Newsbriefs: December 5, 2023

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“Translators” Film: An ATA Virtual Roundtable

Young lady looking off into the distance. Caption - The Untold Story of Children who give a voice to Generations. Translators"

Thursday, December 14, 2023
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. EST
Free Event!

Held during Universal Human Rights Month, this roundtable will address the challenges depicted in the film Translators and provide insights into the repercussions of asking children to work as interpreters for people with limited English proficiency (LEP) and the trauma it can cause.

Join ATA for a free virtual roundtable to discuss the depiction of children as interpreters in the film Translators, directed by Rudy Valdez and presented by U.S. Bank. A diverse panel of language services industry experts, including researchers, language access advocates, and former child interpreters, will provide insights into the issue, explaining how the film highlights many of the challenges child interpreters can experience and how people who need professional interpreters can avail themselves of their federally protected rights to access them.

The panel will discuss a review of the film and the issues it presents, analyze the challenges of offering “meaningful” language access for LEP individuals, and suggest solutions to avoid placing the language brokering burden on children. Members of the press have also been invited to attend to help spread the word about this important issue.

The discussion will be presented in English, with Spanish and American Sign Language interpreting and live professional captioning. Register here to receive a Zoom link to attend. (Registrants will be sent a link to the film to review beforehand.)

A recording of the event will be made available afterwards on ATA’s website.

Contact ATA’s Advocacy Committee at
Register Today!

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Industry News

Supporters in Michigan Say Language Access Bills a Potential ‘Gamechanger’

WDET (11/23/23) Jackson, Colin

Two language access bills currently awaiting Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s signature would mandate government agencies to provide language access services for people with limited English proficiency.

If signed, Senate bills 382 and 383, which were introduced in June, would require state agencies to use interpreters and translate official documents. The bills would apply for any language spoken by at least 500 (or 3%) of people in a served community.

Christine Sauvé, a policy engagement coordinator for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, said the bills could be a “gamechanger.”

“No matter what language you speak or where you were born, we all benefit when people with limited English language proficiency can participate fully in public life and are included in many of the important government communications that this would cover,” Sauvé said.

The legislation would work by requiring the Office of Global Michigan, the agency responsible for the state’s refugee services program, to coordinate the implementation of the policy, called the Statewide Meaningful Language Access Coordination Act.

The Office of Global Michigan would have to create a language access liaison to work with government entities on training and resource development. There would also be a process to file complaints with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for non-compliance with the bills.

Sauvé said some government agencies currently try to provide some level of translation/interpreting services as a form of compliance with federal civil rights law. But she said these efforts often fall short, leaving some with limited options, other than the federal court system, for accessing language resources if they’re unavailable.

Advocates for immigrant communities say it benefits everyone if immigrants receive needed public services and information in their own languages. They say the bills would come with enforcement mechanisms and that Michigan should have language access requirements that are stricter than federal laws require.

“English language learners are often part of communities who are among the most marginalized and under-resourced,” said Loida Tapia, state director of MI Poder, a nonprofit social welfare and civic engagement organization serving the Latinx population in Michigan. “These bills ensure our state government starts to address inequities with language access.”


Indigenous Translations to Be Added to Street Signs Around Cambridge

Harvard Crimson (MA) (10/30/23) Sesaya, Anya; Zhou, Frank S.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, will install new street signs with road names translated into Massachusett, the original Indigenous language spoken by the Massachusett tribe. The project is part of a multi-year initiative to recognize the city’s historical ties to its Indigenous residents.

The initial stage of the project will involve the translation of 80 signs on First Street through Eighth Street. Residents will be able to access audio of sign name pronunciations and historical context through an accompanying website.

The project was first proposed by Sage Carbone, a Cambridge resident and member of the Northern Narragansett Indian tribe of Rhode Island. Carbone said although Indigenous translations of signs on reservations are commonplace, the current project represents a milestone for Indigenous recognition in Cambridge. “This is a unique project,” she said. “This is the first time that I found that signs are being put on municipal city land.”

The project is part of Cambridge’s African American and Indigenous Peoples Historical Reckoning Project, which received $180,000 in funding during the 2021 Participatory Budgeting cycle. The city’s website said Cambridge apportioned $1 million of its 2021 budget to “one-time capital projects to improve Cambridge.”

While Carbone praised city officials for allocating the funds for the project, she said the timeline for its implementation has been drawn out since its approval. “I waited for quite a while—a few months, and then nearly a year—and I hadn’t heard anything about whether the project was moving forward and who was being engaged with it,” she said. The city eventually assigned the Cambridge Historical Commission to oversee the project. The commission assembled an advisory group, composed of Carbone and several other volunteers and experts, to select the language, context, and location of the signage.

Sarah Burks, the preservation planner for the Cambridge Historical Commission who assembled the advisory group, acknowledged the delays. “We definitely wanted members of the Indigenous community to be guiding the process, so it did take a while to get that discussion flowing.” Burks said the advisory group helped her understand the significant impact the project will have on Cambridge’s Indigenous community. “This is more about normalizing seeing the language in its written form and having a visual reminder of our Native culture in our day-to-day world.”

Carbone said she hoped the signage initiative will help mitigate what she described as a lack of city-wide programming recognizing Indigenous residents of Cambridge. She said the project will involve the Cambridge Traffic, Parking, and Transportation Department, which will “actually do the physical signage.”

“Cambridge and Boston have always been places where many languages were spoken,” Carbone said. “This is the first time that Cantabrigians will be seeing Indigenous words on their everyday commutes.”


State Project Translating Immigrant Graves in Salt Lake City Cemetery Connects Utahns with History

KSL TV (UT) (10/29/23) Cox, Erin

The Utah State Historic Preservation Office has recruited volunteers to translate the headstones of Chinese immigrants in a plat in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

The task of translating names on headstones is more complicated than one might think. An early Chinese tradition of exhuming bodies and returning them home to China means the markers don’t always indicate who is buried there. “Folks buried in the cemetery today are probably the third group of people buried there,” said Chris Merritt, a preservation officer for the state. Merritt said he called in experts from the state’s Chinese community to help translate the 117 headstones in Plat 1919, an area specifically for Chinese immigrants.

The group, consisting of six community members who speak different Chinese dialects, meet on a regular basis to discuss possible translations. “It’s really an interesting discussion of what every character means,” Merritt said.

The Chinese characters on the markers can be read in the Mandarin, Cantonese, or Taishan dialects. “It’s important to document what the characters look like on the stone because that will help us hear how to pronounce it in the original language,” said Chengru He, a PhD student at the Chinese University of Utah who volunteered for the project.

As the group works to uncover the names on the stones, they’ve encountered challenges with the English records, which often don’t have the correct spelling. “In China, there is a very diverse group of folks with different languages, different cultures, and different religions,” Merritt said. “But once they arrived in the U.S., we labeled them all the same thing.”

While some English documents labeled immigrants correctly, certain individuals emigrated under a different name to gain official documents for admission. “They bought somebody else’s papers to come to U.S., so the Chinese name and the name on the documentation is different,” said Henry Luu, a Vietnam immigrant who also works on the project.

So far, the group has linked 66 birth certificates to the plat and hopes to connect more. The initiative is part of statewide project to visit every cemetery and translate and clean up the graves to ensure the accuracy of state records.

Georgia Company Creates Digital Book to Teach Children Sign Language

Valdosta Today (11/30/2023)

As schools struggle to hire enough sign language interpreters and sign language programs remain costly for schools to implement, ProCare Therapy, one of the country’s top sources of school-based therapy located in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, has announced the launch of a free digital and downloadable storybook to help teach children sign language.

The book, Ben Signs: A New School Adventure, can be used by parents and educators to help teach children the basics and importance of sign language. This book tells the story of Ben, a young boy who is deaf, as he navigates his first day of kindergarten and makes new friends.

The illustrated book was created as a response to the need for accessible and engaging resources to help children better understand the experiences of their deaf peers. The goal is to bridge the communication gap in schools by weaving in lessons on empathy and friendship while making it easy for children to learn how to sign essential American Sign Language words and phrases, such as “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “My name is,” which children can use to communicate with their deaf classmates.

“At ProCare Therapy, we are passionate about providing resources that not only educate but also inspire empathy and understanding in children,” said Stephanie Morris, the company’s senior vice president. “We believe that Ben Signs: A New School Adventure will help children not only connect with their deaf peers but also educate children, parents, and educators on the challenges that deaf children can face, fostering a sense of community and inclusivity in classrooms and beyond.”


Archaeologists Discover Previously Unknown Ancient Language

The Independent (11/23/23) Keys, David

Archaeological research in the Middle East is revealing how a long-forgotten ancient civilization used previously undiscovered linguistics to promote multiculturalism and political stability. The groundbreaking discoveries are also shedding new light on how early empires functioned.

Ongoing excavations in Turkey—in the ruins of the ancient capital of the Hittite empire—are yielding remarkable evidence that the imperial civil service included entire departments fully or partly dedicated to researching the religions of its people.

The evidence suggests that, back in the second millennium BC, Hittite leaders told their civil servants to record peoples’ religious liturgies and other traditions by writing them down in their respective local languages (but in Hittite script) so that those traditions could be preserved and incorporated into the empire’s highly inclusive multicultural religious system.

So far, modern experts on ancient languages have discovered that Hittite civil servants preserved and recorded religious documents from at least five ethnic groups.

Over the decades, around 30,000 complete and fragmentary clay tablet documents have been unearthed in the ruins of the ancient Hittite capital of Hattussa (now known as Bogazkoy), located around 100 miles east of modern Turkey’s capital, Ankara. The majority of the tablets were written in the empire’s main language, Hittite. But the Hittite government’s scribes also wrote around 5% of them fully or partly in the languages of the empire’s minority ethnic groups, such as the Luwians (southeastern Anatolians), Palaians (from part of northwest Anatolian), Hattians (central Anatolians), and Hurrians (from Syria and northern Mesopotamia).

The most recently discovered minority language recorded by government scribes (and previously unknown to modern scholars) is being called Kalasmaic. It seems to have been spoken by people in an area called Kalasma on the empire’s northwestern fringe.

The discovery suggests that even the most obscure languages in the empire were being recorded, studied, and preserved in written form. That in turn raises the possibility that other small and previously unknown Middle Eastern languages will be discovered on the imperial clay tablets in the series of ancient scriptoria the archaeologists are currently excavating at Bogazkoy.

The excavations of the ancient scriptoria in Bogazkoy will allow linguistic experts to better understand the evolution of ancient Bronze Age Indo-European languages that English is distantly related to. “Bronze Age Middle Eastern history is only partly understood, and discovering additional clay tablet documents is helping scholars to substantially increase our knowledge,” said Daniel Schwemer, a cuneiform script expert and professor at Wurzburg University in Germany, who is leading the investigation into the newly discovered texts.

ATA News

Renew Your ATA Membership for 2024!

Whether you are an independent contractor, an in-house linguist, or a language services company owner, ATA provides you with the marketing, education, and opportunities you need to be successful in your translation or interpreting business.

Tax Deduction Reminder
If you plan to include payment of your 2024 membership dues on your 2023 tax return, you must renew by December 31. Please consult your accountant for tax advice.

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Feedback Requested: Interpreting SAFE-AI Task Force Survey

ATA is proud to support the Interpreting SAFE-AI Task Force, which was formed by a cross-section of stakeholders to establish, disseminate, and promote industry-wide guidelines, use cases, regulations, and best practices for the responsible adoption of AI in interpreting.

As a first step to creating best practice guidelines, the Interpreting SAFE-AI Task Force is launching surveys to assess the state of acceptance in the market and expectations from the various stakeholder groups.

Please take the survey by December 10, 2023, to help shape the future of the ethical and responsible use of AI in interpreting!

The survey responses will be confidential and will be seen by the CSA Research team only. The survey will close on December 10, 2023, and the survey outcomes will be published 30 days after that. Reports will present results in aggregate only and the Interpreting SAFE-AI Task Force will have access to anonymized data. If you have any questions about the survey, please reach out to

Take the Survey

ATA’s Special Interest Groups

ATA has created three special interest groups (SIGs): Financial Translators (FT SIG), Interpreters & Translators in Education (ITE SIG), and Southeast Asian Languages (SEAL SIG). Similar to divisions, members of SIGs get access to private discussion groups where members can discuss terminology, share training opportunities, and find support for their unique challenges. To join or learn more, contact,, or

Upcoming online SIGs meet-ups!

Southeast Asian Languages SIG Holiday Meet-Up
Friday, December 8 at 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. EST
Zoom Link to Attend

Listen to the Latest Episode of The ATA Podcast!

The ATA Podcast provides listeners with a behind-the-scenes look at ATA’s programs, events, and plans. Plus, learn more about the dedicated volunteers who make it all happen!

E95: Inside Specialization – Opportunities in the Era of AI
Where do T&I professionals fit in the current era of artificial intelligence? In this ATA Podcast episode of Inside Specialization, Daniel Sebesta, administrator of ATA’s Language Technology Division (LTD), and Bridget Hylak, LTD assistant administrator, interview Konstantin Dranch, co-founder of Custom.MT, on a variety of topics surrounding machine translation and AI. Listen Now

Revised ATA Model Job Contract Now Online!

A job contract is a one-time arrangement covering an individual job or assignment. It specifies the details of the work for that job—and only for that job. This template-style form was developed from best practices in the industry and includes standard conditions and terms that should be defined for every job. ATA Members can download the Model Job Contract by accessing the Member Center (look for the contract under ATA Resources). Download Now

Upcoming Webinars

Know Your Worth: Negotiating Tips
December 9: 12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. EST
Presenter(s): Julia Poger
What if negotiating was fun and you could get what you want? This webinar will provide insights into how negotiating works so you can support your client relationships.
Register Here

ATA Member Benefits Meet-Up
December 12: 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. EST

ATA is continuously working to add more benefits for our members. In fact, there are so many, even longtime members might not be aware of everything ATA has to offer. Come get a refresher on all the benefits of your ATA membership!
Register Here

Translating Trusts and Wills
December 13: 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EST
Presenter(s): Andy Benzo
Embark on a comprehensive journey into the world of trusts and wills, all while honing your translation skills for these crucial documents within the context of U.S. law.
Register Here

Translators Film: An ATA Virtual Roundtable
December 14: 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. EST
Held during Universal Human Rights Month, this roundtable will address the challenges depicted in the film Translators and provide insights into the repercussions of asking children to work as interpreters for people with limited English proficiency and the trauma it can cause.
Register Here

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Do you have news to share with us? If so, you might be featured on our social media channels. You may submit your news here.

News summaries © copyright 2023 Smithbucklin

December 5, 2023

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Previous Poll Results

If you attended ATA64, have you completed the Overall Conference Survey (found on the conference app)? Surveys submitted by December 1 will automatically be entered to win a free registration for ATA65 in Portland, Oregon (October 30-November 2, 2024).

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ATA Member Benefits Meet-Up

December 12, 2023
5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. EST

During this FREE, fun, and informative session, learn how to access your ATA member benefits and services or just catch up on what’s new and get live answers to your questions from ATA’s Membership Committee. Register HERE.

Know Your Worth: Negotiating Tips
December 9, 2023
12:00 p.m. – 12:45 p.m. EST

Translating Trusts and Wills
December 13, 2023
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EST

Translators Film: An ATA Virtual Roundtable
December 14, 2023
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. EST

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