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ATA Newsbriefs: 2016 in Review


There was no shortage of translation and interpreting news in 2016, and ATA Newsbriefs reported on much of it.

There were the unusual stories, such as African immigrants finding a French-speaking home in Maine; the expected stories, such as language barriers in U.S. sports teams; and the ongoing stories, such as the hiring contract for U.K. court interpreters and the battle for bilingual education in California.

There were the stories about languages, from the well-known French, Spanish, and German to the lesser known Gaeilge and Mayan, not to mention Kongish and Spanglish. And there were the stories about rediscovering languages, saving languages, and ancient languages.

There were the international stories, such as claims that translation mistakes caused confusion following the EgyptAir crash, and the local stories, such as Minneapolis-St. Paul transit police learning Somali to help passengers.

There were the interpreting stories, such as interpreters working with video access to help asylum seekers in Germany, and the translation stories, such as the difficulties in translating for the Shanghai Disneyland.

ATA Newsbriefs published 116 stories like these in 2016. We're looking forward to doing it all over again in 2017! Now keep reading for more highlights from this year.

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Industry News


MLB Requires Every Team to Have Full-Time Spanish Interpreters in 2016
CBS Sports (01/11/16) Brown, David

The Major League Baseball (MLB) Players Union will require all of its 30 teams to have at least two full-time Spanish-language interpreters in 2016. Teams will be given $65,000 to offset costs for the new positions, and the money will come from penalties paid by teams for going over the international signing bonus limit. The new rule is designed to ensure that native Spanish speakers have a chance to express themselves more completely in the media. In the past, Spanish interpreters were makeshift. Many teams relied on teammates, coaches, bullpen catchers, or anyone who was fluent in both languages. Most players, regardless of their country of origin, do their best to speak English, but what they say to the media is often lost in translation. The new rule stipulates that an interpreter must be available before and after games to assist players with their media obligations. The interpreter must report to the club's public relations director or to the general manager and be with the team at all times, from spring training through the end of the season, and be available at any function where players are present. The MLB's new policy won't just help players address the media and public, but could also improve cultural understanding and relationships within a team. "We view this policy as a positive and necessary step in helping improve the work environment for players, clubs, and media," says Greg Bouris, a spokesman for the MLB Players Union.
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Wikitongues Aims to Record and Preserve the World's Languages
Public Radio International (MN) (02/23/16) Goyette, Jared

Wikitongues, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit dedicated to preserving and recording linguistic diversity, wants to build a tool to share and document world languages. Founded in 2013 by Federico Andrade and Daniel Bogre Udell, Wikitongues boasts volunteers in 40 countries. Most record videos of people telling stories in their native languages. To date, volunteers have made about 300 videos in more than 180 unique languages. "There are lot of very beautiful words and expressions that have started to fade away. A lot of people tend to use simpler language, and I think that's a shame," says Plator Gashi, an Albanian speaker who has recorded 45 videos for Wikitongues so far. "I think we owe it to one another to record our own ways of speaking and to give it to the people. That's what drives me to keep going," he says. While recording videos of rare languages or unique dialects is valuable, such videos are always going to have a limited audience unless they come with subtitles or translations--work that can be both challenging and time consuming. To solve this problem and facilitate crowd-sourced documentation and learning, Wikitongues has launched a campaign to develop an open sourced software program called Poly that would make it easy to create multimedia dictionaries on the fly. With Poly, users would be able to create a dictionary between a target language and source language, then add phrases and meanings using text and video. So far, the campaign had raised more than $48,000. "What I think we bring to the table is this potential of having all sorts of different communities coming together in their own little space, but in a common market," says Wikitongues Co-founder Federico Andrade. Fellow Co-founder Bogre Udell feels Poly could become an important tool for grassroots efforts to preserve languages. "We have tons of these language communities around the world where people are not really able to teach it to their kids, where their kids are learning another language in school, consuming another language in the media, and so what you are really looking at is forced linguicide." In his work with Wikitongues, Gashi has traveled throughout Kosovo and the Balkans to conduct interviews. It's a region that has a rich culture and history, and also historically bitter political divides. "I think that it's going to take a lot of work for people to get closer to one another, culturally speaking, and what I've learned is that a lot of people do want to do that--a lot of people are very enthusiastic to learn, to share."
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Translated Fiction Outsells English Fiction in U.K.
The Guardian (United Kingdom) (05/09/16) Flood, Alison

According to a survey commissioned by the Man Booker International Prize, translated literary fiction is selling better in the U.K. than literary fiction originally written in English. The survey found that although fiction in translation comprises only 3.5% of literary fiction titles published, it accounted for 7% of sales in 2015. The research, conducted by book sales monitor Nielsen Book, examined physical book sales in the U.K. between January 2001 and April 2016. It found that translated fiction sales almost doubled over the past 15 years, from 1.3 million to 2.5 million copies, while the market for fiction as a whole fell from 51.6 million in 2001 to 49.7 million in 2015. "In 2001, every literary fiction title written in English sold an average 1,153 copies, while every translated literary fiction title sold only 482 copies, but this had completely changed by 2015," says Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the Man Booker International Prize. Rocco explains that every literary fiction title written in English sold an average of only 263 copies, while every translated literary fiction title sold an average of 531 copies. "Not only are the numbers of translated books sold going up, but there is an incredibly devoted readership in Britain of translated fiction," Rocco says. "We've now reached a stage where not only are people happy to read fiction in translation, they are positively seeking it out," says Chris White, a fiction buyer for Waterstones. "Currently 25% of our top 20 fiction titles are translated, and if more were published I'm sure that percentage would be higher still," he says. Rocco credits increased travel, the import of foreign TV shows to Britain, and the emergence of small publishers as factors in the growing popularity of translated fiction. Rocco feels the survey is "confirmation of the health and growth potential of international fiction in the U.K.," and hopes that it will "encourage publishers and agents to take more risks and invest in translation."
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Translating the U.S. Census Questionnaire Into Arabic
Pew Research Center Fack Tank (DC) (06/03/16) Brown, Anna

The U.S. Census Bureau is researching the feasibility of offering the census questionnaire in Arabic for the first time in 2020. However, before a final decision is made, the Bureau faces many challenges, not only in terms of translating the language, but also in adjusting the appearance of the questionnaire for those accustomed to reading and writing Arabic script. The Bureau has already conducted research in which focus groups consisting of Arabic speakers not proficient in English were asked to identify the translation and visual display issues that are unique to Arabic. The Bureau will use this research to help determine whether a translation of the census form can accurately "translate" symbolic and layout meanings from English into Arabic. Translating survey questionnaires is a tricky endeavor because it can be difficult to express the same meaning across two languages and cultures. But Arabic presents unique challenges because it is read from right to left on the page (the opposite of English and many other languages), and the letters are connected like cursive writing in English. Because Arabic uses a different alphabet, certain words (including names) cannot always be transliterated directly into English. Even if the questions are translated accurately, the visual elements of the questionnaire may not necessarily transmit the same meaning as in English. For example, the English instructions indicate that respondents should use an "X" to mark a checkbox, but using a check mark is more culturally appropriate in Arabic. Since Arabic is written right-to-left, the Bureau's research recommends that most of the questions on the census form should be aligned on the right side of the page. Also, while the English questionnaire uses capitalization or italicization to emphasize or de-emphasize text elements, there are no distinct capital letters or italicization in Arabic, so the Bureau recommends that other methods be used to achieve a similar effect, such as bolded or underlined words. The Bureau will continue to research these formatting and language issues to ensure that the finished questionnaire encourages respondents to give accurate and legible responses.
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Language Clues Researchers Used to Link DNC Hack to Russia
Christian Science Monitor (MA) (08/01/16) Roberts, Paul F.

Governments and cybersecurity firms are turning increasingly to linguistic clues found in malicious code or metadata to identify lone hackers or the nations responsible for high-profile attacks. For example, security researchers investigating the source of malicious software that infected the Democratic National Committee's computers relied on linguistic clues in computer fonts, messages buried in malicious software applications, and even comments from the alleged culprit to help tie the attack back to Russia. "In the digital world, we look at every aspect of communication," says Mario Vuksan, chief executive officer of the cybersecurity firm ReversingLabs. "From the way a hacking group connects to an asset to the way the binary code is written to text and e-mail messages." For instance, code could be compiled on machines that are loaded with specific languages. And hackers could tip their hand by using expressions common in certain countries or languages. When it comes to investigating cybercrimes, techniques range from classical linguistic pursuits, such as word count analysis that examines patterns of language use, to more behavioral analysis that tries to identify unique patterns or behaviors using lexical analysis, says Steve Bongardt, a former agent in the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit who now works with the firm Fidelis Cybersecurity. Vuksan says officials don't rely on linguistic information alone during their investigations. Rather, governments and law enforcement agencies investigating crimes need to look to the preponderance of evidence--most of it not linguistic--as they attempt to understand who is responsible for an incident. "Cyber being what it is, it's an area where covert action can be done at different levels in many different ways," Vuksan says. Still, clues buried in language in blog posts, social media, or malicious code are critical in an age when nation-backed hackers are trying to cover their tracks.
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Tesla Tweaks Autopilot's Chinese Translation After Beijing Crash
Bloomberg (NY) (08/15/16)

Tesla Motors Inc. has modified the translation of how the electric car manufacturer markets its autopilot system in China following a minor accident in Beijing involving the plug-in Model X crossover earlier this month. Tesla changed the translation on its website to list the autopilot system as a driver-assistance system, rather than as a self-driving system, says Gary Tao, a spokesman for the U.S. company who is based in Beijing. The wording was changed after Luo Zhen, a 32-year-old Beijing resident, sideswiped a parked car when using autopilot without keeping his hands on the wheel, which scratched his Model S but didn't result in any injuries. "[Tesla] didn't clarify the risk, but kept leaving the impression on everyone that its technology is fabulous and intelligent," Luo says. "It can easily mislead people to overuse the function." Tao states that Tesla has always asked drivers to use autopilot with both hands on the wheel since introducing the feature last year. "We hope to clarify that it is a driving-assisting function and hope people can use it in a correct way." China's regulators are currently crafting policies for autonomous driving and have directed automakers to suspend road testing of self-driving cars in the meantime. Domestic companies, including Chongqing Changan Automobile Co., Baidu Inc., and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., have urged the government to speed up the process and clear the way for technology that could make roads safer.
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How NYC's First Puerto Rican Librarian Brought Spanish to the Shelves
National Public Radio (DC) (09/08/16) Ulaby, Neda

The legacy of Pura Belpré--who became the first Puerto Rican librarian at the New York Public Library in 1921--lives on through those who continue her work to affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience through literature for children and young adults. Belpré was a college student at the University of Puerto Rico. She had plans to become a teacher, but she came to New York to attend her sister's wedding and decided to stay. In Harlem, Belpré was recruited as part of a public library effort to hire young women from ethnic enclaves. This first job was a springboard for Belpré's extraordinary career, says scholar Lisa Sánchez--as a storyteller, an activist, a librarian, a folklorist, and even as a puppeteer. Belpré came to New York's public library system at a time when the city's Puerto Rican population was expanding rapidly. Belpré could not find any books for kids in Spanish, so she wrote them herself. Her book, Perez y Martina, published in 1932, was the first Spanish-language book for children published by mainstream U.S. press. Belpré traveled throughout the city telling stories with puppets in Spanish and English. She offered numerous library programs and titles in Spanish to her neighbors at a time when such "community outreach"--especially to the Spanish-speaking community--was unheard of. "Because of her we have story time in Spanish and offer computer classes in Spanish," says Vianela Rivas, a librarian in Washington Heights. "As a Latina librarian, I feel we have a responsibility to continue doing the work she started." Every year, the American Library Association presents the Pura Belpré Award to recognize books for kids and young adults by Latino writers and illustrators. Rita Auerbach, who helped organize the award's 20th anniversary this year, says the proportion of books for kids by Latino authors is so "shockingly low" that "it's insane." A recent study conducted by the Cooperative Children's Book Center School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that less than 3% of books published for kids in the U.S. are by Latino authors and illustrators. Auerbach says that it's time for publishers to step up. "We need to respect the cultural identity of the children of this country. They need to find themselves in the books that we give them and in the programs that libraries offer."
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What It Was Like to Produce the Clinton and Trump Debate Live en Español
Public Radio International (CA) (09/27/16) Porzucki, Nina

For millions of Spanish-speaking Americans who caught the September 26 presidential debate on Univision, there was a familiar voice: Vicente de la Vega. Vicente was the simultaneous interpreter for Donald Trump during the debate--a role he's played at various times during the campaign. Preparing to interpret Trump is no joking matter. "You have to know intimately the person for whom you're going to be interpreting," Vicente says. He spent weeks studying Trump's interviews, speeches, and rallies on YouTube, trying to understand his tone and turns of phrase. Vicente also pays attention to the tone and cadence of whomever he happens to be interpreting. If Trump yells, so does he; if the candidate whispers, so does Vicente. "We have to mimic what they do, in the foreign language," he says. Vicente interpreted the presidential debate in the same room with interpreters for Hillary Clinton and NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt, who served as moderator. They were all seated in sight of one another so that they could react in real time to each other and the candidate they were interpreting. "The idea of being seated in the same room is so that we do not step over each other's voices," he explains. "But if the candidates do step over each other, then we do so in our interpretation." Vicente has been interpreting now for almost five decades. He has interpreted for many candidates and presidents over the years, from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton to both George Bushes and Barack Obama. However, politics does not come into play when interpreting politicians, he says. He interprets on all sides of the aisle and at all sorts of events. "You have to discard any politics and just do your job."
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Members of British Parliament Say Post-Brexit Language Crisis Possible
BBC News (United Kingdom) (10/17/16) Burns, Judith

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages says the British government must plan now to avoid a post-Brexit language crisis. APPG says more U.K. officials with language skills will be needed after the country leaves the European Union. After conducting a study on Brexit and languages, APPG states a lack of language ability costs the U.K. an estimated 3.5% of economic performance. Britain currently relies on EU nationals to negotiate trade deals in other languages, but this will no longer be possible once the U.K. has left the Union. In particular, APPG fears the loss of European language skills if EU nationals already living in the U.K. are not guaranteed residency status post-Brexit. "Britain must make the U.K.'s language skills a top policy issue," says APPG Co-chair Baroness Coussins. "Language skills are vital for our exports, education, public services, and diplomacy." Coussins calls for a national plan to ensure that the U.K. produces the linguists it needs to become "a world leader in global free trade on the international stage." APPG says the country needs to boost skills in both European and non-European languages for the purposes of trade, international relations, and security. The group says the solution lies in education. Britain must continue to work on education reforms, including establishing a national plan to increase language education from primary school to the post-graduate level as a means of recruiting more language teachers. As part of these reforms, APPG wants the U.K. to continue full participation in the Erasmus+ program, where young people study, do volunteer work, and train abroad in Europe, with some working as language assistants in schools. "It is essential that schools continue to be able to recruit EU nationals post-Brexit," says Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. "There is already a critical shortage of language teachers, and the last thing we need is anything which makes this situation worse," he says. "We understand that Brexit means Brexit, but it is vital that it does not also mean a full-blown crisis in language teaching."
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Linguists Play a Key Role in New Sci-fi Thriller 'Arrival'
Washington Post (DC) (11/11/16) O'Sullivan, Michael

The new sci-fi thriller Arrival offers a contemplative look at the power and limitations of language and brings attention to the work of linguists. The film's hero, Dr. Louise Banks, is an academic field researcher and translator who is recruited by U.S. military intelligence to help communicate with a race of seven-legged extraterrestrials that have descended on Earth with unclear intentions. "A lot of people don't know what linguists do, or even that we exist, apart from some idea that we just translate lots of languages," says Jessica Coon, an associate professor of linguistics at McGill University who was a consultant for the film. In the film, Banks is brought in due to her reputation as a competent translator for the military, but is initially unable to establish communication with the aliens, as their spoken language, referred to as Heptapod A, is irreproducible by human vocal cords. Instead, Banks relies on the aliens' written language, Heptapod B, to communicate. The written script for Heptapod B is arranged in a circular pattern, the prototype for which is based on an altered version of J.R.R. Tolkien's Elvish language. The fact that Heptapod B text is nonlinear—with no beginning, middle, or end—figures prominently in the plot, as well as in the movie's key twist. So does something called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, a linguistic theory positing that the language we use influences the way we see the world. In the end, Arrival is not just a brainy meditation on how communication affects cognition, but also a deeply poignant rumination on memory, connection, and love. Coon jokes that anything that raises the profile of her field, while making linguists not just more down to earth but also heroes, is "a very, very good thing."
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The ATA Podcast

ATA News


ATA Newsbriefs and Association News

ATA Newsbriefs also provides members with the latest Association news and events throughout the year. Take a look at some of the major announcements in 2016.
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ATA Webinars 2017 | Three for Free!

The first three ATA webinars in 2017 are free. Pick one and register now!

A Step-by-Step Guide to Making a School Outreach Presentation
Learn how you can tell your story and share your own career in the classroom through ATA's School Outreach Program.
Free! Click to register!

Spreading Your Wings: Transitioning from Classroom to Career
Get your questions answered before leaving the classroom—from "Do I need a website" to "Can I survive as a freelancer."
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Entering the Changing Interpreting Market: Matching Your Talent to Current and New Work Opportunities
Attend this webinar to understand the rapidly changing interpreting market and what you need to know about current hiring and recruiting trends.
Free! Click to register!
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ATA Webinar | Specialization: Why, How, and What’s the Big Deal?

Presenter: Karen Tkaczyk
Date: February 9, 2017
Time: 12 noon Eastern Standard Time
Duration: 60 minutes
CE Point(s): 1

Translators and interpreters are often told they should specialize. But why? Attend this webinar to find out! Presenter Karen Tkaczyk will examine the concrete benefits of specializing and give you an inside look at a specialized translation practice. Then she'll show you how to develop your own plan for becoming an expert in your field.

Register now!
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Coming Up in the January/February Issue of The ATA Chronicle

Spider Marketing: How to Get Clients to Come to You
Going out and selling yourself is definitely a good idea, but if not done strategically, you might find yourself spending lots of time and energy on it with little or no result. (Simon Berrill)

Why Ergonomics Matters to Professional Translators
Most translators probably associate the term “ergonomics” with office chairs and keyboards. While these factors are all relevant, there is a much broader definition. (Sharon O’Brien, Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow)

Feedback: Going Beyond “That Was Great”
Providing feedback during an interpreting practice session is not just a matter of half listening and then saying, “Yeah, that was great.” Interpreting practice with a partner or in groups involves giving feedback to others, and in turn accepting their feedback. (Elizabeth Essary)

ATA School Outreach Contest Winner Profile: Rika Mitrik
Knowing that she had to adapt the content of her presentation to the short attention span of three- to five-year-olds, this year’s School Outreach winner used a role-play exercise and some interactive activities to explain the difference between translation and interpreting. (Molly Yurick)

Call for Nominations: ATA Officers and Directors
Do you know someone who would make a good potential candidate for ATA’s Board of Directors? If so, ATA’s Nominating and Leadership Development Committee would like to hear from you. Any ATA member may make a nomination. Here’s your chance to help shape the future of the Association!

2016 ATA Honors and Awards Recipients
ATA and the American Foundation for Translation and Interpretation present annual and biennial awards to encourage, reward, and publicize outstanding work done by both seasoned professionals and students of our craft. This year's recipients are...

Access to The ATA Chronicle's searchable archives is available online! And don't forget to check out the latest issue of the Chronicle Online.
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December 29, 2016

In This Issue

ATA Newsbriefs 2016 
Association News 2016
Webinars: Three for Free 
Webinar: Specialization
The ATA Chronicle


ATA Webinars

Guide to Making a School Outreach Presentation
January 19, 2017
12:00 noon EST
Free! Register now!

Entering the Changing Interpreting Market
January 31, 2017
12:00 noon EST
Free! Register now!

Classroom to a Translation Career
February 7, 2017
12:00 noon EST
Free! Register now!

Specialization: Why, How, and What’s the Big Deal?
February 9, 2017
12:00 noon EST
Register now!

Creating a Website for Your Freelance Business
March 21, 2017 
12:00 noon EDT
Register now!


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October 25-28, 2017
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January 21-22, 2017
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