Letters to the Editor

Online Training Resources for Translators

As always, I devoured my print edition of The ATA Chronicle! The Resource Review was particularly interesting, as I’m a strong believer in continuing professional development.

In addition to the online training options listed, there is another resource worth mentioning: academia-webinars.de. I’ve participated in a number of their webinars and they were all outstanding. Though the website originally offered webinars only in German, offerings in English will be available in 2017.

—Heike Holthaus, Mikado, MI

Changes to Certification Exam

I read with great interest of the recent changes taking place to ATA’s certification exam.

According to the article, all three exam passages will be “general text” in 2017. Previously, this has meant the translation of newspaper articles. Although such translations are often assigned in university language classes, in my language pair (Japanese>English), the translation of newspaper articles/magazines for publication accounts—according to industry surveys—for less than 2% of the market.

I’ve worked as a full-time translator for about 23 years, and material similar to the “general text” on the ATA exams has only appeared in about 0.04% of the jobs I’ve done. I can understand why a university language professor might think that “general text” translation is a good idea, but not why an organization of professional translators working in the real world would think so.

The choice of “general text” versus “specialized text” should be based on what real translators deal with every day, not on some vague “intent” of the exam makers that has zero relationship to the marketplace. Let’s have an ATA test that more accurately indicates translation ability in the real world.

—Steven W. Johnston, Tokyo, Japan

Response from David Stephenson, ATA Certification Committee Chair

The marketplace for translation is as varied as the marketplace for writing itself—from technical specifications to medical reports to legal statutes to literature. In view of this diversity, ATA’s Certification Program has decided to prioritize the testing of general skills that are common to most or all forms of translation. We believe that these core skills—source language comprehension, target language proficiency, transfer skills, and adherence to instructions—can be evaluated fairly and reliably using texts of any subject matter.

When choosing exam passages, graders—all of whom are professional translators and most of whom have no academic affiliation—are mindful of appropriate translation challenges for their language pair, and every passage is screened carefully to ensure that it contains a variety of these challenges. Passages come from many sources—not just newspapers, but a variety of documents, reports, etc., in the public domain.

—David Stephenson

Our World of Words

As a former classics professor and now a freelance translator (German>English), I enjoyed and read with interest Tony Beckwith’s interview with Radd Ehrmann, classical philologist, in the November/December issue. I have found that my background in classics has been of immense help to my translation work. At heart all of us translators are philologists, “lovers of words.”

—Hermann Schibli, Manchester, NH

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