How to Establish a New ATA Certification Exam
Why is there no ATA Certification exam in my language combination? It's a fair question. The answer comes down to demand, teamwork, training, passage selection, and grading standards—plus hundreds of volunteer hours in between.
ATA Certification Committee Chair David Stephenson explains it all to Podcast Host Matt Baird in Episode 22 of The ATA Podcast.
Listen now to Episode 22 of The ATA Podcast!
What is The ATA Podcast?
It's a quick way to learn more about ATA—the people, events, and programs. Episodes are presented as short interviews with podcast Host Matt Baird. Easy to listen to, The ATA Podcast offers you a behind-the-scenes view of how ATA works.
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Be Sure to Leave a Comment
Listener comments and suggestions are a big help. Did you like the episode? What would make it better? Do you have an idea for an interview? Let us know. Email ATA Podcast Host Matt Baird with your feedback.
Meet the Interpreters for Trump and Kim
CNN (06/13/18) Criss, Doug
When Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met for their historic face-to-face summit on June 12 in Singapore, they were not alone. The two other key figures in the room were their interpreters. The pair have attracted much attention as the only people privy to the full content of the private meeting between the two leaders.
On the American side, was Yun-Hyang Lee, chief of the U.S. State Department's Interpreting Services Division. On the North Korean side, Kim's interpreter was Kim Ju Song, a member of North Korea's Foreign Ministry.
Lee came to the U.S. in 1996, where she taught in the translation and interpreting program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (now the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey) for eight years. From there, she joined the U.S. State Department for few a years before returning to South Korea and working as a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. She returned to the State Department in 2009. Lee has interpreted for former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Lee interpreted for Trump last November during his meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and when the president greeted the American detainees released by North Korea last month.
"She doesn't try to be the star of the show, she stays in the background," says Frank Aum, a North Korea expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace who worked with Lee in high-level negotiations involving the U.S. Defense Department. "She's very attuned to getting the interpretation and translation right rather than being more involved than she has to be."
Not as much is known about Kim Ju Song. He was at the White House earlier this month when North Korean General Kim Yong Chol met with Trump, so he got a head start in figuring out how to decode Trump's speaking style. He also interpreted for Chol when he went to South Korea for the Winter Olympics in February.
"Even though he was not trained as a professional interpreter, he was picked up because of his outstanding English proficiency," a defector who used to be a North Korean diplomat stated in an interview appearing in Chosun Ilbo, a North Korean newspaper.
A Google Translation Isn't Enough Evidence to Send Someone to Jail
Business Insider (06/15/18) Sandoval, Greg
While Google Translate's reliability at offering accurate translations has greatly improved over time, the technology remains far from perfect. On June 4, U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia ruled that the software's ability to translate accurately isn't dependable enough to be the deciding factor in sending someone to prison.
According to court documents, Ryan Wolting, a Kansas highway patrol officer stopped Omar Cruz-Zamora last October for driving with a suspended registration. Prosecutors say Wolting began to use Google Translate to communicate after realizing that Cruz-Zamora spoke little English. The officer asked Cruz-Zamora if he could search his car and Cruz-Zamora agreed. The documents say the officer then found 14 pounds of meth and cocaine.
Later, Cruz-Zamora's attorneys filed a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing that the defendant didn't understand Wolting's request to search his car or that he had the right to decline the search.
Wolting testified that he keyed into Google Translate the question "Can I search your car?" or "Can I search the car?" The problem was that the translation offered was "¿Puedo buscar el auto?" In Spanish this can be interpreted to mean "Can I find the car?"
According to a recording made by the police car's camera, there were multiple times when Wolting's questions produced "nonsensical translations." Two professional translators testified that Google Translate can be used for literal translations, but should never be used to "translate full conversations."
The judge wrote in his decision that "the court does not believe it is reasonable to rely on the service to obtain consent" and granted the defendant's request to suppress the evidence.
Translation software can be a useful tool for travelers, hotel workers, waiters, and waitresses who work in cities that see a lot of tourists. But they should realize that the technology is sometimes dramatically incorrect. In October, Israeli police arrested a Palestinian man for posting a photo of himself to his Facebook page standing next to a tractor and writing the words "good morning." The social network's translation tools goofed and translated the words in English as "hurt them" and in Hebrew as "attack them." Authorities believed the man was planning to use the tractor in an attack. The man was eventually released and Facebook apologized, but there's no mistaking that AI-generated translations still have a long ways to go.
Chinese Lawyer Helping to Improve the Deaf Community's Legal Knowledge
BBC News (United Kingdom) (05/30/18) Harrison, Paul; Allen, Kerry
When Attorney Tang Shuai posted a video in sign language on China's WeChat messaging app in February to warn about Ponzi schemes, his goal was to create a video series to improve legal knowledge among the deaf community. His efforts ended up uncovering a huge community in need of help. The video went viral and hundreds of deaf people got in touch with their legal troubles.
The video series was an instant hit, and Tang was flooded with so many friend requests that he had to ask WeChat to boost the friend limit from 5,000 to 10,000. So, why did the videos strike such a chord? The answer goes way beyond legal difficulties and into the complex world of sign language in China.
In China, there are two kinds of sign language. Standardized Chinese Sign Language is taught in schools and used by most interpreters and instructors. Natural Sign Language is generally used by many deaf people for day-to-day conversations. And, Natural Sign Language can vary by region, and Tang notes this variance has led to serious misunderstandings in courtrooms. Tang remembers one notable case where he defended a man suspected of theft. "When I went to the city detention center to meet my client I used Natural Sign Language," Tang explains. "The client was surprised to see that I could communicate with him...then he told me, 'I can't understand much of the sign language used by the [police] interpreters.'"
Tang first worked as a sign language interpreter in the Chinese courts and then studied law after he noticed that many deaf people had little knowledge of their legal rights. He wanted to do more to help the deaf community. Tang says that despite a significant expansion in access to education, the deaf population in China is still targeted by financial scam organizers. Stories of deaf people who lost fortunes in scams are what prompted him to launch the video series. The resulting fandom he accrued has encouraged Tang to apply his sign language expertise to promote legal awareness among the deaf community on a larger scale.
In addition to establishing a public WeChat account for his videos, he has set up a legal welfare service to give face-to-face consultations using video calls. After being inundated with requests for legal assistance, he started training sessions for deaf people who want a career in law. Tang has hired five deaf graduates from a local university and is training them to provide legal guidance to deaf people. Tang is also proving to be an inspiration to thousands of hearing people, with many noting that they want to learn sign language. "I hope that sign language can be as important as a foreign language in our national education system," says one poster on WeChat.
International Lifestyle Trends Translating Into Interest for Americans
Washington Post (DC) (05/31/18) McDonough, Megan
Americans' growing obsession with hygge, the Danish lifestyle concept of cozy, comfortable, and quality living, has quickly become a marketing buzzword for Scandinavian-inspired products.
Pronounced "HOO-ga," it was shortlisted as one of the Oxford English Dictionary's most influential words of 2016, and has since become a full-blown social and cultural phenomenon. "Hygge to the Danes seems to be what freedom is to Americans," says Meik Wiking, chief executive of the Happiness Research Institute and author of The Little Book of Hygge. "It's ingrained in our cultural DNA."
The hype over hygge doesn't appear to be dissipating. There are more than 3.4 million posts on Instagram bearing the #hygge hashtag, and Wiking's The Little Book of Hygge has become an international bestseller that has been translated into more than 30 languages. As recently as mid-April, Denmark applied to have the word added to UNESCO's list of "intangible cultural heritage," alongside flamenco from Spain, yoga from India, and Neapolitan pizza from Italy.
Its international success has book publishers scurrying to find authors in various parts of the world willing to contribute their country's cultural pearls of wisdom. A slew of pocket-size lifestyle guides has resulted, offering a wide range of mindfulness philosophies and feel-good advice.
Experts believe hygge's popularity among Americans is rooted in a countrywide trend of declining happiness and inspiration. The U.S. recently ranked number 18 on the World Happiness Report, which is substantially lower than comparably wealthy nations and down four spots from last year's report. Denmark, on the other hand, ranks consistently in the top three.
"A lot of people feel that they have gotten richer without getting happier and are looking abroad for new sources of inspiration," Wiking says.
Multilingual Students Have Improved in Academic Achievement Since 2003
According to a new study published by New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, multilingual students who speak more than one language other than English at home have substantially improved in reading and math achievement since 2003.
Michael Kieffer, the study's lead researcher, says the findings debunk a common myth that multilingual students and English learners have made little progress in academic achievement in recent years and that U.S. schools continue to fail these students. "Educators and policymakers have been misled by traditional ways of looking at achievement data for English learners," says Kieffer, an associate professor of literacy education at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. "When we look at the broader population of multilingual students, we uncover remarkable progress."
Kieffer and the study's co-author, Karen Thompson of Oregon State University, analyzed National Assessment of Educational Progress data from 2003 to 2015. The data demonstrated that although all students' scores in reading and math improved, multilingual students' scores improved two to three times more than monolingual students in both subjects in grades four and eight. There is little evidence that these trends can be explained by cohort changes in racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, or regional composition.
The research also suggests that multilingual students were about one-third to one-half of a grade level closer to their monolingual peers in 2015 than they were in 2003. The data cannot identify the specific sources for the change in achievement, but indicates that a bundle of policy changes that occurred between 2003 and 2015 may have moved schools in the right direction in serving multilingual students.
"Despite the dominant perception that these students have made little academic progress in recent years, our findings indicate there is real evidence of progress for this population," says Thompson, an assistant professor at Oregon State University's College of Education. "Students are showing what they know."
Interpreting Services Growing for Prince Edward Island's Immigrants
CBC News (Canada) (05/25/18) Mair, Karen
The influx of immigrants and refugees to Prince Edward Island (PEI) in Canada is driving the expansion of translation and interpreting services. Interpreters are proving indispensable for agencies like the PEI Association of Newcomers to Canada (PEIANC).
"We have interpreters that we train and pay who speak a variety of languages, and they help with basic settlement issues, such as health cards, social insurance numbers, and driver's licenses," says PEIANC Executive Director Craig Mackie. "We emphasize to our interpreters that clients are new and need respect," Mackie explains. "Obviously, interpreters are hearing personal information, so we also stress confidentiality."
Mackie says many health services providers are wary of family members or friends interpreting symptoms and doctors' questions, since they can make mistakes or not convey what the doctor says properly. To help address this issue, Health PEI has a contract with a 24-hour phone service with immediate availability to trained interpreters.
A language preference posted on new health cards also helps to lessen the workload for frontline personnel. "The language preference information is making it easier for staff to recognize the language of preference of the patient so interpreting services can be engaged immediately," Health PEI states on its website.
Mackie says translation is also a key service for newcomers. "There's a lot of legal documentation involved, so we refer people to a company where they can get certified support," he explains. "There is also a handy Newcomer Guide to PEI and Canada in seven languages available on the PEIANC website."
It's Not Too Late to Enter the ATA School Outreach Contest
Did you share your translation or interpreting career with students this year? Did you capture the moment with a photo? Then you're all set to enter ATA's School Outreach Contest for a chance to win a free registration to ATA's 59th Annual Conference. Get all the details in Episode 11 of The ATA Podcast. Listen now!
Proposal to Establish an ATA Audiovisual Division
In this media-driven world, thousands, if not millions, of linguists worldwide are working in the audiovisual sector. And the field is growing. In 2018, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu alone are expected to spend more than $15 billion on original content—all of which will require localization in the 200 regions covered by these entertainment companies.
This growth in the audiovisual industry led to a proposal to establish an ATA Audiovisual Division for linguists who work or want to work in media content localization. The division would keep members informed about new technologies and innovations relevant to the audiovisual field. It would also be an opportunity to network and build connections between audiovisual localization professionals and media content providers..
Learn more! Click to read the objectives of the proposed ATA Audiovisual Division or to add your petition in favor of establishing the division.
Choose to Stay in the Conference Hotel
The New Orleans Marriott is open for ATA59 reservations. Book now! The number of rooms reserved at a discount for conference attendees is limited, and it is not unusual for the host hotel to sell out early. ATA rates are available until October 1, 2018, or as space allows.
Remember, reservations made before Monday, October 22, will be automatically entered into the Stay and Win Drawing. Learn more and make your reservation today!
Looking for a way to stay in the Conference hotel and save money, too? Why not share the expense with a roommate. The ATA Conference Roommate Blog can help you connect to other conference attendees. Give it a try!
ATA Elections 2018: Final Slate of Candidates
The slate of candidates for election to the Board of Directors has been finalized. Elections will take place in New Orleans, Louisiana on October 25, 2018. The candidates are:
Director (three positions, three-year terms)
Director (one position, one-year term)
Candidate statements and photos will appear in the September/October issue of The ATA Chronicle and on ATA’s website.
- Eve Bodeux
- Melinda Gonzalez-Hibner
- Diego Mansilla
- Meghan McCallum
- Tianlu Redmon
- Kyle Vraa
In the May/June Issue of The ATA Chronicle
A Conversation with Man Booker International Prize Winner Jessica Cohen
Jessica Cohen, winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, shares her thoughts on literary translation, including what it’s like to collaborate with one of Israel’s finest writers. (Lois Feuerle)
Is There a Future in Freelance Translation? Let’s Talk About It!
Why are many professional freelance translators having difficulty finding work that compensates translation for what it is—a time-intensive, complex process that requires advanced, unique, and hard-acquired skills? (Christelle Maginot)
Remote Simultaneous Interpreting: The Upside and Downside
Many experienced interpreters consider remote simultaneous interpreting as a threat to their working conditions, but is it? (Silvana G. Chaves)
Recap of ATA’s Certification Exam Preparation Workshop
ATA’s Certification Exam Preparation Workshop presented opportunities for participants to learn how the Certification Program works, including the general characteristics of exam passages and how exams are evaluated and graded. (Rudy Heller and Diego Mansilla)
Miami Spring into Action 2018
An outstanding program, fabulous speakers, and camaraderie in a beautiful location set the tone for the “Spring into Action 2018” conference in Miami. (Anne Connor)
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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