Letters to the Editor

Why ATA Should Open the Certification Exam to All Professional Translators | Matt Baird

Do we want to become a certifying agency, or do we want to remain an association that represents the interests of its members and also provides the possibility of certification?
If ATA opens its certification exam to nonmembers, it would eventually develop into a certifying body and an organization where representing the interests of its members becomes a side activity.
The number of members would decline because many translators/interpreters join ATA with the intention of becoming certified. Many of them remain members to retain their certification and because they see the great work and advantages of being a part of a big association that works to defend the interests of translators and interpreters (e.g., ATA’s efforts regarding AB 5 in California to ensure its members understand the possible implications and to encourage them to ask legislators to exempt translators/interpreters). If membership is no longer required to retain certification, many would get certified and leave without developing any interest in the organization.
Financially, this would weaken ATA. I read the financial report in the January/February issue, and the problem of the declining number of members, even before decoupling was announced, has to be addressed. The membership fees are the biggest contribution to ATA’s budget. If people no longer needed to be members to retain their certification, membership would drop and the additional exam fees would not be enough to finance both certification and the current activities of the association over a long period. Furthermore, more exam graders would have to be found, trained, and paid accordingly.
Membership and certification should go together.
Marianne Beyer

Opening Certification to Nonmembers

I’m in favor of decoupling. I work in Brazil and know many very good translators who want to be ATA members but simply cannot afford it. I support the argument that membership and certification can be mutually exclusive, but I would only support the proposal fully if, when approved, it allows members who are certified to retain their certification without having to continue paying membership dues if they leave the association.
Liam Gallagher | São Paulo, Brazil

Bring Your “A” Game to Video Game Localization | Marina Ilari

Great summary of the many things we need to do when localizing a game! Some people believe video game localization is easy because we’re not translating super technical or scientific papers, but terminology in games—that may even be made-up—can get really hard really quickly. Thanks for sharing.
Santiago de Miguel | Buenos Aires, Argentina

Board Meeting Highlights

For the first time since December 20051, ATA’s Board of Directors did not meet in person. The Board met online April 18, 2020, for the Spring Board meeting. The meeting was originally scheduled for Alexandria, Virginia, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some highlights from the meeting.

Budget: The Board approved the July 1, 2020–June 30, 2021 working budget and the 2021–23 draft budgets. ATA Treasurer John Milan walked through the budget planning process and the challenges with financial forecasts and the pandemic. The proposed $2.6-million working budget includes a reduction in membership and conference revenues. The working budget provides an interim financial framework. By using this interim budget, changes and revisions can be made based on the actual year-end figures. The final budget will be approved at the next Board meeting.

Proposed Bylaws Revisions: The Board approved putting forward revisions to the Bylaws to be approved by the membership at the Annual Meeting of Voting Members, October 22, 2020, in Boston, Massachusetts. The proposed revisions clarify the proposed changes to the rights and privileges of membership and certification and replace the proposed changes previously approved at the October 2019 Board meeting.

Advocacy: ATA President and Advocacy Committee Chair Ted Wozniak briefed the Board on the committee’s efforts. The committee continues to work toward legislation in California to remedy the classification of translators and interpreters as enacted in AB 5. Ted noted that the need to focus on California is due to the fact that many states follow California’s lead. We want to get it corrected here so we don’t have this battle in other states as well.

Military Membership Discount: The Board approved a two-year member recruitment test by offering members of the military a 50% discount on ATA membership. The discounts are for individuals who are currently active duty or in the Guard or Reserves. This proposal is part of the ongoing work of the Government Linguists Outreach Task Force to promote careers in translation and interpreting for those transitioning out of the service who have been trained as linguists in the military. The Task Force also promotes private sector resources and professional development opportunities to government linguists.

Editorial Board Appointment: The Board approved the appointment of Jost Zetzsche as chair of the Chronicle Editorial Board. Jost, who is an ATA Gode Medal recipient, is a long-time contributor to the Chronicle. He is the columnist for the GeekSpeak and Resource Review—both look at tools to help translators and interpreters do their jobs.

The Board meeting summary is posted online. The minutes will be posted once they are approved at the next Board meeting. Past meeting summaries and minutes are also posted online at www.atanet.org/membership/minutes.php. The next Board meeting is set for August 1–2, 2020. A decision will be made closer to the meeting as to whether it will be an in-person or online meeting.

Candidates Announced

ATA Elections | 2020 Annual Conference Boston, Massachusetts
ATA will hold its regularly scheduled elections at the upcoming 2020 ATA Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, to elect three directors for a three-year term. Further nominations, supported by acceptance statements in writing by each additional nominee and a written petition signed by no fewer than 60 voting members, must be received by the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee by June 1. Acceptance statements and petitions should be submitted to Nominating and Leadership Development Committee Chair David Rumsey (ata-hq@atanet.org). Candidate statements and photos of the candidates will appear in the September/October issue of The ATA Chronicle and on ATA’s website. The candidates proposed by the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee are:

Director (three positions, three-year terms):
Robin Bonthrone
Veronika Demichelis
Tony Guerra
Manako Ihaya
Elena Langdon
Lorena Ortiz Schneider

  1. A special meeting of the Board of Directors was conducted via conference call to discuss the certification program.

Interpreting in the Face of a Pandemic

(The following was originally published on the blog of ATA’s Interpreters Division, www.ata-divisions.org/ID/blog.)

On January 21, 2020, the state of Washington reported the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the U.S. On February 29, it announced the country’s first COVID-19-related death. The virus has since spread across the country, just as it has around the globe. And as the world hunkers down against COVID-19, those of us who work in language access services face an abruptly-changed environment.


As social distancing was implemented and stay-at-home orders issued, conferences and events were cancelled. Courts closed. Depositions and interviews dropped off the calendar. School districts closed their doors and found ways to provide meals. Hospitals and clinics scrambled to find beds and equipment.

Traditionally, onsite interpreting has accounted for over 80% of all spoken-language assignments, while the remaining percentage of the work was done by over-the-phone interpreting (OPI) or video remote interpreting (VRI). In a few short weeks, that scenario flipped.1

Judicial: Initially, courts took a short hiatus. They postponed all nonessential legal proceedings and jury trials in the expectation that things would soon return to normal. Interpreters’ only measure of protection was the use of wireless equipment. Now, judges and court staff are learning to hold many proceedings remotely. Depositions are being held using online platforms. Many court interpreters with a lifetime of experience have been struggling to find their footing in this virtual world.

Health Care: While remote services are provided where possible, health care interpreters still have to report to hospitals and clinics in person, which makes them the most exposed during this pandemic. The need for personal protective equipment has increased, but shortages are widespread. The protective clothing (or bunny suits) required in these settings can muffle the voices of medical personnel. Most medical staff and interpreters understand the need to project their voices, especially when wearing masks. However, keep in mind that patients and their family members—who are already sick, nervous, or scared and unaccustomed to wearing masks—could be more difficult to understand if they speak as they would under normal circumstances.

Education: School districts across the country closed their buildings (at first temporarily, then indefinitely). Districts worked to educate families and feed schoolchildren while shifting to online learning and implementing technology solutions so all students could study online. In California, the Orange County Department of Education, which serves nearly 500,000 students, cancelled all existing interpreting assignments until Individualized Education Program (IEP) and other meetings could be rescheduled. Schools have traditionally used a combination of trained in-house interpreting staff, independent contractors, and language services companies. However, it takes time to equip school personnel for remote work.

Conference: Early in this pandemic, before the full impact on health care, judicial, and educational interpreting was felt in the U.S., conferences and meetings around the globe began to cancel. Conference interpreters, booked months in advance, watched their calendars empty, with no idea when they would be rescheduled.

All interpreters, in these categories and others, have been affected by the pandemic, and for many (if not most), the financial threat is significant. Some may find it necessary to shift to other lines of work. This could result in a loss of qualified professionals before the world finds its new normal.

What Comes Next?

Where do we go from here? How do we continue to serve our clients and feed our families?

We train. This is the time to expand our skill sets. Learn that new tool you’ve been eyeing. Explore unused features of tools you’ve had for years. Read those books on legal contracts that have gathered dust while you waited for time. Listen to podcasts, watch webinars.

We retrain. For those of you who, like me, have always squirmed at anything other than in-person interpreting—it’s time to get over it. The hallmark of a professional is the ability to give our best regardless of the circumstances. Right now, giving our best means relearning how to do our jobs.

Training in OPI, VRI, and remote simultaneous interpreting is being offered by numerous individuals and companies. For example, the Metroplex Interpreters and Translators Association in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is holding peer-to-peer online training and practice sessions, including mock depositions, for its members. There are also webinars, articles, books, and training videos.

We maintain our professional standards and rates. The only thing that makes providing remote services easier than in-person is the lack of a commute. There is no valid reason for rates to change when the service provided (and its quality) is fundamentally the same.

Here are some other things we need to consider doing:

  • Learn to use online platforms before you have to use them professionally. Be prepared to guide clients on how to communicate through an interpreter while using remote solutions.
  • Rather than driving to a client’s office, invest in your own online meeting account (Zoom, GoToMeeting, UberConference, etc.) and reach them virtually.
  • Avoid locking yourself into a given field. Court interpreters in limbo, for instance, might find opportunities with school districts as they restart IEP meetings. Look beyond your usual clientele.
  • All equipment must be up to the task. Our skills are of little use if no one can hear or understand us. Make sure that your equipment delivers the best possible results or replace it.
  • An online calendar (such as Calendly or Acuity) can let clients check your availability and schedule interpreting services at their convenience.
  • Be intentional. Draft an outline of what services you will and will not offer. Identify how you will provide them. List your hourly rates, any equipment you might need to acquire or upgrade, and your availability. Writing it out can help you identify issues before they become problems.
  • Learn how your clients are handling business during this time. If you know what changes they have had to make, you will have a better idea of how you can serve them.
  • Become familiar with protective gear for in-person interpreting in hazardous situations (see https://bit.ly/in-person-guidance).
  • Learn about dealing with vicarious trauma (see https://bit.ly/vicarious-trauma).
  • Consider offering related services, such as online language classes, while waiting for clients to get back to business.
  • Look into any government or other relief programs that may help you stay afloat as the world finds its footing.

The New Normal

Eventually, the pandemic will subside. Businesses will reopen, conferences will be held, and school kids will be back in the classroom. But we’ll never go back to “normal.” The world will be changed. We’ll be changed. We need to accept and embrace that as of now.

Companies may alter their business models, more people may work from home, and protocols and procedures may change. We don’t know the exact shape of the changes to come, we only know that they will. And we can be sure that our services will be just as essential in that new normal as they were before and are today.

So, while the world hunkers down against COVID-19, please remember: we’re all in this together. And we have work to do.

Resources (Just a Few)

ATA Webinars On-Demand: “Understanding Remote Simultaneous Interpreting”

Better Business Bureau
Tips for Business Owners during the Pandemic


Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters
Statement on Ensuring Interpreters’ Safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic


Comparison of Popular Remote Meeting Tools
(Please note that some of the information is outdated, but this comparison can help you ask the right questions as you evaluate online platforms.)

Consumer Reports Coronavirus Hub
Tips on Equipment and Services


InterpretAmerica 2020: A Unified Response to Ensure Access to Interpreting Services

Choosing a USB Headset for Remote Interpreting


International Association of Conference Interpreters
Best Practices for Interpreters during the COVID-19 Crisis


KUDO Online Meeting Platform

National Center on Deafness at California State University Northridge
YouTube Video on Using an Interpreter in Zoom


National Council on Interpreting in Health Care
Webinar on the Temporary Transition to Remote Interpreting During Health Emergencies


Rochester Institute of Technology Libraries
Healthcare Industry Association Practical Interpreting II: Video Remote Interpreting


Free Webinars


Troublesome Terps Podcast
“Remote Interpreting with a Cat on Your Lap”


U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights
Guidance on Telehealth Remote Communications


Introduction to Zoom Conference Interpreting


  1. Interpreting in Times of COVID-19 (Nimdzi Research, 2020), https://bit.ly/Nimdzi-COVID-19.

Carol Shaw, CT is the editor of ATA’s Interpreters Division (ID) blog and a member of the ID Leadership Council. She is an ATA-certified translator (Spanish>English) and licensed court interpreter, and has been providing Spanish<>English translation services to school districts in North Texas for nearly 20 years. She created a brief training program for district employees providing informal language services, consults with districts regarding their translation and interpreting needs, and occasionally serves as an interpreter for district-level meetings. When she is not partnering with schools to enhance communication between parents and educators, she primarily focuses on legal, business, and marketing translation. Contact: carol@carolshaw.net.

Interpreters are a vital part of ATA. This column is designed to offer insights and perspectives from professional interpreters.

New Certified Members


The following members have successfully passed ATA’s certification exam:

English into Spanish
Gloria Hughes
Bakersfield, CA

Beatriz D. Mendoza Jacobo
Aurora, IL

Natalia Pommier
Monterey, CA

English into Ukrainian
Iryna Isayeva
Kyiv, Ukraine

Chinese into English
Tong Xu
New York, NY

Japanese into English
Tanya Williams
Marina, CA

Board Meeting Highlights

Standing from left: Directors Alaina Brandt, Meghan Konkol, Elena Langdon, Jamie Hartz, Geoff Koby, Eve Lindemuth Bodeux, Melinda Gonzalez-Hibner, Tony Guerra, and Cristina Helmerichs. Seated from left: Treasurer John Milan, President-Elect Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo, President Ted Wozniak, and Secretary Karen Tkaczyk.

The American Translators Association’s Board of Directors met February 8–9, 2020, in Charleston, South Carolina. The meeting followed the Board’s Annual Strategy Day.

The Annual Strategy Day allows the Board to discuss in-depth aspects of the Association and the translation and interpreting professions. Strategy Day is coordinated and led by ATA’s president-elect, who, by office, is the chair of the Governance and Communications Committee.

This year, President-Elect Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo guided the Board through a Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results (SOAR) Analysis and discussion. (The Board’s top areas were advocacy, continuing education, and inclusivity/expanding membership.) Next, Treasurer John Milan led a discussion about the proposed Strategy Committee, specifically how it could advise the Board on its planning, the skills and experience committee members should have, and the importance of the committee’s independence to provide its insights. The Board then looked at the future of the Annual Conference with a general discussion about the structure of the event, the audience, and locations. The Board also discussed possible revisions to ATA’s membership structure and categories.

Treasurer Milan closed the day’s activities by reviewing and explaining how Board members are expected to satisfy their fiduciary duties to ATA with respect to ATA’s financial and tax reporting.

Strategy Day discussions do not necessarily lead to concrete action plans, but they do serve as the foundation for working through the Board’s activities for the year.

Here are some highlights from the Board meeting.

Advocacy: President and Government Relations Committee Chair Ted Wozniak briefed the Board on ATA’s responses to California Assembly Bill 5 (independent contractor vs employee classifications) and the efforts to get an exemption for translators and interpreters. President Wozniak shared with the Board other draft federal and state legislation that the committee is monitoring. Related, the Board approved renaming the Government Relations Committee the Advocacy Committee.

Strategy Committee: The Board approved establishing a Strategy Committee and appointing Treasurer John Milan as chair. The committee will focus on trends and issues affecting translators and interpreters and what they mean for the Association.

Membership: The Board reviewed the Membership Committee’s updated Membership Roadmap that looks at ways to improve membership retention and target new members. President-Elect Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo is the chair of the Membership Committee.

Conflict of Interest Policy: The Board approved a Conflict of Interest Policy for Board members, committee chairs, and division administrators. These key volunteers must submit a conflict of interest form each year.

Nominating and Leadership Development Committee Appointment Approved: The Board approved the appointment of the members of the Nominating and Leadership Development Committee. They are Past President David Rumsey (chair), Lucy Gunderson, Yolanda Secos, David Stephenson (Certification Committee chair), and Izumi Suzuki. The committee reviews and selects the slate of candidates for the elections each fall. This year, we have elections for three directors.

Finance and Audit Committee: The Board approved the appointment of Robin Bonthrone to the Finance and Audit Committee. Robin brings a strong finance and accounting background to the committee.

The Board meeting summary is posted online. The minutes will be posted once they are approved at the next Board meeting. Past meeting summaries and minutes are also posted online at www.atanet.org/membership/minutes.php. The next Board meeting is set for April 18–19, 2020, in Alexandria, Virginia. As always, the meeting is open to all members, and members are encouraged to attend.

ATA Membership: Invest in Yourself

The profession is facing some challenges. Marketplace pressures to increased regulatory activities are affecting independent contractors. ATA can help. Don’t go it alone.

The new year means it’s time to renew your ATA membership. Membership renewal notices have been mailed. You can also renew online: http://www.atanet.org/membership/renew.php.

In the past year, ATA has stepped up its member benefits, webinars, and advocacy efforts. ATA now offers exclusive discounts on over a half dozen of the most popular tools. The savings alone will go a long way toward covering your ATA membership. In 2019, ATA started offering a free monthly webinar to all ATA members. (The featured webinar is highlighted in Newsbriefs.) On the advocacy side, ATA is teaming up with other organizations to protect the interests of translators and interpreters. (See President Ted Wozniak’s column for more information.) By being an ATA member, you benefit from strength in numbers. ATA members can do more together than a person off on their own.

ATA membership is an investment in yourself. You’ll cover your ATA dues by getting just one job from your member-exclusive profile in the ATA Directory of Translators and Interpreters. Over 60% of the membership reports getting a job from their online directory listing.

As part of that investment, ATA offers access to resources and colleagues that can help you become a better translator and interpreter. As an ATA member, you have access to membership in any and all of ATA’s 22 divisions. ATA divisions offer specialized information and networking connections. The ATA Chronicle provides a wealth of knowledge, including additional links to reliable resources for an even greater breadth and depth of information. Newsbriefs, ATA’s semi-monthly e-newsletter, provides timely media features and news related to the Association. And, ATA webinars bring a variety of affordable learning opportunities to you.

Speaking of learning opportunities, ATA membership gives you the discounted registration rate on the premier professional development and networking opportunity in the profession, ATA’s Annual Conference. Join ATA and save on your conference registration—the savings alone just about cover your membership dues.

The benefits add up to a positive value proposition. Renewing your membership is a smart business decision and an investment in yourself. If you have any questions about your membership and the benefits available to you, please contact Trish Boward, ATA membership assistant, at Trish@atanet.org 703-683-6100, ext. 3001.

Thank you for your support and membership in 2019. We look forward to serving you in 2020!

New Certified Members


The following members have successfully passed ATA’s certification exam:

English into Chinese
Xiongwei Shen
Fullerton, CA

Bing Qi
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

English into Spanish
Marco Díaz
San Diego, CA

Arabic into English
Lucinda Wills
Pasadena, CA

Chinese into English
Fang Gann
Sioux City, IA

Steven W. Langsford
Ann Arbor, MI

Ben Murphy
Washington, DC

David Wise
Riverside, CA

French into English
Sonja Swenson-Khalchenia
Washington, DC

Spanish into English
Arielle Weisman Depaz
Fairfax, VA

Teresa Kennedy
Long Beach, CA

Mariel Rowe-Heupler
Monterey, CA

Catharine Lailson
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

2020 Honors and Awards Now Open!

ATA and the American Foundation for Translation and Interpretation (AFTI) present annual and biennial awards to encourage, reward, and publicize outstanding work done by both seasoned professionals and students. Awards and scholarships for 2020 include:

  • The Alexander Gode Medal, ATA’s most prestigious award, is presented to an individual or institution for outstanding service to the translating and interpreting professions. This award may be given annually. Nominations are solicited from past recipients of the Gode Medal and the membership at large.
  • The Alicia Gordon Award for Word Artistry in Translation is given for a translation (from French or Spanish into English, or from English into French or Spanish) in any subject that demonstrates the highest level of creativity in solving a particularly knotty translation problem. Open to ATA members in good standing.
  • The S. Edmund Berger Prize is offered by AFTI to recognize excellence in scientific and technical translation by an ATA member. The award may be given annually.
  • The Lewis Galantière Award is given for a distinguished book-length literary translation from any language, except German, into English published in the United States. The award is bestowed biennially in even-numbered years.
  • The Marian S. Greenfield Financial Translation Presentation Award is offered by AFTI to recognize an outstanding presenter of a financial translation session during ATA’s Annual Conference. The award may be given annually.
  • The Student Translation Award is presented to any graduate or undergraduate student, or group of students, for a literary or sci-tech translation or translation-related project. The award may be given annually.

For complete entry information and deadlines, visit http://bit.ly/ATA-honors-awards.

Thank You Sponsors and Exhibitors

ATA wishes to thank all of our sponsors and exhibitors for helping to make this conference such a success!




Alliant Professional Liability Program

Judicial Council of California Court Interpreters Program


Media Partner


1-Stop Asia


Alliant Professional Liability Program

Allied Powers, LLC

Alpaca Collezione Conference Rental

Continental Interpreting Services

Crestec USA, Inc.

Cross-Cultural Communications, LLC


Divergent Language Solutions, LLC

Fluency, Inc.


GSO Services

HansemEUG Global Language Services

Institute for Applied Linguistics, Kent State University

International Medical Interpreters Association/National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters

Interpreter Education Online

Interpreter Intelligence

Judicial Council of California Court Interpreters Program



Links Sign Language & Interpreting Services

Localize Africa (Pty) Ltd.

MCIS Language Solutions

MD Healthcare


Middlebury Institute of International Studies

Mission Essential

Morningside Translations

National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators

National Language Service Corps

National Security Agency

NLG—Next Level Globalization

New York University School of Professional Studies

Otto Trading, Inc.

Plunet Inc.

RWS Life Sciences

RWS Moravia


Shenzhen CloudTranslation Technology Co., Ltd.



STAR Group America, LLC



TongueTek Language Consulting

Total Language

Translation4all, Inc.


tranZynergy, Inc.

U.S. Department of State, Office of Language Services

University of Illinois Center for Translation Studies

Urban Translation Services

Websites for Translators



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