Newsbriefs: July 15, 2021

Middlebury Institute of International Studies

Inside Specialization: Technical Translator

What’s it like to work as a highly specialized technical translator in a hard science?

In our fourth Inside Specialization podcast, Host Veronika Demichelis talks with Karen Tkaczyk about how her career literally took off in a matter of months, what kinds of jobs she takes on, and what keeps her going. You’ll also learn about some of the basic traits technical translators share, the need to invest your time in the subject matter, and the lucrative sideline of editing non-native English scientific writing. Wondering about the impact of machine translation in this specialty? Karen’s insider perspective is just what you need to hear.

And finally—we saved the best for last—she reveals what it’s like to turn away work because you have too much!

What is the Inside Specialization Podcast?
Inside Specialization is a feature of The ATA Podcast that focuses on specialization and diversification. Each episode tackles the “what, why, and how” of a particular specialty. You’ll learn about the actual work from translators and interpreters in the field as well as the skills needed, the pros and cons of the job, and the types of clients you’d be working for. There are loads of personal stories and recommendations for getting started. Join us for monthly episodes—it’s an adventure you won’t want to miss!

Comments? Email

Hunter Master of Arts in Translation and Interpreting

Industry News

California Fines Los Angeles County Superior Court for Safety Violations during Pandemic

Los Angeles Times (CA) (07/07/21) Hamilton, Matt

After COVID-19 outbreaks and the deaths of several court interpreters who worked in Los Angeles County courthouses, California’s Division of Occupational Health and Safety (Cal/OSHA) plans to fine the local court system more than $25,000 for multiple violations.

In a notice to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Cal/OSHA identified at least three health and safety violations, two of which it deemed serious.

The violations stem from the working conditions and safety measures put in place for court interpreters who provided services at in-person hearings, trials, and meetings for attorneys and criminal defendants during the pandemic.

“Is it enough to fine them [the courts] that? I’m not going to make the judgment. But I think something had to happen,” said Michael Ferreira, president of the California Federation of Interpreters, the union representing court interpreters in Los Angeles County and across the state. “My view is things definitely could have been done better, and apparently, Cal/OSHA agreed with that concept.”

Begonya De Salvo, an interpreter at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse and a union steward for the California Federation of Interpreters, called the fines validation for interpreters who have felt like they’ve been treated like second-class citizens while colleagues perished.

“We had been sounding the alarm before they died, before they got sick. And we were not heard,” De Salvo said, adding that the fines, while significant, were not enough. “It’s not completely what we want. We want people held accountable for their actions.”

In late 2020, about 16 court interpreters at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, including De Salvo, were potentially exposed to COVID-19 after an interpreter tested positive. According to the California Federation of Interpreters, that interpreter was not permitted by her bosses to quarantine at home on paid leave, even though others in the courtroom with her were able to quarantine.

According to state records, 14 of the interpreters self-quarantined, but two did not out of fear of being fired. One interpreter who continued working, Sergio Cafaro, was hospitalized with COVID-19 and died on January 12. Two other court employees died in January. In February, a contract interpreter died after spending 41 days in the hospital.

Cafaro’s death led Cal/OSHA to investigate conditions at the courthouse. According to the investigative findings, the agency found no violations directly related to Cafaro’s death. However, the agency did find three violations at the courthouse, including the court’s failure to immediately notify Cal/OSHA that an employee was seriously ill and hospitalized with COVID-19 in early January.

Ann Donlan, communications director for the Los Angeles County Superior Court, disputed the alleged violations identified by Cal/OSHA and said administrative records cast doubt on the basis for the penalties.

“The court will be appealing these alleged violations because we do not believe Cal/OSHA has complete information,” Donlan said.

Meanwhile, De Salvo said colleagues are still dealing with grief.

“Sergio should be here today—he should not have died,” she said. “These fines will not bring Sergio back. But at least it says that something was wrong and that we are not crazy.”


Biden Defends Afghan Pullout, Sets Evacuation for Interpreters

The Wall Street Journal (NY) (07/08/21) Restuccia, Andrew; Youssef, Nancy A.; Lucey, Catherine; et al.

President Biden defended the U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan, claiming the U.S. met goals outlined 20 years ago, while pledging that his administration would evacuate thousands of Afghan interpreters from the country in August.

“I’m very encouraged by President Biden’s efforts to get our Afghan allies out of harm’s way, but I remain deeply concerned by the deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

The president said the U.S. would conduct flights in August to relocate interpreters and other Afghan allies of the U.S.

The administration has yet to determine where interpreters would be moved while they await approval to enter the U.S. “It is likely to be a mix of third countries and U.S. territory,” a senior administration official said. “For now, this is very much in progress.”

Officials said Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and the U.S. territory of Guam are among the countries the U.S. is considering. The interpreters moved out of Afghanistan could be in those countries for years as they await a valid U.S. visa.

Officials estimated the number of Afghans who assisted the U.S. and who need to be evacuated at between 9,000 and 16,000. Advocates for the interpreters and others said they want additional details.

“President Biden’s announcement to evacuate interpreters from Afghanistan into third countries does not reassure us unless they provide specifics of how they will do it, and the data backs up their claims,” said James Miervaldis, board chairman of No One Left Behind, which works on behalf of Afghan and Iraqi interpreters.


Federal Case Involving Linguist Recruiters Dismissed

The Washington Post (DC) (07/06/21) Weiner, Rachel

A federal judge in Virginia has dismissed indictments against six linguistic recruiters accused of participating in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Army by providing unqualified interpreters under a $703 million contract, finding the nine-year delay before the indictment had violated their due process rights.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said in court that she was “shocked” by the case and dismissed charges against all six defendants with prejudice, meaning they cannot be brought again without an appeal.

The allegations started with the increase of troops in Afghanistan between 2009-2012 and the need for Dari and Pashto speakers who could be granted top-secret security clearances. Mission Essential Personnel (MEP) was granted a $679 million contract to provide linguists. Linguists stood to make over $200,000 a year, and successful recruiters got bonuses of $250 to $2,500.

Problems were discovered at FedSys, a subcontractor for MEP where the six defendants worked. A recruiter named Abdul Aman, after being fired by FedSys and accused of helping people cheat, emailed his superiors at FedSys and MEP saying such fraud was rampant. The subcontractor fired the entire team of 20, including the six defendants, and MEP fired FedSys. According to government records, in 2014, the U.S. Army temporarily blocked FedSys and MEP from contracting work.

The case was investigated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, whose mission is to investigate possible fraud, waste, and abuse of U.S. spending in Afghanistan. Internal documents indicate such problems were rampant and involved billions of dollars.

Scrutiny centered on the recruiters, mostly Afghan immigrants themselves, who found potential linguists for the contracting firms and set up their initial phone interviews.

Rafi Anwari, one of the defendants in the case, was offered a job recruiting Dari and Pashto linguists to work with U.S. troops in Afghanistan during the 2009 surge. Over a decade later, Anwari and five others, including his wife, were accused of helping those linguists cheat on language-skills exams to win bonuses for themselves and were told they could go to prison for contributing to a multimillion-dollar fraud. By the time the case was set for trial, Brinkema said the government could not argue troops were endangered.

Brinkema said that if recruiters brought in unqualified candidates, it should have been discovered by the contractors before those people ended up in Afghanistan, and that there was no way for the recruiters to defend themselves after so much time.

“There probably are many culprits in this case who should be prosecuted, but it’s not these people,” Brinkema said.

“It was an extraordinary moment,” said Joshua Berman, an attorney who represented Anwari pro bono. “Justice was actually done here.”

“Our loyalty to this country was questioned,” Anwari said in a statement. “It’s been hanging over our head,” he added. “But I always had faith that the truth would come out.”


Study Links Language Barriers to Much Lower Access to Health Care

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA) (07/06/21) Grinspan, Lautaro

According to a new study published in Health Affairs, a leading health policy research journal, language barriers significantly limit access to health care for U.S. residents with limited English proficiency.

According to the study’s authors—a group of researchers from Harvard Medical School and the City University of New York’s Hunter College—Spanish speakers receive approximately one-third less care than other Americans, even with differences in baseline health, age, income, and health insurance taken into account. While there have been multiple policy initiatives at the federal level aimed at strengthening language services in hospitals and clinics, the study indicates these might have had limited effectiveness.

Researchers estimated the care deficit of non-English speakers by comparing health care-related metrics for Spanish-speaking adults with those of their English-speaking counterparts, using federal survey data from over 120,000 U.S. residents from 1999 to 2018. Ultimately, researchers found that total use of care—as measured by health care expenses—was up to 42% lower for primary Spanish speakers.

In addition, Spanish-speaking adults registered 36% fewer outpatient visits and 48% fewer prescription medications than non-Hispanic adults, as well as fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations (similar gaps were observed between Spanish speakers and Hispanic adults who were proficient in English).

“The gaps in care that we observed could be a result of several factors rooted in language-based inequities. Non-English speakers may be less likely to seek care for health concerns, anticipating that their needs might not be met,” the researchers wrote. “Patients with limited English proficiency, for example, may have had prior negative experiences with the health care system, including being made to feel unwelcome or discriminated against.”

Publication of the study comes amid an ongoing pandemic that continues to take a disproportionate toll on racial and ethnic minority groups. Language barriers could be exacerbating that toll.

“The pandemic has been a magnifier of the failure of our health care system to meet the needs of patients facing language barriers,” said the study’s lead author, Jessica Himmelstein, a Harvard research fellow and primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance.


Milwaukee Bucks Make History by Becoming First Team to Provide Sign Language Interpreter for Team News Conferences

WTMJ (WIS) (06/25/2021) Jordan, Ben

As the Milwaukee Bucks continue to chase a championship, they’ve already made history by becoming the first professional sports team to provide an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for team interviews.

Brice Christianson, the ASL interpreter for the Bucks, says that just because not all fans can hear doesn’t mean they’re not watching.

“The deaf community are really hardcore sports fans, especially in Wisconsin,” Christianson said.

Christianson isn’t deaf, but he grew up with parents who are. Because of that, his first language was ASL.

Christianson said he started interpreting for his dad at a young age when they attended sporting events.

“When I was about 7 or 8 years old going to Lambeau Field and interpreting for him, little did I know that, 25 years later, I would actually turn it into a legit career.”

Christianson’s compassion for the deaf community and his love for sports led him on a mission to get a professional team to hire him to be a sign language interpreter for pre- and post-game interviews. He said several teams passed on his offer.

But nearly two years ago, Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin gave Christianson a different answer.

“We kind of thought about it for three seconds and said, ‘oh my gosh. This is a great, great opportunity to get it done,’ and we spent like a month figuring out production, figuring out how do we do this, and how do we do it at a gold standard level and really set the baseline for sports entertainment,” Feigin said.

Christianson can be seen in the upper corner of the screen on every Bucks news conference posted to the team’s website and social media pages. He has provided the deaf community with up-to-date information on the team through the pandemic and into the playoffs.

While Christianson is proud of what he and the Bucks have accomplished, he hopes many other teams follow suit.

“I really want to incorporate more visibility and awareness, and it’s such a vibrant and unique and loving community that I want more people to recognize how wonderful this community is,” he said.

Payment Practices


ATA News

Why Take the ATA Compensation Survey?

ATA is working with Dynamic Benchmarking, LLC, an independent firm specializing in association-related research, to conduct an industry-wide survey of compensation for translation and interpreting services. Dynamic Benchmarking is collecting the survey responses, thus guaranteeing your anonymity.

Helps us help you!
  1. The survey results will be an invaluable resource for individuals and companies alike. You will be able to compare your earnings to colleagues working in your language pair and specialty.
  2. ATA will gain the data needed to lobby the U.S. Department of Labor to correct its T&I compensation report. Currently, independent contractors are not adequately represented in the agency’s statistics.
Only you can help us collect sufficient data for a comprehensive picture of the translation and interpreting market. Your participation is critical.

Who can take the survey?
Translators, interpreters, and company owners working in the U.S. You do not need to be an ATA member to take the survey.

How do I take the survey?

ATA Members:
Go to Enter the email address that you have on file with ATA as your Username. Submit to request your password. This will re-generate the original email invitation. Watch for the email, and don’t forget to check your spam folder.

Go to and register. Watch for the email with your account login.

If you don’t see the login email, check your spam folder!

Thank you!

To thank you for completing the survey, we are providing an interactive copy of the results that will allow you to filter on-the-fly for multiple variables, including year, language pairs, specialties, certification, employment status, years of experience, education, and more. This information will enable you to easily compare yourself with your peers and assist you in making crucial business decisions.

I have questions.

Send questions to


Free ATA Member Orientation Session July 22

Attend this free one-hour member orientation session for a roadmap to ATA member benefits!

The session will answer questions on everything from how to set up an online ATA Directory listing and how to join and participate in ATA divisions to where to find ATA on social media and how to contact ATA Headquarters staff for assistance.

Note: ATA’s member orientation is an interactive experience with networking and sharing via the chat feature. It will not be recorded. There will be additional sessions later this year if you can’t make this one.

Free, but registration is required.

Don’t miss out on benefits you can really use simply because you didn’t know they existed. Even if you joined ATA years ago, this presentation is for you!


It’s Not Too Late to Enter the ATA School Outreach Contest

Did you share your translation or interpreting career with students this year? Did you capture the moment with a photo or screenshot? Then you’re all set to enter ATA’s School Outreach Contest for a chance to win a free registration to ATA’s 62nd Annual Conference. The contest deadline is July 19, 2021.


B2BB: Building a Network

Presenter: Karen Tkaczyk, Ben Karl
Date: August 3, 2021
Time: 12 noon U.S. EDT
Duration: 45 minutes
Language: English
Level: All
CE Points: None

Meaningful, lasting relationships with colleagues help translators and interpreters create partnerships, share advice and resources, and grow their referral network. So why do many of us find networking so hard?

This webinar will highlight networking best practices and good places to start to find and build a professional network. Presenters Karen Tkaczyk and Ben Karl will share advice on networking both within the confines of the current pandemic and beyond, so you can prepare for the return to in-person events.

Click to learn more and register for this ATA Back to Business Basics webinar. Free, but space is limited.


The ATA Podcast

ATA Webinars: Third Doubleheader of 2021!

Two webinars, one day, and $15 off! Don’t miss this opportunity to expand your skills, gain critical knowledge, and earn continuing education points from three major credentialing organizations.

Does Your English Match Your Suit? How to Reflect a More Professional Image
Presenter: Karen Borgenheimer
Date: August 4, 2021
Time: 12:00 noon U.S. EDT
Duration: 60 minutes
Language: English
Level: All
CE Point(s): ATA-approved 1 CE point; CCHI-approved 1 CE hour; IMIA-approved 0.1 CE unit

Clear and concise communication in English is crucial for successful relationships with clients in the U.S., but interpreters and translators often fall short due to routine errors in written and oral expression.

Attend this webinar to learn how to overcome common pitfalls in the Spanish<>English language pair. You will tackle exercises designed to improve both written and spoken English by removing unnecessary words and confusing verbal clutter. You will also learn easy techniques to conquer problematic pronunciation in English through a series of drills, focusing on proper vocal expression, pronunciation, and articulation.

Register now! ATA Member $45 | Non-Member $60


NOTE NEW TIME! Sight for Simul
Presenter: Katty Kauffman
Date: August 4, 2021
Time: 2:00 p.m. U.S. EDT
Duration: 60 minutes
Language: English and Spanish
Level: All
CE Points: ATA-approved 1 CE point; CCHI-approved 1 CE hour; IMIA-approved 0.1 CE unit

Special Note: This webinar is presented in English and Spanish. We have all been there: an attorney or a conference delegate walks in, comes over, hands us a document (a speech, a proffer), and says, “I tend to read very quickly so I brought you a copy.”

We thank the speaker, skim through it, and make some notes. What happens next is key. Do you put it aside, close your eyes, and just focus on the spoken words? Or do you read along, interpreting as you go, and adjust to additions and deletions on the fly?

If you are in the former group, this session is for you! Attend and learn key techniques to translate your sight-reading skills into the simultaneous mode. Come prepared to practice!

Register now! ATA Member $45 | Non-Member $60

Register for Both and Save $15!
Attend one at full price or attend both and take $15 off the total registration fee. The discount will appear when you have added the second webinar to your cart.


AFTI Scholarships for the ATA62 Annual Conference

To help defray the costs of attending the ATA62 Annual Conference in person (Minneapolis, October 27-30), the American Foundation for Translation and Interpretation (AFTI) is offering a limited number of $500 scholarships to students and recent graduates of translation or interpreting studies and related fields. The program must be leading to an academic degree or certificate.

To be eligible, individuals must have never attended an ATA Annual Conference in person; attendees of the ATA61 virtual conference are eligible to apply.

Recent graduates must have completed their program within 12 months of the start date of the ATA62 Annual Conference.

How to Apply
You’ll find all the details and the application form on the AFTI website. The deadline to apply is July 31.


Coming Up in the July/August Issue of The ATA Chronicle

ATA’s Public Relations Committee: Bringing Positive Attention to T&I Professionals
ATA’s Public Relations Committee focuses on informing and educating the media and public about the roles that translators and interpreters play in society and what it means to be a translator or interpreter. Find out how the committee’s dedicated team of volunteers is working to increase awareness one publication at a time! (Eve Lindemuth Bodeux)

What the Business Practices Education Committee Is Doing for ATA Members
ATA’s Business Practices Education Committee offers many opportunities for members to get involved, give back to the Association, work with fellow members, and broaden their professional network. (Michael Engley)

Language Access in the Courts: How Technology Saved the Day During a Pandemic
On March 17, 2020, the Santa Barbara Superior Court received approval for an emergency order to suspend all non-emergency services—all criminal, civil, family, traffic, small claims, and probate proceedings—until April 3. Little did we know the courthouse would remain closed physically, but operational nonetheless, for more than a year. (Lorena Pike)

Diversify Successfully with Online Language Teaching/Cultural Experience Hosting
Linguistic and cultural skills such as those cultivated by most translators are in high demand in education and are difficult to duplicate. This industry is likely to remain active even after the pandemic, so it’s a stable option for translators/interpreters looking to diversify. (Carlie Sitzman)

Almond, Eyeless – Can Poetry Be Translated? An Interview with Author Karen Meadows
Poetry, with all its nuance, rhythm, sound, and multiple levels of meaning, is certainly the most difficult language to translate. Is it possible to translate poetry from one language into another without losing meaning? Karen Meadows, author of Almond, Eyeless, attempts to answer the question. (Petra Caroline Rieker)

What’s Cooking: An Introduction to Culinary Translation
Here’s an introduction to culinary translation as a specialization, including some of the main challenges encountered and tips on how to develop your skills! (Olivia Singier Texier)

Access to The ATA Chronicle’s searchable archives is available online! And don’t forget to check out the latest issue of the Chronicle Online.



News summaries © copyright 2021 SmithBucklin

July 15, 2021

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In This Issue

Inside Specialization
ATA Compensation Survey
Member Orientation Session
Final Call! School Outreach
B2BB: Building a Network
Third Webinar Doubleheader
AFTI Scholarships
The ATA Chronicle

ATA Members Only

Free ATA Webinar!
Inbound Marketing for Freelance Translators
Click to watch!

ATA Webinars

ATA Doubleheader!
Register for both webinars and save $15 on the registration cost!

Does Your English Match Your Suit?
August 4 @ 12 noon EDT
Registration open

Sight for Simul
August 4 @ 7:30 p.m. EDT
Registration open

Calendar of Events

ATA Member Orientation Session
July 22, 2021 @ 12 noon EDT
Members only! Free registration!

Compensation Survey Deadline
July 23, 2021
Learn more!

Next ATA Board of Directors Meeting
August 7-8, 2021

ATA62 Annual Conference
Minneapolis, Minnesota
October 27-30, 2021
Check out the website!

ATA 62 Annual Conference
Advertise with ATA!
ATA Webinars Live and On Demand
Continuing education anywhere, anytime!