenora Knapp, a credentialing expert, wrote in the July/August issue of The ATA Chronicle that eligibility requirements should not “be such that unqualified individuals can earn the credential simply by passing the exam.”6 With no educational or experience requirement to take the exam, ATA is not currently able to prevent non-translators from taking it. Thus, it is not ensuring that its exam candidates are “translators and interpreters who meet specific standards of competence,” as stated in ATA’s Bylaws.

In my opinion piece in the January/February issue of The ATA Chronicle regarding opening the exam to nonmembers, I reported that Michael Hamm (a credentialing expert engaged by ATA 20 years ago) also made the case that educational/experience eligibility requirements were essential to credibility.7 If this exam is aimed at mid-career professional translators, candidates would be able to meet certain educational/experience requirements. Why don’t we bring these requirements back?

Law school graduates are expected to provide proof of eligibility for the Texas Bar exam. We clearly want to protect the credibility and integrity of our credential just as other organizations do. Eligibility criteria (and preventing people from fraudulently misrepresenting our credential) should not be considered administrative burdens because they have a bigger impact on our credibility than decoupling.

I love best practices, but the argument that coupling membership is not a best practice loses strength when there are other very significant credentialing best practices that we are ignoring. Please read my opinion piece in the January/February issue to learn more about this and the unknowns of opening the exam.

Antitrust Is Not Applicable: Doctors are required by law to have a medical license; ATA-certification is optional. There are 350 languages spoken across the U.S.8 We offer certification in about 20 languages. The vast majority of translators earn their income without ATA certification, so there is really no concern that ATA is preventing anyone from working.

Conclusion: I’m so thankful to ATA’s Certification Program for its hard work in creating a well-respected credential. ATA has not shown that this amendment will directly help most members, so I hope you’ll vote “AGAINST.”

Notes
  1. Hartstein, Jessica. “Opening theExam: Too Many Unknowns,” The ATA Chronicle (January/February 2020), 14, http://bit.ly/Hartstein. Also see “Opening the ATA Certification Exam to Nonmembers,” ATA Webinar Series (October 1, 2019), http://bit.ly/webinar-decoupling.
  2. ATA’s Bylaws can be found here: www.atanet.org/docs/p_bylaws.pdf.
  3. “Proposed Amendment to the Bylaws to be Presented to the Membership for Voting in October 2020,” www.atanet.org/bylaws_change.php.
  4. Episode 45 of The ATA Podcast (July 15, 2020), http://bit.ly/ATA-episode45.
  5. Bacak, Walter. “Board Meeting Highlights,” The ATA Chronicle (May/June 2020), 7, http://bit.ly/board-highlights.
  6. Knapp, Lorena. “Certification Consultant’s Statement on the Membership Requirement for ATA Certification,” The ATA Chronicle (July/August 2020), 12, http://bit.ly/consultant-statement.
  7. Hartstein, Jessica. “Opening the Exam: Too Many Unknowns,” The ATA Chronicle (January/February 2020), 14, http://bit.ly/Hartstein; Also see: ATA Accreditation Program Report (Michael Hamm & Associates, 2000), http://bit.ly/Hamm-report.
  8. Hickey, Sarah. “The Catch-22 with Certifications,” Nimdzi Insights, http://bit.ly/catch-22-certification.

Multiple Candidates Bylaws Amendment: Support Competitive ATA Elections

Patricia C. de Ribes, CT
ATA-certified (French>English)
San Marcos, Texas

In every ATA election, voting members have several important decisions to make. In addition to voting for three director positions in 2020, we will vote on two Bylaws amendments.

The first Bylaws amendment is a Board initiative to decouple ATA certification from membership and open the certification exam to nonmembers. An “Against” vote on this amendment will ensure that our certified translator credential remains tied to ATA membership and will preserve the member right to take certification exams.

The second proposed amendment, the Multiple Candidates Bylaws Amendment, is the result of a member-initiated petition. A “For” vote on this amendment will require the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee (NLDC) to propose at least two candidates for each ATA officer position: president-elect, secretary, and treasurer. This Bylaws amendment would ensure that elections are competitive.

The Nominating and Leadership Development Committee

The NLDC has proposed more than one candidate for an officer position on just three occasions since 2005. Although the Bylaws do provide for candidacy by petition, this should not be the sole means for providing a choice of candidates. While election by acclamation is the policy at the ATA division level, elections for officers should make it possible for members to vote in competitive elections to elect those who will best represent ATA and its members.

The NLDC chair and committee members are appointed by the Board. Since 2005, in the absence of competitive elections, the five members of the NLDC, rather than the majority of ATA voters, have been effectively selecting ATA’s officers and setting the course for the Association. When a secretary and treasurer are elected, they will serve for the next two years. Once elected, the president-elect serves two years in that position, followed by two years as president.

Elections Policy

ATA’s Board Elections Policy was revised in August 2019 to read: “It [the NLDC] shall propose at least two candidates for each officer position (president-elect, secretary, and treasurer) and at least two candidates for each director position.”
This short-lived version of the Elections Policy was superseded in October 2019 by one that characterized multiple candidates for each position as merely an option rather than a requirement: “It [the NLDC] shall propose preferably two candidates for each officer position (president-elect, secretary, and treasurer) and at least two candidates for each director position.”

In August 2020, the Board approved yet another revised Elections Policy. According to this version: “It [the NLDC] shall propose at least one candidate for each officer position (president-elect, secretary, and treasurer) and at least one candidate for each director position.”

Conclusion

ATA’s Board has modified the Elections Policy three times in the space of just one year. This clearly demonstrates the importance of setting out explicit election standards in the Bylaws to govern the development of a coherent Elections Policy. ATA’s Bylaws, which supersede any policies or guidelines, provide structure and direction for the conduct of Association business and guide the development of policies that must be harmonized with the Bylaws.

Having multiple candidates stand for elective office will keep ATA strong and relevant. It will incentivize future leaders to listen to the membership and pay attention to their opinions, concerns, and needs. When members know that the election process is democratic and competitive, we are more likely to be involved and participate in our Association.

ATA members deserve a democratic election process and competitive elections. The best way to ensure these will be in place for future ATA elections of officers and directors is to vote “For” on the Multiple Candidate Bylaws Amendment.

Opposing Resolution to Mandate Multiple Candidates

Dorothee Racette
President/President-Elect (2009–2013); Nominating and Leadership Development Committee Chair (2013–2017)

David Rumsey
President/President-Elect (2013–2017); Nominating and Leadership Development Committee Chair (2017–)

Jiri Stejskal
President/President-Elect (2005–2009); Nominating and Leadership Development Committee Chair (2011–2013)

Tuomas Kostiainen
Nominating and Leadership Development Committee Chair (2007–2011)

While we applaud the initiative of the members who have proposed a resolution to mandate multiple candidates for all positions on ATA’s Board of Directors, including officers (treasurer, secretary, and president-elect), we are concerned—as former chairs of the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee and some ATA past presidents—that the potential harm and practical challenges involved with such a permanent change may far outweigh any theoretical benefits. We are not opposed to multiple candidates competing for officer positions, but requiring the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee to put forward multiple candidates is not considered good practice for good reason.

The current Nominating and Leadership Development Committee includes members from the leadership of divisions, certification, chapters, interpreting, etc., representing a broad spectrum of the Association. The committee is also unique in that it is subject to a rigorous schedule from the time it is appointed each year until it must put forward a slate of candidates for the Board.

ATA nominates multiple candidates for directors every year, but while nominating multiple candidates for officer positions is also encouraged, it is not mandated. Mandating multiple candidates for all positions poses a number of particular challenges. The first challenge is a matter of numbers. In an ideal world, the treasurer, secretary, and president-elect will have had some Board experience, so that they are familiar with the current issues facing the Board. ATA’s Board of Directors consists of 12 members plus the president. If all three officer positions require at least two candidates, the committee would have to identify six appropriate candidates—half of the Board—who are willing and able to take on these additional responsibilities. In any given year, there may be Board members who are unable to run due to term limits or Board members who just started on the Board, which reduces the potential number of candidates for officers further.

Besides Board experience, the committee also employs a list of demanding qualifications for officers, who must demonstrate the right skills and be able to dedicate substantial time to their respective leadership role for a term of at least two years, or even four years in the case of the president-elect. While it is possible for the committee to seek candidates who do not have any Board experience, finding eligible outside candidates who have the necessary experience, abilities, and knowledge to step into high-profile officer positions involving significant amounts of volunteer time is very rare.

As a result, the proposed resolution mandating multiple candidates forces the committee to potentially nominate candidates without Board experience, persons who may not have the time or skills to take on additional responsibilities, or who may simply accept the nomination with the intention to lose, which does not serve the membership or the Board member in question.

Moreover, our experience as committee chairs has shown that losing candidates are less likely to run again or increase their involvement in the Association’s affairs. Putting yourself in the spotlight of an election can be a harrowing experience that is quite different than the experience of actually governing. As a result, talented candidates with excellent administrative skills may be scared off from repeating the experience. This does not serve the Association’s interest in developing stable and competent leadership.

Ironically, the proposed resolution puts more power in the hands of the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee vis-à-vis the membership. ATA’s Bylaws include a petition process that allows a member to be added to the slate by collecting the signatures of 60 voting members. In the case of the officer positions, if the committee is forced to put forward two or more candidates for each position, this significantly dilutes the chance of a petitioning candidate from achieving a clear majority of the votes cast. A three-way race can easily result in a so-called “false majority,” which can undermine confidence and trust in the system and the officers in question.

Although the committee tries to focus on the candidate’s skills rather than their stance on any particular issue, a more politically-minded committee in the future could also rig the slate with their preferred candidate and another candidate who has agreed to lose in order for the committee to achieve its aims. This is one of the reasons why the leading parliamentary authority, Robert’s Rules of Order, does not recommend mandating multiple candidates.1

Lastly, the resolution has no enforcement procedure. If the committee is unable to find a second candidate for a given position, what then? Is the ballot not valid? Is there no election until another candidate steps forward? Does it put legal liability on the committee members? These are additional challenges that need to be considered when applying such a permanent change through the Bylaws.

ATA operates as a nonprofit organization and not as a public utility, governmental office, or labor union. It is subject to different laws and customs. Within the world of association governance, using single officer candidates is considered best practice, although opinions and arrangements can vary widely among different associations.2

Nevertheless, ATA still maintains a flexible approach of encouraging the nomination of multiple directors and officers, as well as a petition option to ensure that any member has a path to the Board. This allows the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee to identify and put forward the best possible candidates with the right skills, experience, and energy to ensure that the Association runs smoothly and efficiently in the face of financial, technological, and legislative changes in the translation and interpreting world.

The committee is very aware of the membership’s desire for multiple candidates and will certainly make every effort to propose appropriate multiple candidates, even for officers. The committee is not opposed to having multiple candidates on the slate, and has done so in the past, but it is simply not always possible to achieve. Mandating a relatively permanent requirement through the Bylaws in the interest of having “multiple viewpoints”—which is not necessarily guaranteed or something that the committee considers—creates far more potential problems than it does solutions.

While the proposed resolution may be well intentioned in the present, it is not considered best practice and may prove to be detrimental to the good governance of the Association in the future. We strongly recommend voting against the resolution mandating multiple candidates for officer positions and staying with the existing elections policy, which has served ATA well over the years.

Notes
  1. Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised (11th edition, page 433, lines 22–28): “Although it is not common for the nominating committee to nominate more than one candidate for any office, the nominating committee can do so unless the bylaws prohibit it. It is usually not sound to require the committee to nominate more than one candidate for each office, since the committee can easily circumvent such a provision by nominating only one person who has any chance of being elected.”
  2. “Building Better Association Boards Advancing Performance through Nomination, Recruitment, and Selection Processes.” (American Society of Association Executives, page 6): “Officer elections holding noncompetitive elections for officers is considered a leading practice. Having either the nominating committee or the board do the vetting reduces the likelihood that unselected members in competitive elections become disengaged, and also results in a competency-based system. In noncompetitive elections, the leadership slates officers based on alignment of competencies with desired strategic needs. Officer positions are filled by someone who has recently sat on the board, commonly current board members.” See: http://bit.ly/ASAE-boards.

An Introduction to Translation in Market(ing) Research

Market(ing) research is an integral part of every business venture and its results impact our everyday lives. This very diverse sector offers plenty of interesting opportunities for translators.

Whether we’re aware of it or not, the results of market(ing) research are all around us. The products we use, commercials we watch, and logos we see—all of these and much more have been analyzed and tested with market research to measure their effectiveness before the companies behind them make major decisions or large investments in product development and advertising.

This can be a very exciting sector for translators with plenty of interesting job opportunities. Because the material is so diverse, within the span of a week you may be translating about moisturizer, pizza, dried fruit, the off-label prescription practices of physicians, and opinions about fracking (i.e., hydraulic fracturing, which is the process of drilling into the ground before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside).

Before jumping in, however, it’s vital to have a thorough understanding of what markets, marketing, market research, and market(ing) research are. I’m using (ing) here when discussing market(ing) research to emphasize that there’s a great deal of overlap between it and market research. It’s almost impossible to create separate and accurate descriptions of these concepts because even various experts use them interchangeably. So, let’s break down the terminology.

Market: This can be a physical or virtual place to buy or sell something. It’s also an identified category of buyers or potential buyers, like the snack foods market or the market for arthritis medication.

Marketing: Describes the activities and processes that promote products or services, including communication, advertising, and distribution.

Market Research: The process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting information about a market, product, or service, the customers it targets, and the place where customers obtain it.

Market(ing) Research: The collection of data related to marketing, which is then analyzed and interpreted before use in marketing decision-making. It generally incorporates market research and product and consumer research.

What kind of data is collected in market(ing) research? So, let’s say a major U.S. potato chip manufacturer decides to see if the market in another country is viable for them. The initial step would be finding someone to collect and analyze information on the following in that country:

  • The snack foods market in general, along with the potato chip market;
  • Potato chip buyers and consumers;
  • Pricing structures;
  • Competitors already on the market; and
  • Specific potato chip flavor preferences, including any that are unique to the target country.

Why Is Market(ing) Research Necessary?

A business cannot be successful without obtaining accurate and comprehensive information before making major financial investments. Every aspect of the products you use (e.g., packaging, color scheme, varieties, size, price, taste, etc.), every ad you see, and every slogan you read may (or should) have undergone market(ing) research.

Today’s business environment is a volatile one, resulting in a new generation of companies that are unique and innovative (e.g., Uber). There are many reasons businesses fail but a large number of them can be avoided by implementing market(ing) research, including ascertaining whether there is an actual need for a product and addressing such issues as competition, bad or insufficient marketing, not reacting to customers’ needs or changes in the industry, and overexpansion.

The Two Types oF Market(ing) Research

Market(ing) research can be broken down into two basic types: primary and secondary research. Primary research is information gathered through surveys, interviews, and other direct contact with people in the target group. Secondary research, also called desk research, is information gathered from sources that have already been published, such as company reports, trade association materials, and articles in industry journals. Market research reports are also available for purchase from companies specializing in this area. For example, if a German dog food company wants to move into the U.S. market, a first step might be to purchase a report on the industry before investing in more expensive customized research. This is where a translator could be involved if the company wants the purchased report translated into German.

There’s a large variety of work for translators in the primary research sector, so that’s what I’ll focus on here.

Primary Research Stages and What They Mean for Translators

Purpose: Before anything can happen, the research objective must be defined. For example, is there a new concept or product? Is the existing product being changed (e.g., new logo, new positioning, or new package)? Does the product placement at the point of sale need to be determined or changed? Does brand recall need to be improved? Do people remember the advertising?

Let’s say a manufacturer of dip mixes and chips decides to change their existing products by successively removing certain additives. This means that the new recipes need to be tested to see if current users like the resulting products as much as the old ones. The testing could also examine how the new products fare against the competition, whether the positioning of the products has changed, and whether new marketing opportunities emerge.

For translators, this step could involve translating a proposal. The client may also request rough cost estimates for different parts of the study to help the end client make budget decisions.

Instruments and Approach: The next stage is deciding on the research instruments and planning the research approach. There are two major kinds of primary research: qualitative and quantitative.

  • Qualitative research provides an initial understanding (e.g., how people respond to a new, innovative concept) and requires subjective interpretation. Methods used here include focus groups, online journals, and in-depth interviews.
  • Quantitative research is typically conclusive and intended for recommending courses of action such as a product launch. Computer-assisted telephone/personal interviews, mobile apps, and questionnaires with primarily closed questions are examples of quantitative methods. The results of qualitative research are often followed by quantitative research analysis.

Several qualitative or quantitative methods may be used jointly, and many institutes/agencies develop and use proprietary methods, apps, panels, and more for this purpose. The research study may be ad hoc (one-off) or a tracking study (continuous/repeated at certain intervals). During this step, possible tools are selected and developed (such as the interview guide, focus group guide, screener, and questionnaire). In addition, the research sample and possible quotas are defined. For example, who will be surveyed—users, non-users, the general population, men, women, or households with children?

This stage could involve a lot of potential work for translators, the nature of which will vary depending on the research approach used. Translations of various questionnaires, focus group guides, concepts, storyboards, or ancillary documents such as confidentiality agreements, data privacy and protection documents may be needed.

Fieldwork: Once the research approach is determined and the instruments are ready, it’s time for the fieldwork stage. This is when the data is collected, which means there might not be a need for much translation at this point. Changes to the questionnaire may be needed quickly if, for example, the target group proves difficult to find. Verbatims (answers to open-ended questions) and transcripts may need to be translated successively during this stage. Interpreting may also be needed during this stage if focus groups or interviews are observed by clients who don’t speak the language of the country being studied.

Analysis and Reporting: After the fieldwork has concluded, the results are analyzed using all the input collected. In qualitative research, for example, this can include verbatims, interview transcripts, or focus group recordings. In quantitative research, it usually includes the tabular results of data collected from the closed questions in questionnaires, where respondents choose from possible responses. (For example, when testing a dried fruit snack, there may be a question regarding the softness of the product using something called a Likert scale: Was it much too soft, somewhat too soft, just right, somewhat too hard, much too hard?)

Responses to open-ended questions in quantitative research are sometimes categorized into what are called code frames. For example, if the subject of the research is pizza, there may be an open-ended question asking if there was anything the respondent particularly liked about the pizza (Likes), followed by one asking if there was anything the respondent didn’t like (Dislikes). The results will likely include a large number of responses about the crust being crispy or chewy, too hard or soft, the tomato sauce being properly seasoned or bland, and the pizza having too much/too little sauce, not enough cheese or toppings, and so on. These answers are combined and categorized into what is called a code frame, which shows the number of times each item was mentioned.

After analysis, the results are prepared for the end client as a presentation or report, sometimes preceded by preliminary results or one-page summaries. For the translator, this stage means possible translation of the code frame, preliminary results, one-page summary, presentation/report, and the most important part of the study, the overall summary and recommendations.

Taking Action: In the final stage, the market research institute provides the results, including the summary and recommendations, to the end client, who now uses this information to take action, potentially collaborating with the institute for future research. This may entail further research on the same issue (e.g., if the previous research was qualitative, it may now be time for a quantitative survey). The research also might have to be repeated after reworking the recipe, package, slogan wording, or ad. At this point, it’s important for translators who have been working with the market research institute or end client to signal their availability for future projects and to be prepared to provide cost estimates.

Market(ing) Research Industry Structure

According to a 2019 global market research report by the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR), the global industry for research and insights was valued at $80 billion in 2018.1

There are basically four types of market(ing) research providers: major international firms like AC Nielsen or Kantar, national institutes in each country, small institutes sometimes called boutique institutes, and freelancers.

Major companies generally have their own internal market research departments, which tend to use a number of different institutes. The rate of employee turnover at institutes is often high, but, at least in my experience, satisfied clients who switch jobs tend to take their translators along.

Working in the market(ing) research industry gives you plenty of opportunities to expand your own network, as there is a lot of crossover with, for example, advertising agencies, creatives, public relations, transcribers, and graphic designers.

There are also a large number of market(ing) research associations. The largest and most significant global one is ESOMAR, a membership organization for market, social, and opinion researchers founded in 1947. The majority of reputable research institutes are also ESOMAR members. Most countries have their own associations, such as the Insights Association in the U.S. (formed by the merger of the Marketing Research Association and the Council of American Survey Research Organizations) and the U.K.’s Market Research Society. Germany has the Berufsverband Deutscher Markt- und Sozialforscher e.V., Japan has the Japan Marketing Research Association, and Austria has the Verband der Marktforscher Österreichs, to name just a few. These associations are a good source when it comes to finding out what market(ing) research institutes are in your country.

What Do You Need to Be a Good Market(ing) Research Translator?

We’ve come to know the saying “A jack of all trades is a master of none” as having a negative implication. The complete and original saying, though, was actually “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” Its intention was praise, meaning that a person is a generalist, versatile, and skilled at many things. This best sums up translation in this industry, because although market(ing) research has its own terminology, the research topics vary immensely. The list is endless, from eyewear to yogurt packaging to new Alzheimer drugs, which makes excellent research skills, a broad knowledge base, flexible thinking, and an interest in continuous learning a must.

Can Market(ing) Research Translators Be Replaced by Machine Translation?

In my opinion, translation in this sector will most likely not be taken over by machine translation in the near future for a few reasons. The first is due to data protection and privacy—confidentiality plays a major role here. In addition, texts in this field often require sensitivity, creativity, and context-specific knowledge. Translators also frequently deal with text fragments from face-to-face interviews or focus group transcripts, where a respondent may stop halfway through the sentence, necessitating (human) common sense, intuition, and extrapolation.

More Information

If you would like to find out more about market and market(ing) research, you can visit www.marketresearch.com and www.mymarketresearchmethods.com. The Marketing Research Kit for Dummies, by Michael R. Hyman and Jeremy J. Sierra, is also a very helpful book for finding out about market research.2 Some associations also have a newsletter you can subscribe to.

To learn the English terminology used in this field, you can refer to the glossary of market research terms compiled by Modern Marketing Partners3 or the market research glossary compiled by SIS International Research4, or download ESOMAR’s master marketing research glossary.5 Websites with information about market research exist in many languages, so use those research skills to find them!

Notes
  1. See http://bit.ly/ESOMAR-research.
  2. Hyman, Michael R., and Jeremy J. Sierra. Marketing Research Kit for Dummies (For Dummies, 2010), https://amzn.to/3gxioM1.
  3. Glossary of Market Research Terms (Modern Marketing Partners), https://bit.ly/market-terms-glossary.
  4. SIS International Research, http://bit.ly/SIS-market-research.
  5. ESOMAR’s master marketing research glossary can be downloaded as a pdf at http://bit.ly/ESOMAR-master-glossary.

Robin Limmeroth is a full-time freelance German>English translator, transcreator, and proofreader with 24 years of translation experience in the marketing research sector. Based in Mainz, Germany, she works for a number of market and marketing research institutes, advertising agencies, universities, and direct clients. Contact: robin@robin-limmeroth.com.

5 Strategies to Improve Your Online Presence during and after COVID-19

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that a solid online presence is more important than ever, especially for translators and interpreters.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our online presence is more important than ever. Not only has just about everything moved to a remote setting during this crisis, but the “new normal” has also served as a bit of a forced reminder for most people that they can search for just about anything they need online. In addition, due to the stay-at-home orders that were issued around the world earlier this year, businesses have quickly pivoted their offerings to accommodate their clients online.

So, how has the pandemic made having a solid online presence even more important for translators and interpreters?

First, we have to remember the fact that most of us work with clients from various places, even interpreters who tend to work in their own cities or regions. Our clients can hire us from anywhere, and most of us, especially translators, can work from anywhere. That means that the easiest way for clients to find us is online.

While I would never say that in-person events are not valuable, the pandemic has shown us that travel plans, conferences, trade shows, and gatherings of any kind can go out the window very quickly. We can’t control this. But what we can control is how we show up online: our online presence, the platforms we use, the content we create and share, and the ability to reach our clients wherever they are.

You own your online presence, especially your website. Events and networking opportunities may get canceled, but no one can take your online presence from you, pandemic or not. There are potential clients out there right now searching online for services like yours, with more to follow in the coming months as businesses begin to ramp up activity. You need to be ready for them with a website that will capture their interest and showcase your work to the best advantage. How? Here are five strategies you can use to help achieve this goal.

1. Decide what you want to be known for when it comes to your professional work. Consider other translators you know who specialize in certain areas and/or languages. When you hear about jobs that fit their expertise, you immediately think of them, right? That’s what you want your colleagues and clients to do as well when it comes to your own professional work.

For example, what do you want to be known for when it comes to:

  • Your specialization(s);
  • Your language pair(s);
  • Your work style and ethic;
  • Your expertise related to the translation or interpreting assignments you take on; and
  • The value you provide to those you serve?

Once these points are clear in your mind, think about how you can share them with your clients and colleagues so that you become known for and associated with them. Yes, this is related to marketing. But you can become known for certain characteristics or fields of expertise by showing up as someone with a professional identity that reflects those characteristics or fields.

Here are a few ideas on how to market yourself as an expert translator or interpreter:

  • Speak about topics in your field of expertise. (Even though in-person events are not happening at the moment, there are plenty of opportunities to share your knowledge via online professional development events.)
  • Attend lectures, workshops, conferences, trade shows, and other events that are being offered virtually.
  • Write articles or share news about issues in your field.
  • Volunteer for professional associations in your specialization(s) or special interest groups within a larger translator/interpreter association that fit your specialization(s). (Think ATA divisions!)
  • Connect online with other colleagues in your specialization(s) and language pair(s) who you can network with and share ideas on a regular basis.

While I know it’s not always easy to talk about yourself, you have to consider that if you don’t tell people what you do, how will they know?

You need to talk to people and engage with them. These are the best ways to become known for the professional work you do.

2. Choose the most strategic places to showcase your professional work for your ideal clients. Hands down, the number one place to showcase your work is through your website. You must build your online home—your website—first and the roads leading to it—social media, search engine optimization strategy, etc.—second. Once you have a website in place that you’re sure speaks to your ideal clients in a way that appeals to them and specifically portrays the type of work you want to do in the long term, you can work on other areas of your online presence to complement it.

So, what are those roads leading to your online home? Here are a few paths I would recommend you start paving first:

  • Your LinkedIn profile;
  • Professional directory profile listings; and
  • Social media accounts on platforms where your clients are hanging out and actively engaging on a regular basis.

First, let’s start with LinkedIn. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked tools professional translators and interpreters can use to their advantage. In fact, after your website, I would say it’s the most important piece of your online presence to get right. Why? Because LinkedIn is a massive search engine used by professionals to find other professionals. Professionals are on LinkedIn to do business.1

Second, your professional association directory listings should feature information similar to what one would find on your LinkedIn profile and website. Now, before you think this is overkill, hear me out. When customers need a translator or interpreter and don’t know where to look, they turn to professional associations. If your profile is up to date, clear and concise, contains your contact information (and please link it to your website!), and stands out from others in your language pair(s) and area(s) of specialization, clients will be more inclined to reach out to you instead of someone else whose profile is not as comprehensive.

Finally, we come to social media. I don’t push social media a whole lot when it comes to marketing your professional translation and interpreting services. This is because most clients are more inclined to look at the other three pillars of your online presence first: website, LinkedIn profile, and professional directory profile listing. That said, if you know your clients are hanging out on Instagram or Facebook, then by all means be active there! Here are two examples:

  • A translator who regularly works on marketing texts for fashion and cosmetics is more likely to find their clients on Instagram than other social media platforms.
  • However, a translator whose bread and butter lies in translating genealogical records and related documents is more likely to find their ideal clients on Facebook. Why? The fastest growing demographic on Facebook tends to be users age 65 and older.2 So, it makes sense to invest in some Facebook ads to target a group like this if you’re already active on Facebook with a company page for your professional services.

And of course, there are those of us who work in fields where our ideal clients are simply not looking for professionals on the mainstream social media platforms. That’s okay. We have our websites, LinkedIn, and professional association directory profiles where they can find us.

3. Determine how much time you have to work on the various platforms where you will have an online presence. It’s easy to get excited about improving your online presence, but it can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t have a plan. Ask yourself these questions.

  • How much time can you realistically devote to making improvements?
  • What can you do to make the time you spend more efficient?
  • What actions can you take to see the biggest return over time?

Look at your weekly schedule and figure out a time when you can fit in an hour or so to work on your online presence, whether it’s making updates to your website, searching for articles clients might find useful that you can share throughout the following week, or engaging with colleagues and clients on social media platforms.

4. Clarify how you will engage with others online. Part of honing your online presence is determining how you’ll engage with others online, including clients and colleagues. While clients and colleagues are two different audiences, both are essential to growing your career. That said, they are different so the way you engage with them online should be authentic and effective. Here are some questions to help you brainstorm how to do this:

  • What can you share with clients to help them in their daily work?
  • What can you share with colleagues that will help them but still reflect your professional expertise?
  • What are the best places to engage with these groups online?
  • How can you support clients and colleagues and their goals when you engage with them?
  • What do you want clients and colleagues to remember about their experiences engaging with you online?

A few colleagues have told me that they don’t believe you should connect with other colleagues on social networks like LinkedIn, but I could not disagree more. By engaging professionally and in a supportive way, your colleagues can be the source of some of your greatest “helping hands,” referring you for new projects, new clients, and other opportunities.

However, it’s important to know where to delineate what you share with clients and what you share with colleagues and the purpose behind both. For example, if you write a blog aimed at colleagues, don’t put it on the same website where you would direct clients. Blogging for colleagues on a client-facing website can cause confusion for clients. After all, the goal of a client-facing website is to appeal to your clients, not your colleagues.

5. Choose one to three platforms and commit to them. While it would be nice to show up everywhere online for your clients, it’s also true that we’re busy professionals who are pulled in many directions. By choosing one to three platforms and devoting time and effort to them, you have a much better chance of reaching your ideal clients in a noisy online world. These platforms (one of which should be your website!) should all be client-facing. Once you determine which platforms are the most strategic places for you to show up for clients online, then you can also devote time and effort to engage with colleagues. While it’s good to be in touch with colleagues and nice to interact with them online, they are not usually the ones who pay your invoices. So, be mindful of how much time you spend engaging with colleagues versus clients.

Start Small and Build on Your Foundation

Take these strategies and implement them in small steps. This will ensure you have a better chance of following through on your plan and creating a sustainable online presence you can continue to refine over time.

  • Start with your website (your online home) and work on the other pieces (the roads leading to it) next.
  • Your online presence is something to continuously refine. It’s not a one-and-done project or effort.
  • Your website will continue to need updates to fit your ideal clients (who may evolve over time). Your LinkedIn profile should reflect the same changes you make to your résumé or the “About” page of your website. Likewise, your professional association directory profile should be a reflection of your website and your résumé.

To summarize, a solid online presence is a cohesive image of your expertise and a clear message of what it’s like to work with you. Continue to experiment with your online presence and make updates as your business and client base evolve.

It’s more important than ever to make sure you have a strong online presence, and that’s not going to change anytime soon! How do you plan to improve your presence? What’s already working for you and what would you like to tackle this year?

Notes
  1. If you need a little LinkedIn jumpstart, check out my article, “Four Things You Didn’t Know LinkedIn Could Do for Your Business,” http://bit.ly/LinkedIn-strategies.
  2. Aboulhosn, Sarah. “8 Facebook Statistics Every Marketer Should Know in 2020,” http://bit.ly/Facebook-stats.

Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, CT is ATA president-elect and chairs the Membership Committee and Governance and Communications Committee. She is the owner of Accessible Translation Solutions and a Spanish>English and Portuguese>English translator. She served as chair of ATA’s Public Relations Committee (2014–2018) and administrator of ATA’s Medical Division (2011–2015). She has a BA in Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi and an MA in Spanish from the University of Louisville. She is also a consultant for the University of Louisville Graduate Certificate in Translation. You can read more of her articles on her blog at www.madalenazampaulo.com/blog. Contact: madalena@accessibletranslations.com.

ATA Statement on Racism and Inequality

To our members:

The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor and the subsequent public expressions of solidarity and support for Black Americans and other marginalized members of society have resulted in a time of reflection for many of us.

As a professional association that brings together over 9,000 language experts of diverse backgrounds, many of whom work directly with underprivileged people, the American Translators Association stands in solidarity with our members and colleagues who are Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color (BIPOC), as well as those in the communities they serve.

ATA strongly opposes all forms of discrimination, acts of violence, and expressions of racial hatred. We welcome and support our members and colleagues from all walks of life. As such, and as a first step in lending our collective voice of support to fight racism and inequality, the ATA Board will examine how we can best support our BIPOC members and colleagues and broaden the dialogue with underrepresented groups in our Association.

We stand with you.

June 8, 2020

July to December 2019 + Budget

ATA has done well over the past five to six years and been able to save and invest money for a rainy day. That rainy day is now here, and we’ll need to proceed cautiously to make sure that we keep the Association on solid footing.

This treasurer’s report is a departure from the norm. We’ll still review ATA’s finances for the first six months of the current fiscal year, but we’ll also look at how our financial situation might be impacted moving forward in light of the extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The good news is that ATA is starting from a strong position. We’ve done well over the past five to six years and been able to save and invest money for a rainy day. That rainy day is now here, and we’ll need to proceed cautiously to make sure that we keep the Association on solid footing.

We know from recent years that, given our current structure, as goes the Annual Conference, so goes the Association’s finances. When we have a successful event, the Association does well overall. When a conference breaks even or reports a loss, our bottom line takes a hit.

As such, ATA61 in Boston is front and center on everyone’s mind. There’s no easy solution here. We’ve had to consider all options, including the possibility of not having an in-person event. But every alternative comes with costs, some of which are easier to stomach than others. As things stand right now, the most palatable option appears to be a virtual event. I discuss the rationale and some of the potential costs/benefits in the Annual Conference section near the end of this report.

For now, though, let’s turn to our traditional review of where the Association stood prior to these impacts.

Revenue and Expenses

From July 1 to December 31, 2019, ATA brought in $1.99 million in Total Revenue, while incurring $1.76 million in Total Expenses. The upshot was a positive Change in Net Assets (before investment activities) of $231,050 during this period. (See Figure 1 below.)

For comparison’s sake, during this same time frame in 2018, our total revenue was a nearly identical $1.99 million, but the change in net assets only totaled $190,577, mostly because of higher costs incurred in the Certification Program as people rushed to take the exam before the price went up.

Figure 1: Breakdown of Total Revenue (July 1-December 31, 2019)

Our biggest source of revenue for the first six months of the current fiscal year (2019-2020) was ATA Membership ($966,108), down slightly from last year at that time (-1.4%). Updated figures from the Palm Springs Conference were a bright spot. We brought in $850,364, a +3.1% gain over the New Orleans Conference ($825,401), as the only source of revenue that was higher in December 2019 than in December 2018. All other revenue fell year-on-year, with Certification ($155,766) down -3.5%.

There was some positive news in terms of Total Expenses, which were down -2.5% year-on-year, to $1.76 million. The main reason was Certification, which experienced a substantial decline (-32.5%), from $241,180 to $162,811, as fewer people took the exam than at the end of 2018. The Palm Springs Conference remained our largest program expense, at $738,535, which is roughly the same as our event in New Orleans through that date. However, this expense will continue to grow as overhead gets allocated to it.

The main increase in expenditures through December 31, 2019, came from Supporting Services, at $432,917 (+7.0%), owing primarily to a $25,752 increase in General & Administrative expenses mostly related to our new AMS software.

Figure 2: Breakdown of Total Expenses (July 1-December 31, 2019)

Major Program Results

Our programs’ financial results from July 1 to December 31, 2019, are presented in Figure 3 below. The takeaway from the chart is the yellow section of each individual bar. The size and location of the yellow sections demonstrates how big or small the gain or loss is for each program.

Annual Conference

Before we discuss finances as they pertain to ATA61 in Boston, we should look at where we are with respect to last year’s event in Palm Springs (PS). Attendance in PS was slightly better than in New Orleans (NO). We brought in $850,364 in revenue, which is about $25,000 more than in NO ($825,151). Our hope, of course, was that Boston would be even better this year, so closer to conference revenue from Washington, DC ($1,035,842). But the reality is that even in the best-case scenario, this year’s event will be another small affair. That’s not good news for our bottom line.

In my last report, I noted that the PS conference covered its direct costs, which were around $650,000, but that once we factored in our Headquarters/overhead through the end of the fiscal year, it might break even or result in a loss. It now looks clear that it will result in a loss of about $90,000 to $100,000 after all overhead has been allocated.

There is no clear path forward for a traditional ATA61 Conference in Boston. Initially, we were unable to cancel the event outright because ATA was going to incur considerable costs, starting with contractual penalties from the venue, plus the significant portion of our staff/overhead whose cost is covered by net revenue from the conference. However, thanks to efforts at ATA Headquarters, we’ve been able to negotiate an alternative, where we reschedule Boston for 2025, in exchange for release from the contract now in place, without any penalties. At the time of this writing, the Board was strongly considering this option.

From a strictly financial standpoint, our least painful option seems to be a fully virtual event. Canceling ATA61 altogether would be financially damaging to the Association, given that the conference is our second most important source of revenue. As such, taking the unprecedented step of hosting a conference online will at least enable ATA to offer continuing education to people who may not have been able to afford to spend four days in Boston this year, or who had intended on keeping their distance for the time being. Of course, the virtual option is far from ideal. It misses out on those people who attend the conference primarily to network, meet prospective clients, catch up with friends, and enjoy time away from their workplace. But by hosting a virtual event, ATA will provide opportunities for professional development, continuing education, advanced training, division meetups, a job fair, and hopefully even some interaction with many of our traditional exhibitors.

We’re working on the details right now. The best that I can sum up, financially speaking, is that no matter what path we follow, we’ll likely be facing a loss, so the prudent thing is to minimize it as much as possible. A virtual ATA61 seems to be the right way to do so.

Figure 3: Financial Results for ATA Programs (Rounded to the Nearest Thousand)

Assets, Liabilities, and Net Assets

We’ll finish up this report by looking at ATA’s Consolidated Statement of Financial Position as of December 31, 2019. (See below.)

Overall, there was a slight drop (-2.5%) in Total Assets, from $3.28 million a year ago to $3.20 million at the end of December. This small change, however, masks some larger moves among assets that mostly offset one another.

For instance, we saw a drop (-16.3%) in Total Current Assets, which fell from $2.16 million to $1.81 million, as part of moving some cash into investments. As a result, the drop was offset by increases (+32.8%) to Investments, which rose from $1.00 million to $1.33 million, year-on-year. This figure, of course, is well before the current economic crisis.

At the same time, Total Liabilities continued to decline (-11.2%) from $1.58 million to $1.41 million. In ATA’s case, our Deferred Accounts line item represents membership services we owe to people who have joined the Association. So, when our Deferred Accounts are shrinking, we can interpret that to mean fewer members. As of December 2019, Deferred Accounts were down (-26.1%) to $1.10 million, from $1.49 million in 2018.

Given that both Total Assets and Total Liabilities shrunk by a similar dollar amount, ATA’s Net Assets (i.e., the difference between the two) declined only slightly (-2.5%) to $3.20 million, as of December 31, 2019, compared to $3.28 million a year before.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Ahead: Covid-19, Economic Crisis, and Budget

The figures reported above are from December 2019. Obviously, a lot has changed since then. However, they provide useful information on our starting position as this crisis unfolded.

At this point (April 2020), as a result of prudent management, ATA has savings and investments in excess of $2 million, with $1.1 million of that in cash, so it’s protected against the fluctuations of a highly volatile stock market. This is an enviable position. It means we have a financial cushion for the next six months as we determine how this crisis impacts our industry and ATA in particular.

We’ve also explored some Small Business Administration (SBA) economic relief options in case things continue in the wrong direction as a result of the economic lockdown. However, we haven’t submitted a formal application as of this writing.

Two trends that preceded the current crisis are expected to be exacerbated by it: declining membership and dwindling/negative net income from the conference. We’ll continue to monitor membership numbers. For now, we’re planning for at least a 5% drop year-on-year. The conference, for its part, as discussed earlier, will entail a loss.

We’re working hard on the budget, starting with three scenarios for revenue: best case, worst case, and most likely. Our best case is maintaining the status quo, with slight declines in revenue across the board and a manageable loss overall. The worst case involves a major drop in membership revenue coupled with canceling the conference outright, which now looks unlikely. In that situation, we would incur the largest one-year loss in ATA history. That leaves us with what we think will be the most likely outcome—somewhere in between.

In all three cases, ATA will face losses. Our most-likely scenario forecasts a negative change in net assets on the order of $400,000 for the upcoming fiscal year (2020-21). That would come on the heels of what’s shaping up to be a $300,000 loss this fiscal year (ending in June 2020). As such, many of the theoretical conversations that we’ve had in recent years about ways to streamline the Association, reduce overhead, and lower our expenses will need to become practical implementations. The decisions we make in the next three to six months will be crucial to ensuring ATA’s continued financial success.


John Milan, CT is the treasurer of ATA and chair of ATA’s Finance and Audit Committee and ATA’s Strategy Committee. He is also an ATA-certified Portuguese>English translator. He is an economist, writer, and lecturer on the business and economics of language services. He was an adjunct professor of economics in São Paulo, Brazil, for 10 years. He has been involved in the Carolina Association of Translators and Interpreters (an ATA chapter) since 2005, spending eight years on its board of directors, serving as president from 2013–2016. He has an MS in applied microeconomics from Ohio State University and degrees in international political economy and Spanish from Indiana University. Contact: john@milanlanguageservices.com.

Certification Consultant’s Statement on the Membership Requirement for ATA Certification

ATA engaged Knapp & Associates International in April 2020 to prepare an opinion on whether its history of requiring membership as a condition of eligibility for certification is consistent with current practices and quality standards for professional certification programs. The following provides an overview of fundamental concepts related to this topic, followed by our impressions of the membership requirement.

Overview of Pertinent Concepts

General Guidelines for Eligibility Criteria
Eligibility requirements are as critical to the credentialing process as the examination itself. The eligibility requirements and examination comprise a credentialing system. Eligibility criteria should:

  • Be consistent with the scope and level of practice (e.g., entry-level, advanced) targeted by the credential.
  • Be directly linked to the ability to competently perform the responsibilities of the role targeted by the credential (i.e., essential to acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills).
  • Not be used to limit the number of applicants or to exclude qualified candidates.
  • Be reasonable and minimally stringent.
  • Be balanced—the criteria should not exclude qualified individuals, nor should they be such that unqualified individuals can earn the credential simply by passing the exam.

There should be a documented rationale for each requirement.

It is advisable to permit multiple routes to achieving eligibility, wherever appropriate (e.g., additional years of work experience accepted in lieu of an academic degree).

Quality Standards for Professional Certification Programs
Standards within the certification industry set the baseline for what is expected of a quality certification program that is fair, psychometrically sound, and legally defensible. These standards are also the basis for the accreditation of professional certification programs.

In “Standard 7: Program Policies” of the Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs, published in 2016 by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), one of the Essential Elements states: “The certification program must not unreasonably limit access to certification.”1

Additionally, there are the following references to eligibility requirements in the glossary of the NCCA Standards:

  • Bias: Regardless of context (see below) and lack of intent, bias is to be avoided. In the context of eligibility and recertification requirements: avoid inappropriateness or irrelevance of requirements for certification or recertification if they are not reasonable prerequisites for competence in a profession, occupation, role, skill, or specialty area. (See Fairness below.)
  • Eligibility Requirements:
    Published criteria, often benchmarks for education, training, and experience, with which applicants must demonstrate compliance to qualify for certification.
  • Fairness:
    The principle that all applicants and candidates will be treated in an equitable and consistent manner throughout the entire certification process. (See Bias above.)

Certification Law
In the chapter on certification law in Certification: The ICE Handbook, credentialing law experts Jerald Jacobs, Julia Judish, and Dawn Crowell Murphy explain that requiring association membership could constitute an illegal tying arrangement in violation of antitrust laws.

Whatever the reasons for tying membership and certification, caution is warranted here. A substantial body of antitrust law stands for the proposition that tying an undesired service or product to a desired service or product can be anticompetitive and illegal. [Discussion of lawsuits involving certification programs.] The bottom line is that for now, no court is known to have ruled definitively on tying membership to certification, but it may be unacceptably risky to do so given these two prominent settlements in cases involving the issue.2

Practical Implications of Excluding Non-Members from Eligibility

Limitation of Program Volumes: Excluding otherwise qualified individuals from certification reduces program volumes and constricts the maximum market share the association can expect to capture. Given that in general, certification programs typically capture only a small percentage of the market (unless the credential is required by regulation or the majority of employers), requiring membership further hinders the penetration of the credential. Naturally, this has a direct impact on program revenue and lowers the return on investment.

Limitation of Return on Mission: The more qualified individuals who are certified, the greater the visibility and credibility of the credential and the greater the protection of the public. Thus, limiting the number of qualified individuals who are certified lowers the potential return on mission.

Impact on Stakeholder Perceptions: It’s not uncommon for professionals to view the tying of membership to certification as “a money grab.” This engenders negative perceptions of the sponsoring organization and may diminish customer loyalty.

Impressions of Membership Requirement

The preceding Overview of Pertinent Concepts above presents general principles, practices, and standards pertaining to setting eligibility criteria. Arguably, the most important consideration when evaluating whether ATA’s membership requirement for certification conforms to accepted practices and quality standards is:

Is there a direct and exclusive relationship between membership in ATA and acquisition of knowledge and skills required to competently perform the role of the translator or interpreter? That is, must one be a member to become (or be) a competent professional? Is membership the sole avenue to professional competence?

This consideration encapsulates the focus of the practices, standards, and certification law recommendations highlighted in the Overview section above. Our analysis is summarized below.


Certainly, it can be said that ATA offers professional development programs and resources that facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and skills that are requisite to competent performance as a professional translator. However, this does not mean that there is a direct and exclusive relationship between ATA membership and professional competence.

  1. It’s rare that the offerings of a professional association are the sole means of acquiring the professional knowledge and skills required for certification and competent performance. Often, these offerings are not even the primary or most impactful source because individuals gain pertinent knowledge and skills in myriad ways, including through academic programs, formal continuing education, self-directed learning, internships and apprenticeships, mentoring, and work experience in the field. There is no evidence that ATA membership is the only means of developing the capabilities associated with professional competence.
  2. Professionals do not need to be ATA members to access the professional development offered by ATA. So, even if ATA were the only provider of professional development, it could not be said that membership was necessary for, or integral to, competence.
  3. Although not a requirement for certification, ATA certification and the examinations and scoring processes are designed with the assumption that work experience in the field is necessary to having the requisite scope and depth of knowledge and skills. The section on ATA’s website entitled, “A Guide to the ATA Certification Program,” states that: “ATA certification is a mid-career credential for experienced, professional translators or interpreters.”3 Thus, ATA’s professional development programs, in and of themselves, are not sufficient to master the knowledge and skills required.

If ATA membership is not requisite to attaining the level of competence targeted by ATA certification, then it would seem that requiring membership as a condition for eligibility is potentially excluding qualified individuals from becoming certified.

Conclusion

Based on the above assumptions and analysis, it appears that the policy of requiring ATA membership is contrary to, and inconsistent with, current, accepted practice and quality standards pertaining to professional certification programs.

Notes
  1. Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs (National Commission for Certifying Agencies, 2016), https://bit.ly/NCCA-standards.
  2. Certification: The ICE Handbook (Institute of Credentialing Excellence, 2019), 52-53, https://bit.ly/ICE-handbook.
  3. “A Guide to the ATA Certification Program,” https://bit.ly/ATA-certification-overview.

Lenora G. Knapp is the president of Knapp & Associates International, Inc., a credentialing consultancy that has served more than 180 organizations over the past 25 years. She co-authored the second edition of The Business of Certification, a best-selling publication recognized by the American Society of Association Executives as one of “Six Books You and Your Association Need.” She also authored the “Future Trends in Certification” chapter in the last two editions of the credentialing industry’s seminal reference, Certification: The ICE Handbook. She is a recipient of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence’s Industry Leadership Award for innovation in the field of professional credentialing.

Member Opinions: Discussion on Opening ATA’s Exam to Nonmembers

The November/December issue included an announcement that the Board had voted to postpone a decision to open ATA’s certification exam to nonmembers. This was followed by the answers to some frequently asked questions concerning the issues involved (http://bit.ly/FAQ-Decoupling). Here is another response we received after members were encouraged to submit their feedback. But don’t let the conversation stop here! As an ATA member, your voice is important, so please send us your comments.

Decoupling: A Solution in Search of a Problem

By Mike Magee, CT
ATA-certified (German>English)
Austin, Texas

ATA voting members will face an important decision on the October 2020 ballot: should members retain the right to take certification exams, or should this right be downgraded to a membership benefit? The amendment proposed by ATA’s Board would permanently change the nature of the certified translator (CT) credential and the requirements for sitting for the certification exam, opening both to nonmembers (“decoupling”). I believe this proposed amendment is not in the best interests of ATA or its members, and I urge a “No” vote.

The relevant portion of the proposed Bylaws amendment of Article III, Section 3 reads:

a. Active members have the right to attend any of the Association’s membership meetings, use all of its membership facilities, and receive all of its regular publications free or at special membership rates. They also have the right to take certification examinations, to vote, to hold Association office, and to serve on the Board of Directors and all committees of the Association. They also have the privilege of free or reduced rates for use of the Association’s membership resources, including professional development events, certification examinations, and all of its regular publications.1

Passage of this amendment would clear the way for decoupling ATA certification from membership in the future, provided that the established financial and logistical preconditions are met.2

ATA Certification: A Longstanding Member Right

The first ATA certification exams (known as “ATA accreditation” until January 1, 2004) were given in the early 1970s. From that time onward, the right to earn ATA’s credential has figured prominently in the Bylaws, in the same sentence as the right to vote and serve as an elected officeholder. For decades, the credential was so central that it was the primary route to earning ATA voting rights.

The CT credential is a primary contributor to the ongoing health and vitality of ATA, as evidenced by a certified member retention rate of 95%, while the retention rate for noncertified members is approximately 75%.3 Professional standards are inextricably linked to a continuing commitment to professional education and development, and a membership requirement affirms this commitment beyond meeting the minimum continuing education requirements.

ATA Is a Membership Association, Not a Certifying Body

Per Article II, a. of ATA’s Bylaws4, the Association’s purpose is to promote recognition of the translation and interpreting professions and provide professional and educational opportunities and cooperation. Some professionals, including interpreters in a number of states, hold certifications issued by independent credentialing entities. Although certification consultant Michael Hamm, in his May 2000 report, recommended such a structure for ATA certification5, this option has not been under consideration. ATA is not primarily a certifying body, but rather a professional educational membership organization, and that is what it should remain.

Stature of ATA’s Certification Credential

ATA has repeatedly stated that opening certification to nonmembers would “enhance the stature” of the CT credential. Decoupling is in no way a proven path to greater recognition.

These changes would actually decrease the stature of the CT credential in the eyes of many clients and members. A certification consultant may propose various routes to “enhanced stature,” but what matters to clients and vested stakeholders is that certified individuals are committed to high standards of professional practice as evidenced by the rigors of the exam, continuing education requirements, and adherence to a professional code of ethics.

Current ethics enforcement efforts are problematic at best, and they would only become more difficult if nonmembers took the exam. Current sanctions include suspension of ATA membership, which obviously could not apply to nonmembers who misrepresent their certified status, making any enforcement effectively impossible among offending translators in the U.S. or any other country. This would result in disparate imposition of sanctions and enforcement, and would clearly contribute to a decoupled ATA credential being viewed as less prestigious.

Lastly, comparisons between American Medical Association or American Bar Association licensing and ATA certification are invalid. Physicians and attorneys in the U.S. are licensed by governing bodies in each state, while ATA certification is a voluntary credential offered to translators worldwide. The establishment of a license-type credential governed by a separate credentialing entity is a massive undertaking that would require changes to laws nationwide and is far beyond the current reach of ATA.

Does ATA Control the Supply of Certified Translators?

ATA leadership has asserted that nonmember access to certification would dispel any perception that “a certifying association may be controlling the supply of certified individuals.”6 In fact, the potential for such a perception is practically nil. With approximately 2,100 ATA-certified individuals, holders of the CT credential represent about 3.8% of the estimated 55,000 practicing translators in the United States. Among hundreds of thousands of translators worldwide, this percentage is even more negligible in the global context.

ATA’s membership requirement does not stand alone—the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) has a number of certified individuals similar to the number holding ATA certification, and they are required to maintain membership and complete continuing education credits to maintain the credential, which is referred to as being a “Qualified Member” of ITI.

Conclusion

ATA certification and membership together represent a significant commitment on the part of certified translators to uphold high professional standards. Attaining ATA certification was a significant factor in my joining 28 years ago, and continues to be an important reason for maintaining my membership. Its exclusivity to membership represents the gold standard for our profession, not a shortcoming that needs to be remedied. While I wholeheartedly support ATA’s goals that concretely enhance the quality and stature of the existing Certification Program, I believe that the current proposal to decouple the certification credential from ATA membership is ill-advised and unlikely to achieve those goals.

Therefore, I will vote “No” on the proposed Bylaws amendment, and I encourage other voting members to do the same.

Notes
  1. “Proposed Amendment to the Bylaws to be Presented to the Membership for Voting in October 2020,” https://bit.ly/bylaws-amendment.
  2. Minutes of April 18-19, 2015 Board Meeting, http://bit.ly/summary-April2015.
  3. Communication from ATA Headquarters and calculation based on those figures.
  4. Article II, a. of ATA’s Bylaws, www.atanet.org/docs/p_bylaws.pdf.
  5. ATA Accreditation Program Report (Michael Hamm & Associates, 2000), 4, http://bit.ly/Hamm-report.
  6. “Proposed Amendment to the Bylaws to be Presented to the Membership for Voting in October 2020,” https://bit.ly/bylaws-amendment.
We want to hear from you!

Members are encouraged to submit their opinions, both pro and con, regarding opening ATA’s certification exam to nonmembers (also referred to as decoupling) for publication in The ATA Chronicle or Chronicle-Online website. While it may not be possible to print all submissions, equal space will be provided for members to present views on both sides of the issue. Please send to jeff@atanet.org.

Note: In keeping with standard ATA editorial policy, submissions must include the author’s name, which will be published. Anonymous submissions will not be accepted for publication.

New Twists on Old Scams: Language Professionals Beware!

The old adage still holds: if it sounds too good to be true, it most certainly is.

With more and more people working from home, many online scammers have upped their game. This article is the third in a series of contributions to The ATA Chronicle.1 I encourage you to refer to these older articles as well because the current scams are not new. Some scammers are finding new target audiences because a lot of people are working from home who have not worked from home before. For example, interpreters who used to be onsite are now working remotely, and thus have become a new target audience for online scams. Some scammers are adding new twists to old scams. For example, identity theft, previously facilitated via old-fashioned CV theft2, is now accomplished via “job interviews” through video chat services. Whatever the case, the old adage still holds: if it sounds too good to be true, it most certainly is.

How Can You Tell if an Inquiry Is a Scam?

If somebody you don’t know wants to pay three times your usual rate without haggling, and it’s not a super-urgent, very specialized project they need immediately (rush or premium rate!), it’s too good to be true. You should know what your time and expertise is worth and charge accordingly. If somebody offers you well above the going market price for an average project, something smells fishy.

Here are some more questions to consider.

Are you being recruited for a “job offer” by an unknown person who offers full-time or part-time employment on a W-2 basis?

Unless it’s for a very specialized job that’s urgently needed, such as specialized medical interpreters during a pandemic, it’s a scam. It’s possible that a client cold emails you to request a quote for a project after they perused a listing site such as ATA’s directory. However, being cold recruited for part-time or full-time employment by an unknown entity is unheard of. This just doesn’t happen.

Are you being invited to a “job interview” on Google Hangouts, Skype, or another free video platform?

As mentioned above, such “job interviews” are most likely scams. The scammers try to extract personally identifying information via these interviews for the purposes of identity theft. While some reputable businesses use video interviews for hiring and contracting purposes, they almost always use a more secure (paid) platform. Do not, under any circumstances, give out your Social Security number. See my earlier article in The ATA Chronicle, “Translation Scams Reloaded,” listed at the end of this article for information on using an Employee Identification Number instead of a Social Security number.

If you receive an email, does the “from” address match the “reply-to” address in terms of the domain (URL), and is the URL a reputable known URL?

If the “reply-to” address is a free Gmail, Hotmail, or other free email address, it’s a scam. It’s very easy to spoof an arbitrary “from” email address.3 If the “reply-to” address contains the same domain (the portion after the @ sign including the .com, .de, .us, etc.) but a different local part (the portion in front of the @ sign), it may just be directly routed to a person working from home. For example, if the email says it’s from hr@corp.com, but the “reply-to” reads John.Doe@corp.com, it’s probably legit, unless the corp.com server has been hacked. If the “reply-to” address is completely unrelated to the alleged sending address, it’s very likely that you’re dealing with a scam.

Scammers also sometimes set up new URL domains for scamming purposes. Sometimes they impersonate existing reputable companies with a slightly altered or misspelled domain name (.net instead of .com). If you receive one of these emails, search for the company you’re allegedly dealing with in your favorite search engine and compare the URL details that appear with the address of the email you received. If it’s a smaller company, you may even find the sender’s name in the company directory. Compare the contact details in the email with the contact details on the website. When in doubt, reply through the contact details listed on the website.

Sometimes some very industrious scammers set up new shell corporations that don’t actually exist. These shell companies tend to be relatively new and disappear as fast as they appear. To check a URL, how long it has been registered, and where, go to https://lookup.icann.org and type in the URL. Thanks to data privacy laws, you won’t see the actual registrar information anymore, but the results will tell you how long the URL has been registered. If the URL is relatively new, while that’s not an indicator of a scam in and of itself, it’s cause for caution. Look for contact details, phone numbers, and addresses on the website. Search for the address and the phone number in your favorite search engine. If the satellite picture of the address shows acres of farmland filled with cows, goats, and ostriches, but no buildings where the alleged company’s headquarters should be, then it’s a scam. (Again, see my article “Translation Scams Reloaded” for information on how to decode more information in email headers.)

Did you receive a phone call? Does the phone number match the phone number given on the company website?

Ask the caller if you can call them back at the number given on their website. If they say no without giving a good reason, it’s a scam. As mentioned above, it’s very easy to spoof/imitate/impersonate an arbitrary “from” email address. It’s equally easy to spoof a phone number. I once received a call from my own phone number. (I know I didn’t call myself, and the dog has yet to get past my phone’s fingerprint authorization.) Always hang up, verify the phone number on the company website, and call back. Or email back. Some companies may not have a proper forwarding between business and personal phones in place, but nearly everybody has access to their business email at home.

Does the person refer to their social media profile as verification?
Check whether that profile and the given contact information matches the contact information on the company website you already verified (see above). If it doesn’t match, it’s a scam.

It’s very easy to set up fake profiles on social media and claim to be an employee of another company. Social media providers eventually remove these fake profiles. Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of fake accounts being set up by bots and people for a multitude of nefarious reasons, the removal takes a while. In the meantime, scammers enjoy plenty of time to wreak havoc.

Epilogue

I expect this won’t be the last word on scams, which are always evolving. However, you can prevent falling victim to these scams by being vigilant, doing research on potential clients, and never divulging personally identifiable information to strangers. While the packaging of these scams may change, the underlying strategies to cheat you out of your money and/or time remain the same. For further information on the aforementioned strategies, I again refer you to my two earlier contributions to The ATA Chronicle. I also encourage you to join ATA’s Business Practices discussion forum4, where the search function reveals detailed information on a variety of specific existing scams. Stay safe!

More Resources for Information on Scams

Albarino, Seyma. “Here’s What Translator Scammers Were Up to in 2019,” Slator (January 10, 2020), https://bit.ly/Slator-scammers.

Doyle, Alison. “Top 10 Job Scam Warning Signs,” The Balance Careers (November 25, 2019), https://bit.ly/scam-warning-signs.

“How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Scams,” Federal Trade Commission, https://bit.ly/FTC-phishing.

“Look Out(!) for these Red Flags in Client Communications (May 7, 2019), The Savvy Newcomer, https://bit.ly/Savvy-red-flags.

Miranda, Cristina. “Scammers Are Using COVID-19 Messages to Scam People,” Federal Trade Commission (April 10, 2020), https://bit.ly/FTC-scams-COVID-19.

“Scams and Safety,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, https://bit.ly/FBI-scams.

Small, Bridget. “Scam Emails Demand Bitcoin, Threaten Blackmail,” Federal Trade Commission (April 29, 2020), https://bit.ly/FTC-scam-emails.

Smith, Andrew. “Fighting Coronavirus Scams: Taking Stock,” Federal Trade Commission (May 8, 2020), https://bit.ly/FTC-fighting-scams.

Notes
  1. Berger, Carola. “Translation Scams: Avoiding Them and Protecting Your Identity,” The ATA Chronicle (October 2014), 10, https://bit.ly/Berger-avoiding-scams. Also see: Berger, Carola. “Translation Scams Reloaded,” The ATA Chronicle (July/August 2018), 13, https://bit.ly/Berger-scams.
  2. Translator Scammers Directory, https://bit.ly/scammer-directory.
  3. Wikipedia definition of email spoofing, https://bit.ly/Wiki-email-spoof.
  4. To join ATA’s Business Practices listserv, visit https://groups.io/g/ATA-Business-Practices.

Carola F. Berger, CT is an ATA-certified (English>German) translator with a PhD in physics and a master’s degree in engineering physics. She specializes in the translation of technical patents between English and German in the fields of robotics, electronics, artificial intelligence, engineering, and related subjects. She currently serves as the administrator of ATA’s Science and Technology Division and as webmaster on the board of directors of the Northern California Translators Association, an ATA chapter. Contact: info@cfbtranslations.com.

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