Freelancing,  Languages,  Translation

Translation Goes Virtual! ATA61 Highlights and Takeaways

It’s Thursday evening and snow is falling outside here in the Twin Cities. I’m at home taking care of our two-year-old, who squirms in my lap as I log on to virtual attend my first ever ATA conference. In my time as a freelance translator, I’ve managed to land some clients but I wanted to expand my network. I saw ATA as the right place to start.

What is ATA?

ATA stands for the American Translators Association. It has a large membership base of 10k+ members worldwide. The association has a vibrant history in the development of translators and interpreters everywhere. 

A few months ago, I spoke with Black manga translator Ajani Oloye about joining ATA and taking its certification exam, which has a whopping passing rate of 20%!

I finally bit the bullet and registered as an ATA member and a conference attendee.

As a marketing specialist for an Association Management Company (AMC), I am no stranger to planning and attending virtual events but I was excited to be a part of something that was specifically meant for translators and interpreters.

This Budding Translator’s Highlights from the ATA61 Conference

Landed a Direct Client on My First Day and Consistently Generated Leads

Without going into too much detail about the platform that ATA used, the attendees were listed under a community tab. Some profiles came complete with images, language pairs, and contact info. I did not have to look far to connect with BIPOC translators!

There were also daily networking events where I got to connect with other freelance translators/interpreters looking to grow their business.

Attended A Practice Deposition Session For Legal Interpretation In Japanese

I took part in a practice deposition, where participants pretended to be an attorney cross-examining a witness. 

This was a consecutive interpretation because the designated interpreter waited until the attorney finished asking the witness a question before interpreting.

Simultaneous interpretation would have involved interpreting as the attorney was speaking. 

It was amazing to see this in practice, even if it was at an easier pace than a typical deposition. I learned a ton about interpretation and storytelling. 

Workshopped a Passage from the Japanese to English ATA Certification Exam

Together with other translators, I workshopped a news article that we translated from Japanese to English with other translators. We also went over the most common errors that exam-takers make on the ATA Certification exam.

The ATA Certification exam is not like the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) as this isn’t necessarily testing language proficiency but the ability to translate. 

Some advice from the exam grader: read a lot in Japanese and English!

How I Got the Most Out of the ATA61 Sessions

Mastering the Art of CTRL + C

I had pen and paper handy. I took a lot of notes that I’ll be typing up over the next couple of days. 

In lieu of business cards, everyone copied and pasted their quick introductions.

My Favorite Sessions from ATA

Playful Translation

One thing that I love about translation is incorporating cultural nuances. It’s not very easy to do so. Especially when we talk about idioms, effective communication is key. 

Conveying the Words of U.S. Presidents into Japanese

This was probably the most entertaining presentation I’ve watched about interpretation. It was really amazing to see the effort that goes into conveying the rhetoric of a world leader. We didn’t just look at Trump’s words but those of Obama, Bush Jr., and Clinton. 

From Freelancer to Entrepreneur: Skills to Wow Your Customers and Grow Your Business

There were several sessions that talked about the important balance between translation and entrepreneurship but this one was by far my favorite because of the awesome resources the presenter shared with everyone. 

Another big takeaway from this session was client/customer retention.

Getting someone to invest in you once is great but twice is even better—it can mean that you’ve established a connection with that business!

Final Verdict: Is an ATA Membership Worth the Cost?

A thousand times yes! On top of professional development and continuing education, becoming a member gives you access to a wide range of opportunities and connections.

Right after the conference, I made sure to join the language divisions (and follow the divisions on social media) for my language pairs.  

I wish that I would have become a member during my collegiate days. Maybe I would have felt much clearer about my career options in the translation/interpretation world. 

Lastly, the Upper Midwest Association of Translators announced that ATA62 will be taking place right here in the Twin Cities next year! Hope to see you there. 

Trilingual copywriter and translator raising her biracial baby trilingual.

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