Saturday, April 30, 2011

Call for Nominations, 2012-2013

The Division is calling for nominations for the positions of Administrator and Assistant Administrator, for 2012 and 2013. For a description and schedule of the election process, including a nomination form, see:

Steven Marzuola
Assistant Administrator

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Commenting on the ATA Sci-Tech Blog Simplified

We've changed it so visitors can post without using a Google account or any other online membership. Thank you, Steven Marzuola.

To comment you will still need to select a profile, however you can just use your name and any URL.

If you use the anonymous option, please include your name in the comment. Anonymous comments may not be posted.

A moderator must review the comment and post it if appropriate.

Thank you for your patience.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How to Comment on the ATA Sci-Tech Blog Articles

A note from the editor.

It starts out easily enough with the desire to comment on an interesting article.
You click comment and a dialog box appears. So far so good.
You type your comment and click post.

Now the system is going to start making demands.

In order to comment you must sign in using an account profile with:

It is easy to create a profile on Google. You can use your existing email address.

Please let me know if you have difficulties commenting on blog articles.
Stephanie Strobel,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Society for Technical Communication (STC)

By Barbara Jungwirth

STC is the oldest existing professional organization for people involved in the various aspects of technical communication, from graphic artists providing technical sketches, to writer/programmers creating online help content, to translators transferring that content into other languages. Other professions represented in the organization include indexers, information architects, developers of e-learning courses, technical communications teachers, and many more. As the STC states on their website, "What all technical communicators have in common is a user-centered approach to providing the right information, in the right way, at the right time to make someone's life easier and more productive."

The organization is divided into local chapters, including a number in other countries and includes "Special Interest Groups (SIGs)", similar to ATA Divisions. Relevant to translators is the International Technical Communication SIG (ITC SIG), which, according to the SIG website, is "focused on localization, translation, and cross cultural communication for technology." The SIG's website is essentially a blog that includes a "related organizations" tab with announcements/information on international conferences and organizations such as the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA). ATA events could be included here.

Since many members of STC are involved in producing the source text we then translate, it would be helpful for us to know more about the technical writing process and for the technical writers to understand the translation process better. This includes learning about the tools used by these respective communities - RoboHelp, AuthorIt and similar programs on the technical writing end and Trados, Wordfast and similar programs on the translation end. If both groups have a better understanding of the opportunities and limitations of the tools and processes on each end, we can work together much more effectively.

STC organizes an annual conference, called the Technical Communication Summit. The 2011 Summit will take place May 15-18 in Sacramento, California. (Learn more, here: The Summit includes international communications topics, including a workshop on "Writing With Localization in Mind" this year. The ITC SIG also usually organizes a set of mini presentations, called a "Progression". In addition, STC offers webinars during the course of the year. One webinar topic of interest to translators was a pilot project using translation memory tools to write the source text. This helps ensure consistency within the text, which then also helps translators leverage their translation memories.

It may be helpful for ATA to introduce similar topics -- e.g., how to link technical writing tools that support multilingual text to translation tools; how to convince our end clients to plan for collaboration with the source text writers earlier in the process; what technical writers expect from translators -- to ATA webinars or the ATA Annual Conference. In any case, closer collaboration between ATA's Science and Technology Division and STC's International Communication Special Interest Group can only benefit both groups involved in producing multi-lingual technical texts.

Barbara Jungwirth provides German-English technical translation services through her company, reliable translations. Before becoming a translator, she wrote software documentation. She is a member of both ATA and STC, presented on preparing source text for translation for the STC SIG at the 2009 Summit and contributes to STC's journal Technical Communication. She also writes a blog about technical translation, On Language and Translation (

Monday, April 18, 2011

52nd Annual Conference

The American Translators Association (ATA) will host its 52nd Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts (October 26-29).  This conference showcases diverse panel discussions, expert presentations, training workshops, and scholarly papers.  Both general and language-specific sessions will be offered. The conference also offers language professionals one of the best opportunities to network with colleagues.  Additional conference activities include a Job Marketplace, a vendor exhibit hall, and ATA certification testing.  For conference information see

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Is There A Better Way?

By John Rock

On reading “Translation in Canada,” an article in The Chronicle (October 2010) about translation in Canada, I was struck by the certification practices of OTTIAQ where, according to the article, there is no certification exam; rather, one must have a translation degree and perform a mentorship under a certified member for five years. Without a translation degree, a person must prove that he or she has worked at least five years as a full time translator and can submit a corpus of work for evaluation by committee. This immediately rang a bell with me, since I have always maintained that it takes five years of hard work between when you think you are a translator and when you know you are a translator and can handle almost anything thrown at you.

It also highlighted what, in my opinion, has been a serious defect with the ATA certification exams: a suitable process does not appear to exist to certify translators who have come to translation from any field other than the language arts. Although here I am addressing primarily technical translators, this also applies to medical, legal, and financial translators. Thus we have the bizarre situation where newly minted language graduates take the ATA certification with flying colors, and then feel competent to tackle any subject matter under the sun.

On the flip side of the coin, experienced translators who have been working in the field for literally decades performing the heavy lifting for the translation community, continue to flunk the ATA exam because they have not dotted some “i” or crossed some “t”. Any translator who has taken the exam will realize the examination process is not transparent and is shrouded in secrecy. Why, may we ask?

Yet, any agency or company going to the ATA website looking for a translator is mainly going to find the “certified” translators and not necessarily those translators which have the in-depth background experience to provide a professional service. The question should be asked: “Is the ATA failing in its duty to provide qualified professional translators for American businesses and industry?”

As for my own experience, I obtained certification in one of my languages and simply gave up trying to achieve certification in my other languages. It was like throwing good money after bad. The sad truth is, I am willing to bet, based on the cross-section of translators I have met, that there are probably several hundred “long-term” professional translators out there who are frankly disillusioned with the ATA examination process.

I have railed against not only the certification process itself, which I suspect is dominated by language arts professors, but also against those language professors who claim to be able to teach technical translation, legal translation and medical translation by giving their students a few glossaries and test translations on which to whet their teeth.

So situations continue to arise in which long-standing technical translators find themselves editing poor translations from “certified” translators who really do not have the background or experience to know the subject matter. The corollary to this is that perfectly good technical translations are shredded by an editor who thinks they know what they are doing.

As an example of this, I have a shelf and a half of Oil & Gas dictionaries, I have probably translated close to a hundred oil refinery projects, yet I had a translation come back shredded by an “in-house” editor who thought they knew better. I could not be bothered to argue.

ATA itself balks at any call to re-examine its certification process, claiming that the only model which suffices is “the language itself.” Spoken like a true language arts graduate. Yet our Canadian cousins offer an alternative model for certification. Is it not at least worth close examination? No pun intended.

I am sure some readers will simply say “sour grapes,” and it would be if I were writing simply for myself. But as indicated earlier, I have given up on the ATA certification exam because in my opinion, it is not worth the paper it is written on. However, I am thinking about those generations of technical translators who are coming after us and who are struggling to make a living in the translation community where certification would mean a lot; it could mean the difference between making it or not.

So I make this assertion: the ATA is not in fact serving the translation community that it purports to serve.

I challenge ATA to take a survey of its members to find out what percentage of its members who have been working as full time translators for 5, 10, 15, and over 20 years are not certified in the languages in which they normally work.

I challenge ATA to review its certification model in the light of alternative models such as our Canadian cousins and come up with a better one.

ATA should be a world leader in translator certification, and I fear it is not.

John Rock holds a Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography from the University of Liverpool, U.K. He has worked for the Instituto Oceanografico, USP, São Paulo, Brazil, and for UNESCO in Athens, Greece. His career in the Oil Industry involved the former Gulf Oil Company with geophysical seismic research, and Schlumberger Wireline Services. He has been at various times: a Marine Engineering Consultant, Computer Consultant, Geophysical Consultant and University lecturer in Applied Mathematics. For the last twenty five years he has been a full time freelance technical translator initially based in Houston, Texas, and now in Charleston, S.C., working with Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian to English.