View from the National Center for Atmospheric Research building on Saturday

Recap of the Colorado Translators Association’s Seventh Annual Conference

A late April snowstorm couldn’t keep people’s spirits down during the Colorado Translators Association’s seventh annual conference!

(Top photo: View from the National Center for Atmospheric Research building on Saturday)

More than 80 language professionals braved a spring snowstorm to attend the Colorado Translators Association’s (CTA) seventh annual conference, held the last weekend of April in Boulder, Colorado, at the stunning National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) building nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The theme for this year’s conference was “Change your mindset—grow your business.” The three-day event of ATA’s Colorado chapter drew speakers and attendees from across the U.S. and beyond, and offered a variety of educational sessions for both beginning and experienced translators and interpreters.

The weekend kicked off Friday, April 28, when 19 attendees took ATA’s certification exam at the conference venue. While most exam candidates opted to take the computerized version, several candidates preferred to stick with the handwritten exam, which is always an option.

The exam sitting was followed by a casual happy hour sponsored by CTA at Backcountry Pizza, a popular Friday evening hangout in Boulder. This was a good opportunity for attendees and speakers to catch up with old friends and make new acquaintances ahead of the main conference.

CTA was delighted to host many out-of-state and international attendees this year. ATA President-elect Corinne McKay, a longtime CTA member, opened the conference with a heartfelt welcome speech that energized the audience. Corinne noted that two CTA members—Jane Maier and Karen Tkaczyk—are currently serving on ATA’s Board.

“Change Your Mindset—Grow Your Business”

In keeping with this year’s theme, keynote speaker Sameh Ragab presented an inspirational talk on how freelance translators can adopt a winning mindset to help them gain a competitive edge. Sameh, an international speaker and industry trainer who traveled all the way from Cairo, Egypt, had presented at CTA’s sixth annual conference. He received so much positive feedback that CTA’s board decided to invite him back. Sameh shared personal insights and experiences that have helped drive his own business success. He also gave attendees a teaser of what to expect during his scheduled full-day workshop on Sunday.

After the keynote, attendees chose from a program of 12 breakout sessions that covered such topics as marketing, website development, subtitling, conflict resolution, copyright, and tax deductions. For interpreters, CTA offered a three-hour workshop on handling emergency room situations, as well as a session on intercultural mediation in health care. The following is a brief sampling of what attendees learned during the weekend.

Finding Your Unique Selling Points (Presenter: Tess Whitty): A unique selling point is the reason people do business with you and not someone else. Tess presented five practical tips on how to find and define your unique selling points, plus how to use them to find and contact translation buyers.

Love Letters from the Field: How to Manage Feedback without Losing Your Cool (Presenters: Steve Lank and Victoria Mendoza): Managing client feedback effectively can be tricky, but how we do it can make or break a relationship. However, since much of the feedback we receive is subjective, responding in a way that’s respectful yet authoritative is critical. Using real-life examples, Steve and Victoria demonstrated techniques for approaching this often unpleasant task in a way that allows communication to remain professional and productive.

Take a Walk on the Client Side! How to Better Understand Your Client and Be a Great Partner (Presenter: Lynnette Wennerström): When it comes to clients, have you ever asked yourself, “What are they thinking?” During her presentation, Lynette offered a peek into a client’s mindset and provided tips on how to manage the client-supplier relationship more effectively.

Panel Discussion: Change of Venue (Presenters: Karen Williams, Eve Bodeux, David Russi, and Rachel Sinn): The panel discussed their experiences spending extended periods as working professionals in their source/target language countries of Germany, France, and Spain, and how that has refreshed their cultural, linguistic, and professional outlook.

Translators worldwide often struggle to educate clients on the benefits of paying for professional translation services as opposed to using a bilingual employee or a free machine translation service. Karen, a German>English technical translator who worked onsite with a client in Germany, shared a compliment she received that resonated with attendees: “Anyone can become a microbiologist, but what you do is amazing.” Enough said.

Saturday’s events concluded with a reception at NCAR, giving speakers and attendees a chance to mingle. As an added bonus, attendees also had the opportunity to purchase signed books by Tess Whitty, Eve Bodeux, Corinne McKay, and Izabel E.T. de V. Souza. In addition, Tess and Corinne generously offered raffle prizes for the conference. Two lucky attendees won a chance to improve their business with the help of professional training from these renowned industry experts.

The Saturday snowstorm passed and Sunday morning brought sunshine, clear blue skies, and stunning views of the snow-covered Flatirons. It was the perfect backdrop for Sameh Ragab’s much anticipated workshop, “Tips and Tricks from the Translation Magician: Increase Your Productivity with the Right Tools.” The workshop covered advanced tips and tricks for SDL Studio, as well as how to enhance the translation memory search experience, how to deal with complex PDF files for CAT tool integration, and termbase creation. Attendees also learned how to prepare against computer disasters and data loss. With so much to learn, attendees didn’t seem to mind staying beyond the scheduled time to get the most from this workshop.

Volunteers: The Backbone of CTA

CTA’s board of volunteers worked hard to pull together a conference that would offer attendees the most for their money. During CTA’s annual meeting of all members on Saturday, the current board provided a recap of the past year and thanked CTA’s numerous volunteers for their active involvement. There’s no doubt that CTA’s members are the backbone of this small but mighty ATA chapter! In thanking CTA’s board, Corinne McKay said, “Even after seven years, the conference keeps getting better, thanks to your dedication.”

The board was delighted to see many new faces among the enthusiastic group of attendees. There are already plans afoot to make the 2018 conference even better!


Sharon Heller is a freelance Spanish>English translator from Northern Ireland. She has lived in England, Oman, Ecuador, and Yemen, and now lives in Palisade, Colorado, where she is also a part-time lecturer of Spanish at Colorado Mesa University. She serves as the social media coordinator for the Colorado Translators Association, an ATA chapter. Contact: sharon.heller.translations@gmail.com.

Katja Yeats has been working as a freelance English<>German translator since 2001. She was born in Germany and came to the U.S. in 1992 to complete an exchange year at Montana State University in Bozeman. She moved to the U.S. permanently in 1993. She has an MA in German literature from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the current secretary of the Colorado Translators Association, an ATA chapter. Contact: katjayeats@gmail.com.

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