Coalition-based advocacy and collaboration, along with individual member engagement in these efforts, are crucial to the success and outlook of the translation and interpreting industry.
Two important meetings were held in conjunction with ATA’s 62nd Annual Conference, where ATA members and representatives from its sister organizations shared information and discussed issues of common concern.
On October 26, just before ATA62 officially kicked off, Bill Rivers, principal of WP Rivers & Associates and a long-time ATA member, convened the annual Translation and Interpreting Summit at the conference hotel. Due to the pandemic, this was the first such meeting since ATA60 in Palm Springs. The Summit is an informal gathering of language stakeholders, including ATA, the International Federation of Translators (FIT), National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, Globalization and Localization Association, Association of Language Companies, ASTM International’s Technical Committee F43 on Language Services and Products, the Interagency Language Roundtable, and many others. This group has met yearly for almost 15 years in conjunction with ATA’s Annual Conference to discuss key issues and share information on initiatives and collaborations.
A few days later on October 29, Caitilin Walsh, a past ATA president and current chair of ATA’s Education and Pedagogy Committee, led the first Translation and Interpreting Education Summit, gathering industry association stakeholders in informal discussions concerning educational initiatives for translators and interpreters (T&I), with topics including pedagogy, curriculum, and talent development.
In all, over 40 association representatives participated on-site and online during two three+ hour meetings with broad community interaction. The following offers a glimpse of the high points of these meetings.
Policy and Legislation
Policy and legislation continue to drive and shape much of the T&I industry, which has benefitted from such initiatives as Federal Executive Order (EO) 13166/Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).1 EO 13166 requires federal agencies to examine the services they provide, identify any need for services to the LEP community, and develop and implement a system to provide meaningful access to those services. It also requires recipients of federal funding to do the same. One of the outcomes of EO 13166 has been the establishment of enduring language access programs at the state and institutional levels that offer translator certification and interpreter credentialing opportunities.
The T&I industry has also faced challenges and potential disruptions from legislation such as California Assembly Bill-5 (AB-5) and H.R. 842/Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), making it more difficult for individuals to claim independent contractor status.2
In practice, shortfalls commonly exist in efforts to meet the spirit and intent of legislation to deliver T&I services to the LEP community. For example, the transition to online education and training during the pandemic has been difficult for many LEP parents and students as technology guidelines and content are provided principally in English. Accordingly, children of LEP parents continue to be underrepresented in advanced, accelerated, and extracurricular programs, likely due to a lack of access to information in their languages.
It was noted during the meetings that the U.S. Department of Education may support additional policy and legislative initiatives to enhance language access for the LEP community in educational settings, buoyed by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona’s background in bilingual and bicultural education. This may involve a campaign to inform members of the LEP community of their language access rights as well as the development of best practices and standards for language services, particularly in educational settings.
ATA’s Advocacy Committee and Interpretation Policy Advisory Committee continue to be focal points for leveraging industry practical experience and subject matter expertise as it relates to policy and legislation. Visit the Advocacy and Outreach page on ATA’s website for more on ATA’s advocacy efforts (www.atanet.org/news/advocacy-and-outreach).
Technology and its applications continue to influence and shape the T&I industry—again, with advantages and challenges. Advances in technology often lead to enhanced quality in conjunction with streamlined workflows. However, practitioners commonly face challenges in incorporating new technologies and procedures, some of which generate excess cognitive load.
Technology’s influence on the T&I industry often requires clarifications for clients as well as practitioners. Nowhere is this more apparent than the application of machine translation (MT) and its implications for the T&I industry. In this regard, the International Federation of Translators published a position paper on post-editing risks and consequences.3
A provocative “think piece” on “Translation Economics in the 2020s” in the July/August 2021 edition of MultiLingual magazine invited “healthy debate across the industry” on the pace and degree to which future improvements in MT will affect the translation sector.4 Weighty concepts of singularity, data ownership, intellectual property, and functional limitations in artificial intelligence are relevant to this debate as we feel the shock waves of an industry reconfiguration driven by radical digitization, human reskilling, and exponential data intelligence. In point-counterpoint fashion, MultiLingual published a rebuttal to the July/August article in its November/December 2021 edition entitled “Data: Of Course! MT: Useful or Risky. Translators: Here to Stay!”5 One of the conclusions of this article was that that current MT systems are based on the mechanical manipulation of data. These systems don’t understand the purpose of a translation and don’t respond to questions about why they translated the way they did. Therefore, human translators will play a significant role in every professional translation process for the foreseeable future.
Professional Development and Specialization
Professional development and specialization continue to be prominent aspects of the T&I industry. Opportunities for development increased during the pandemic, principally through more numerous and varied online webinars and networking opportunities. Of particular interest are topics involving the integration of technologies into language services operations.
Attendees at the meetings noted that training in the use and integration of remote simultaneous interpreting platforms was prominent. Although remote interpreting has existed since the 1970s, advances in technology and the pandemic have pushed new methodologies onto the market without any established industry-wide standards. Coupled with the unique challenges of working on new platforms, the loss of context and the speaker’s nonverbal cues in their workplace, and increased demand for offsite services, interpreters have struggled to make sense of expectations and best practices when working remotely. Additional client education may also be needed regarding the incorporation of these technologies and the proper remuneration for remote professional language services. Last year, ATA released a position paper on remote interpreting with the purpose of identifying differences between on-site and remote interpreting and offering best practices for effective remote interpreting.6
Legal/court interpreters also benefitted from a series of Zoom webinars on the use of technology in courtrooms arranged by the National Center for State Courts.7 Notably, there is a lack of industry standards or guidelines for the provision of legal/court interpreting services in remote settings.
Regarding industry specialization, the American Association of Interpreters and Translators in Education (AAITE) was formally established in 2021. AAITE is engaging in many initiatives as it develops, including a “white paper” job task analysis project and a workshop program for its members. The intent is that such work will refine occupational capacities and competencies and lead to specialized credentialing programs for interpreters and translators who work in educational settings.
Education and Training
Education and training are crucial to the T&I industry, involving current practitioners as well as young individuals who may join the community in the future.
Greater interorganizational interaction is a notable trend involving stakeholders of the T&I industry. In this regard, ATA is collaborating with the Association of Language Companies (ALC) to develop and share industry information and employment opportunities with students considering careers as translators and interpreters.8 The ALC Bridge involves developing connections among associations, community commons, academia, and industry—to include clarifications on practitioner knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as efforts to identify and create internship and mentorship programs.
Other interorganizational collaborative initiatives involve industry and academic organizations. For example, a partnership between the Glocalization Organization of Asia Pacific (GoAP) and Fordham University’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies led to the creation of a localization project management certificate program.9
Education and training address longstanding shortfalls in collaboration among core stakeholders of the industry to develop career-related resources to address the “talent gap” in satisfying current and anticipated demand for translation and interpreting professionals. For example, the Globalization and Localization Association’s Global Talent Initiative10 now features free academic memberships to universities, colleges, and degree-granting institutions that include full access to member benefits.
In addition, the growth in popularity and organization of community-based heritage language schools and Seal of Biliteracy/Global Seal of Biliteracy programs may also enhance the pipeline of prospective talent required to meet the needs of the T&I industry.11
Attendees at both meetings concurred that pedagogy and curriculum are crucial elements to develop talent and prepare young learners for potential careers as translators and interpreters. Accordingly, it’s important to clearly identify and share common pathways to the industry, including opportunities for language-related employment in civilian and government sectors.
The Need for Continued Interorganizational Engagement, Collaboration, and Advocacy
Throughout both meetings, it was clear that interorganizational engagement, collaboration, and advocacy involving coalitions and individuals are crucial to the success and outlook of the T&I industry. This reflects the continued importance of active participation among representatives of the extended family of T&I stakeholders, including professional associations, community groups, academic institutions, and industry partners. Interconnections are key to shaping legislation and policy, facilitating technology and its integration, and crafting education and training in ways that benefit the T&I industry and the greater language enterprise. Such is the exceptional role of member volunteer work from ATA and its sister organizations—as lofty as that may seem.
Does this type of discussion pique your interest? Are you eager to get involved? If so, consider opportunities to participate in future T&I industry stakeholder meetings. For questions and information on upcoming meetings, or to request a copy of the “Joint Communiqué—2021 Translation and Interpreting Summit” containing the complete notes of the event, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Executive Order 13166, “Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency,” https://bit.ly/Order13166.
- For more information, read ATA’s letter urging Congress to amend the Pro Act, https://bit.ly/ATA-PRO-Act.
- International Federation of Translators Position Paper on Post-Editing, https://bit.ly/FIT-post-editing.
- van der Meer, Jaap. “Translation Economics of the 2020s: A Journey into the Future of the Translation Industry in Eight Episodes,” MultiLingual (July/August 2021), https://bit.ly/MultiLingual-Jaap
- Melby, Alan, and Christopher Kurz. “Data: Of Course! MT: Useful or Risky. Translators: Here to Stay!” MultiLingual (November–December 2021), https://bit.ly/MultiLingual-Melby-Kurz.
- ATA Position Paper on Remote Interpreting, https://bit.ly/ATA-remote.
- For a complete list of webinars, along with downloadable resources, visit the National Center for State Courts webinar page at https://bit.ly/NCSC-webinars.
- Walsh, Caitilin. “ATA Joins Forces with the Association of Language Companies to Bridge the Education/Career Gap,” The ATA Chronicle (March/April 2021), https://bit.ly/ATAChronicle-Walsh.
- “GoAP helps create localization project management certificate program,” https://bit.ly/GoAP-localization.
- Globalization and Localization Association’s Global Talent Initiative, https://bit.ly/GALA-talent.
- “About the Seal of Biliteracy,” https://sealofbiliteracy.org.
Rusty Shughart is a longstanding member of ATA. He chairs ATA’s Government Linguist Outreach Task Force (GLOTF) and is a member of the leadership council of ATA’s Government Division. email@example.com