ATA Advocacy Efforts

From the President

David Rumsey
Twitter handle: @davidcrumsey

There’s a mantra in real estate that says, “location, location, location.” Which is to say, no matter where your house is built, it’s the neighborhood that really establishes its value. In terms of ATA and the U.S. translation and interpreting industry as a whole, our neighborhood could use a little tender loving care. Particularly now.

Despite its massive size and rich history of immigrants from around the globe, the U.S. still considers itself to be a primarily monolingual, English-speaking country. As a result, “translation” and “interpreting” are still largely alien concepts for a vast portion of the population.

In an effort to “improve the neighborhood” for our industry, advocacy plays a key role. ATA has been sponsoring advocacy and outreach efforts on a number of fronts.

A report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences1 and a related effort by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language ( paint a language landscape in the U.S. that’s in dire need of attention. Language learning programs have dropped precipitously in recent years, and with them the chance to train new translators and interpreters. Where will tomorrow’s translators and interpreters come from to meet the growing need for Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Farsi, Korean, and many other languages that are rarely taught in school? Less exposure to foreign-language instruction also leads to clients with little understanding of language issues in business or government settings, making translation and interpreting projects all the more challenging.

ATA recently participated and sponsored a Language Advocacy Day in Washington, DC, an event hosted by the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS). ATA Past President Caitilin Walsh, who now serves as ATA’s JNCL representative, joined dozens of other delegates from language-learning organizations and language industry representatives to meet with congressional staff members to lobby for greater foreign-language education and the importance of translators and interpreters in helping American businesses succeed.2 Investing in language learning and educating government officials about what we do will bear fruit in the future as the world becomes even more tightly connected.

ATA offers many other ways to plant seeds and flowers to improve the language landscape in the U.S. The long-running and popular School Outreach program helps fertilize the soil at the roots by having translators and interpreters meet with local children to expose them to what translators and interpreters do and to foreign-language learning in general.

ATA’s Public Relations Committee also sponsors business outreach through its pool of event speakers, who address audiences from a variety of industries. Presentations explaining the basics and finer points of translation and interpreting to business audiences have been held at the Philadelphia Bar Association, the American Chemical Society’s Annual Conference, and the Society for Technical Communication Summit. ATA will also be present at the International Association of Business Communicators’ World Conference this summer. Since many audience members don’t have a background in foreign languages, they are incredibly appreciative of any guidance through the landscape.

As we know, like gardening and landscaping, advocacy is a job that is never done. It requires regular attention to make sure the seeds we planted grow strong and tall and don’t get choked by the weeds around them. It takes time and effort by dedicated volunteers, who help to bring passion, patience, and understanding to an industry that we care about deeply. 

  1. “America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education in the 21st Century” (American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2017),
  2. Walsh, Caitilin. “Advocacy Matters,” The ATA Chronicle (March-April, 2017), 11,
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