From the President: Interpreters: A Critical Presence in ATA

From the President
Corinne McKay
Twitter handle: @corinnemckay

With over 3,000 individual members, ATA’s Interpreters Division1 includes nearly one third of our Association’s total membership. During my time in ATA—now about 17 years—interpreters have played an ever-growing role (literally, and figuratively!) in ATA, to the greater benefit of the Association as a whole. That growing presence has also motivated us in ATA’s leadership to take a closer look at the benefits we offer interpreters and how to advocate for interpreters in the larger world of language services.

Critical to ATA’s increased inclusion of interpreters is our Interpretation Policy Advisory Committee (IPAC), headed by ATA Board Member Melinda Gonzalez-Hibner. As chair of IPAC, Melinda advises ATA’s leadership on all things interpreter-related. She and her committee—experts in multiple “flavors” of interpreting such as medical, conference, court, and community—work on ATA’s own interpreter policies (more on those below!), and also advise me on how ATA can or should speak up for interpreters when interfacing with our national and state governments and other entities.

If you’re an interpreter, you should first make sure that you’re taking advantage of all the interpreter-specific benefits ATA offers. Most importantly, if you hold a recognized interpreting credential in conference, health care, or legal interpreting, make sure to apply for our Credentialed Interpreter designation (CI),2 which appears in ATA directory searches alongside the CT credential for ATA-certified translators. ATA has also made a concerted effort to include the interpreter point of view in many of our core programs by appointing interpreters to key positions, such as webinar chair (Director Elena Langdon) and Chapters Committee chair (Directory Tony Guerra).

Additionally, interpreter advocacy has come to the forefront in recent months. ATA members in Texas—including Austin Area Translators and Interpreters Association President Marco Hanson and ATA Director Cristina Helmerichs—alerted us to a disturbing set of proposals in the Texas legislature that would decrease the passing score on the Texas state court interpreter exam from 70% to 60%. With help from Bill Rivers, executive director of the Joint National Committee on Languages, the language lobbying organization to which ATA belongs, ATA drafted a letter strongly opposing these bills and sent it to key members of the Texas legislature.3 Likewise, we’re becoming involved in court interpreter advocacy in South Carolina, where some interpreters are being paid only for “talking time” (i.e., half the time that they are actually on duty) when interpreting in a team of two.

Dealing with issues such as these has been a new departure for ATA, especially for those of us who think of a translators association as consisting mainly of desk-bound “word nerds” who need some prodding to get out from behind the computer screen. Greater involvement of interpreters in ATA has motivated us to stretch our boundaries—to the great benefit of the Association at large. We hope that the presence of interpreters in ATA will continue to grow well into the future!

  1. For more information on ATA’s Interpreters Division, visit
  2. For more information on ATA’s Credentialed Interpreter designation, visit
  3. See “Follow ATA News,”
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