Highlights from the Annual Language Chairs Meeting

April is always a busy time for ATA’s Certification Program. This is when the Certification Committee holds its meeting to coincide with the Annual Language Chairs meeting. (Each exam language combination has a language chair administering passage selection and grading. ATA currently offers testing in 30 language combinations.) This year, the Certification Committee and more than 50 graders convened in Alexandria, Virginia, on April 13–15. Here are some highlights of what was discussed and decided:

FBI Guest Speakers: The assembled language chairs and other graders were treated to a fascinating and stimulating presentation by Maria Manfre and Mahonri Manjarrez from the FBI’s Division of Language Testing and Assessment. Their talk focused on the criteria for the FBI’s translation testing, specifically the skill level descriptors employed for language assessment. Participants had plenty of opportunities to consider differences and similarities between that system and ATA’s approach. We hope that further cross-fertilization between ATA and other organizations will take place in the future.

Feedback Matrix: One of the most frequent complaints about the certification exam is that candidates who fail have no way of knowing “what they did wrong.” (Those who take the practice test before the exam—something that is strongly recommended—do receive such feedback.) To address this issue, the Certification Program is considering giving candidates who fail a feedback chart showing the broad areas in which they did well, or not so well. During the language chairs meeting, graders applied the proposed model to actual former exams to see how well it served the intended purpose. Discussion was lively and further work on this option lies ahead.

Regional Candidate Preparation Sessions: Building on the success of the Certification Preparation Workshop held in Boston in January,1 ATA hopes to replicate the concept, which is to coach candidates on exam strategies using past passages, showing examples of errors, and analyzing them as a group. Additional sessions might be offered in Texas and in the Chicago area later this year, and possibly in North Carolina in early 2019. The Certification Committee is very attuned to the strong demand for more resources to help candidates prepare for the exam in various formats.

YouTube Videos: Be on the lookout for new offerings on ATA’s YouTube2 channel relating to certification. The plan is to produce a suite of short videos (5–10 minutes each) highlighting various aspects of the Certification Program.

Continuing Education Points: The continuing education (CE) requirement for maintaining certification has existed for over 10 years. While the system has been tweaked occasionally, the Certification Committee has concluded that an in-depth analysis of the CE system is overdue. A task force has been formed specifically to consider whether the current opportunities for earning CE points are reasonable and equitable, and whether other activities should be added to the approved list for earning CE points.

Automation: On the heels of the successful introduction of the computerized exam, ATA is looking at various options for further automating certification processes, both in terms of workflows at ATA Headquarters and grading activities. Savings on overhead costs could significantly narrow the gap between the costs associated with the Certification Program and revenues.

Look for more updates from ATA’s Certification Program in future issues of The ATA Chronicle!

  1. Heller, Rudy, and Diego Mansilla. “ATA’s Certification Exam Preparation Workshop in Boston,” The ATA Chronicle (May/June, 2018), 9, http://bit.ly/ATA-exam-prep.
  2. You can find ATA’s YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/ChannelATA.

David Stephenson is the chair of ATA’s Certification Committee. An ATA-certified German>English, Dutch>English, and Croatian>English translator, he has been an independent translator for over 30 years, specializing in civil litigation and creative nonfiction. Contact: david@stephensontranslations.com.

1 Responses to "Highlights from the Annual Language Chairs Meeting"

  1. Helen Eby says:

    Thank you for your hard work, and for your conversations with other testing programs. I look forward to watching the videos on the YouTube channel!

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