Language Advocacy Day 2017
Once a year, language experts — teachers, researchers, translators, interpreters, company owners, and leaders of language associations — gather in Washington, D.C. to lobby the U.S. Congress and the Executive Branch for support of language learning and the language industry. This is Language Advocacy Day.
On February 16, this year's language advocates went to Capitol Hill to talk with senators, representatives, and both congressional and executive branch staffers about the importance of strengthening our language learning programs for future translators and interpreters.
In addition to congressional funding for elementary and secondary education programs, advocacy efforts included grant programs for overseas studies, teacher education programs, defense research and language instruction, domestic and foreign intelligence analysis, as well as business regulations that allow the translation and interpreting industry to function.
ATA was there! Look for ATA Past President Caitilin Walsh's report in the March/April issue of The ATA Chronicle.
Language Advocacy Day is organized by the Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL). JNCL and its sister organization, the National Council for Languages and International Studies (NCLIS), advise and lobby Congress and the Executive Branch throughout the year on language issues, including the policies needed to implement language programs in the U.S. ATA is an active member of JNCL-NCLIS.
Visit the JNCL-NCLIS website to review the organization's position on language issues, current language news, and language policy highlights.
U.S. Investigating Interpreting Services in Massachusetts Schools
Boston Globe (MA) (02/15/17) Vaznis, James
Federal civil rights investigators are looking into allegations that the Lawrence and Braintree school systems in Massachusetts are failing to supply adequate interpreting services for non-English-speaking parents of special education students. Complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights argue that the school systems are not providing interpreters in meetings with parents, or are using staffers and volunteers with insufficient language skills to explain complex special education and legal documents. The complaints also state that the school systems have failed to provide parents with translated documents, including report cards and individualized education plans designed to guarantee specific services to address students' disabilities. "It's an absolutely terrible situation," says Teresita Ramos, an attorney for the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. "When there's no language access [for parents], you're taking away a huge system of support for these children because their parents don't understand what's going on with them," Ramos says. Both the Lawrence and Braintree school systems say they are revising their special education programs to ensure that all parents, regardless of their proficiency in English, can be fully engaged in their children's education. The Lawrence school system has begun contracting with an outside agency to provide translation services and is offering interpreting training to school staff. "Better, more efficient communication is an important piece" of the plan, says Christopher Markuns, a school system spokesman. The Braintree school system is cooperating with the Office for Civil Rights to ensure that families for whom English is a second language have access to school programs. "We're working hard to ensure that we're providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students and families in our community," says Superintendent Frank Hackett. The investigations are the most recent in a series of federal probes over the years into whether Massachusetts school systems are providing adequate programs for students from immigrant households. Those probes have led to settlement agreements in Boston, Somerville, and Worcester, requiring schools to bring services for English language learners into compliance with federal law.
China: A Modern-Day Babel: Review of A Billion Voices by David Moser
Wall Street Journal (NY) (02/16/17) Neville-Hadley, Peter
Mandarin, Guoyu, or Putonghua? David Moser's A Billion Voices (published by Penguin China) tells the remarkable story of China's language unification agenda and its controversial relationship with modern politics, challenging the reader's conceptions of what it means to speak and be Chinese. Chinese is a language known by many names, and China is a country that is home to many languages. Since the turn of the 20th century, linguists and politicians have been on a mission to create a common language for China. In his book, Moser, a linguist at Beijing Capital Normal University, introduces the linguistic struggles of early 20th-century China through the lives of intellectuals of the time. From the individuals behind the May Fourth Movement of 1919, to leaders such as Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong—they all fought linguistic wars to push the boundaries of language reform. Moser writes: "the national networks of businessmen, bureaucrats, and military personnel were quite often—quite literally—not speaking the same language, and the risk of disastrous miscommunication was quite real." The idea of a national Chinese language began with the realization by the revolutionaries of 1911 that retaining control over a country speaking multiple languages and myriad dialects would necessitate reform. Long-term unification and the introduction of mass education would require a common language. As a result, the newly formed government of the Republic of China established a committee to design a common language, but progress was stalled due to civil war. After the Communist victory of 1949, the Communist party introduced Standard Mandarin (Putonghua) in 1956. Now, Internet users are taking the Chinese language in new and unpredictable directions. "A Billion Voices is a political and intellectual history of China as well as a linguistic one," says Victor H. Mair, a professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Pennsylvania. "Written with captivating wit and exacting expertise, Moser's book is a masterpiece of clear thinking and incisive exposition."
Voice of America Launches TV Network as Alternative to Russian Propaganda
CBS News (DC) (02/13/17)
Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) have launched Current Time TV, a global Russian-language television network aimed at providing an alternative to Russia's state-controlled media outlets that critics say spread propaganda and misinformation. Current Time, run by RFE/RL in Prague, with help from VOA in Washington, DC, is targeting Russian speakers across the globe with round-the-clock programming intended to offer the type of fact-based news that critics say is sorely missing in the Russian market. "Current Time is an alternative to the Kremlin-controlled media—a reality check with no fake news or spin," says Current Time Director Daisy Sindelar. Current Time provides six hours of original Russian-language content, which includes basic news and information roundups, a political talk show, and a weekly review for a potential audience of 240 million in Russia, the Balkans and former Soviet republics, and certain Asian countries. "Russians don't feel they're getting the whole story," says RFE/RL President Tom Kent. "Current Time offers news and information not appearing on existing Russian television," he says. Kent notes one of the network's goals is to encourage "the growth of independent TV journalism in the Russian sphere of influence." About 100 reporters are working with Current Time, with distribution routed via 32 affiliates in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, and with 7.3 million subscribers on satellite, cable, and Internet television services in nine nations. VOA staffers say social media is the best vehicle for reaching Russian viewers, and Current Time has already produced 160 million social media views of items linking to its programs, 25% of them within Russia.
Canadian Officials Cancel Proposed Automated Hiring System for Interpreters
The Hill Times (Canada) (02/09/17) Vigliotti, Marco
Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) Minister Judy Foote announced that the government has cancelled the proposed launch of a software system designed to automate the process for hiring freelance interpreters. PSPC, the federal agency that provides language services to government departments and Parliament, had intended for the new procurement system to replace the Translation Bureau's staff-run system of awarding contracts to freelance interpreters. Opponents said that implementing the system could lead to contracts being automatically given to the lowest bidder rather than to the most qualified. "We're intent on making sure that the quality that is needed to provide both official languages [French and English] is made available through any process we enter into," Foote says. "We want to make sure we get this right, so we want to consult the various stakeholders across the spectrum," she explains. Foote has also requested that departmental officials "reset and develop" a new strategy for awarding language services based on "further consultations with representatives from across the interpreting industry." Foote says the government's decision was in part due to a letter she received last year from Canada's Senate Committee on Official Languages asking the government to postpone the system's implementation "until further notice." According to a statement, the committee became concerned after members of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), who represent about 200 Canadian interpreters offering freelance services, voiced their opposition to the system. (AIIC is supported by the union representing staff at the Translation Bureau.) Members of AIIC in Canada issued a statement praising the government's decision, saying it "demonstrated a keen awareness of and sensitivity toward Canada's linguistic duality."
Mother Language Day Promotes Multilingual Education
The Pie News (United Kingdom) (02/22/17) Marsh, Natalie
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) celebrated International Mother Language Day on February 21 along with educators and government leaders worldwide, highlighting the importance of multilingualism and learning in one's native language. Irina Bokova, UNESCO's director-general, says this year's theme, "Toward Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education," provided an opportunity to mobilize for the sustainable development goals to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. "Education and information in the mother language is absolutely essential to improve learning and gain confidence and self-esteem, which are among the most powerful engines of development," Bokova says. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his support: "Diversity is our strength. On this International Mother Language Day, we celebrate the many languages spoken in our great country." The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs produced a video conveying that 2.3 billion people lack access to education in their native language. "Studies report that learning to read or write in your mother language improves learning ability and professional success," the video states. "I launch an appeal for the potential of multilingual education to be acknowledged everywhere—in education and administrative systems, in cultural expressions, and the media, cyberspace, and trade," Bokova says. "The better we understand how to value languages, the more tools we will have to build a future of dignity for all." International Mother Language Day was established in November 1999.
Don't miss these upcoming ATA Webinars!
Translating for the Courts (March 9)
Observe like a detective, be faithful like a court interpreter, and decide like a judge. These are the three basic skills every translator needs to work in U.S. courts. Why? Join us to find out! [learn more]
Register: ATA Member Non-Member
Creating and Optimizing a Website for Your Freelance Business (March 21)
When it comes to attracting serious clients online, it's hard to beat a well-designed website with search engine optimization. In the past, this often meant paying a lot of money to a professional web designer. Not any longer! [learn more]
Register: ATA Member Non-Member
Translation Contracts: Beyond the Basics (April 4)
You've got the contract, but should you sign it? Let lawyer-linguist Paula Arturo walk you through the standard—and not so standard—contract clauses. You'll also take a look at some of the most common "problem clauses" in translation contracts. [learn more]
Register: ATA Member Non-Member
Transcreation: Translation With a Twist (May 4)
Advertising campaigns gone wrong? Slogans laughable? It all comes down to transcreation. And this is the webinar to show you how it's done. Hot topic! Don't delay—limited seating available. [learn more]
Register: ATA Member Non-Member
Can't attend? Register for this webinar now and a link to the recorded version will be sent to you after the event!
ATA's 58th Annual Conference Proposal Deadline
Speaking at an ATA Annual Conference is not only a challenge, but also an opportunity: there is no better way to gain visibility and recognition as a "go-to" expert in your field.
If you've got knowledge and skills to share, then make this the year you submit a proposal to present!
Proposal Deadline: March 3
Final call for the ATA Mentoring Program
Need to move your business forward? Have questions about technology, management, or clients? The ATA Mentoring Program may be just what you need!
Want to know more? Watch this 60-minute ATA Mentoring Program webinar—it's free!
Don't wait! The deadline to submit an application is March 3.
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Renew today and let ATA continue to be your best professional resource.
Coming Up in the March/April Issue of The ATA Chronicle
How to Deal with Questions During a Translation Project
What can translators do to ensure a project goes smoothly from start to finish? Well, one of the best and most straightforward things you can do is to ask the client some questions. (Nancy Matis)
Crafting the Perfect Pitch: A Comprehensive Guide
Of all the ways to market your skills, getting an article in a publication or posted to a blog your clients will read is my all-time favorite method. (Jonathan Downie)
The Embassy Translator Revisited
What do embassy translators do and how do they contribute toward carrying out the mission of a foreign embassy in the United States? (Cheryl A. Fain)
Transitioning from Student to Translator
There are a number of ways you can show potential clients that you’re a professional even before you’ve landed your first paid job. (Meghan McCallum and Sarah Puchner)
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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