The following statement on artificial intelligence was drafted by ATA’s Strategy Committee and reviewed and approved by ATA’s Board of Directors. ATA believes it is important for everyone involved in language services to understand the potential and pitfalls of artificial intelligence, as well as the transformative impact it is having on the T&I professions. The Association encourages its members to share this information and stay informed of the latest developments in the industry. ______________________________
Among its many roles, the American Translators Association (ATA) actively follows technological developments affecting language services and provides training to help translators and interpreters leverage them. The current generation of artificial intelligence (AI), based on large language models, is one such development currently disrupting many professions, including language services.
Translators and interpreters, however, are a step ahead when it comes to language AI, as they have been responding to the impact of this technology, in the form of neural machine translation (NMT), since 2016, before the advent of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools. As a result, they have developed creative ways to integrate NMT into their toolkits while simultaneously coming to terms with its shortcomings. For instance, translators and interpreters now use NMT-based tools to automate repetitive texts, produce a rough draft for editing, respond to client requests for immediate feedback on content, and speed up the translation process.
Yet, while automated translation has proven helpful—and even welcome—as a tool for certain low-stakes, time-sensitive tasks, it is less so for others. This is especially true for creative endeavors, where human ingenuity is key, in light of the reliance of AI tools on previously produced ideas and information. Language experts are likewise essential to multilingual communications whenever the stakes are high, helping non-specialists determine how and when to deploy technology. For example, the stakes are clearly high for a patient with limited language proficiency facing a critical medical decision where a trained medical interpreter, rather than technology, helps ensure better outcomes. On the other hand, the stakes are much lower for the average diner using a translation app to get the gist of menu items before ordering a meal.
As the latest language technology tools gain traction, stakeholders need to be aware of when AI is being used and its limitations. That starts with transparency about AI-generated translations, with appropriate disclaimers about the potential for suboptimal results, such as miscommunication, AI hallucinations, gender bias, inconsistencies across language pairs, and potential disclosure of confidential information. ATA believes that additional safeguards addressing these concerns are warranted and encourages their development and enforcement. A good first step for all interested parties is to ensure that whenever AI tools are being used, expert translators and interpreters—who have the language skills, training, and experience to determine how and when to employ them—are involved in this process.
As the world’s largest professional home of language experts, ATA is a key stakeholder in this process and continues to make its voice heard with respect to technologies affecting language services. The Association will continue to advocate for sensible safeguards for human translators and interpreters. It will continue to train and advise its members on the potential and pitfalls of this shifting landscape through professional development opportunities designed to educate and enhance skills. Most importantly, ATA will continue to pursue its mission of promoting the value of translators and interpreters as the essential component in all multilingual processes.
Moving forward, the Association will explore other aspects of AI-based tools and how the profession is adapting to them, with the goal of providing insights, ideas, and solutions. ATA encourages everyone interested in this subject to check the Association’s website regularly for updates.
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Texas School for the Deaf Lays Off Staff Interpreters in Favor of Outsourcing
MYSA (11/10/23) Santana, Steven
The Texas School for the Deaf in Austin is laying off in-house interpreters as it moves to outsource their work.
The school stated in a letter that the layoffs will take place on December 31 and that interpreters are expected to “continue to provide high quality service and meet all job expectations” to stay employed until that date. The letter did not specify how many in-house interpreters will be affected.
Although officials from the Texas School for the Deaf stated that their in-house interpreters have been “invaluable” to the school, they believe that outsourcing interpreting services is the best course of action. “This shift will allow us to better manage our interpreting expenses and streamline our budget, ultimately enhancing the efficient allocation of resources to other vital areas of our school.”
School officials said they will try to identify an interpreting service whose values align with the school’s “commitment to quality” to ensure a smooth transition.
Baltimore Officials Criticized for No Longer Using Sign Language Interpreters at Mayoral and Other Events
Baltimore Brew (11/10/23) Schaefer, Peder
Over the past five months, Baltimore has held mayoral events and press conferences without a sign language interpreter, upsetting organizations representing the deaf and hard of hearing who say Mayor Brandon Scott is violating provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The Baltimore City Association of the Deaf (BCAD) has sent four emails to Scott and other officials since October 30 asking the city to resume using American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, but the organization said it has yet to receive a response.
BCAD President Jacob Leffler called Baltimore’s lack of interpreters and failure to engage with his group about the problem outrageous. “We feel angry and upset that we cannot understand anything that the mayor or police department is saying,” he said. “There are important messages that we need to know about concerning our safety and access.”
Although the Baltimore City Council, Board of Estimates, and Zoning and Liquor boards, and similar bodies have never routinely used sign language interpreters, the practice became common for mayors during the pandemic. Interpreters stood beside Mayor Scott and his predecessor, Mayor Bernard Young, as they announced masking and stay-at-home advisories during the pandemic. However, the practice of using sign language interpreters gradually trailed off and interpreters are now used sporadically.
Leffler said the Maryland Association for the Deaf sent accessibility guidelines to Baltimore and every Maryland county in August, but the city had not taken the guidelines into account, such as hiring an ASL interpreter.
“According to the ADA, we have the right to have interpreters for the purpose of effective communication,” said Tiny Joyner, president of the Maryland Association for the Deaf, in a letter sent to Scott and Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller.
Leffler wrote: “Moving forward, we request that you have a sign language interpreter and captions during the briefings, police briefings, and more. This means having a qualified interpreter stand next to the person delivering the message and having both people clearly on screen with any chyrons and captioning below them so as not to obstruct signing.”
Leffler said city officials often forget about sign language interpreters and captions until later. “It’s frustrating, but we always need to educate them about our needs and the accessibility needs.”
Fort Worth’s First Translator/Interpreter in Decades Wants to Help Spanish Speakers Engage with the City
Fort Worth Report (TX) (11/06/23) Behrndt, Rachel
Vanessa Frias is the first full-time Spanish translator/interpreter hired by the city of Fort Worth, Texas, since the 1990s. Frias will translate web pages and communications on the city’s social media and communications platforms.
Frias is all too familiar with the challenges of emigrating to a new city and country. She was fluent in English when she moved to Fort Worth from Mexico, but she had difficulty integrating into a new culture.
Fort Worth has grown dramatically since the 1990s. Much of that growth, according to researcher conducted by Texans for Economic Growth, a statewide 110-member business coalition, is attributed to immigrants. Just translating signs and instructions to pay bills can help immigrants feel more confident navigating their new home, Frias said. “Every time I have an encounter, and every time I have the opportunity to do my job, I’m making a difference.”
Fort Worth’s lack of consistent translation/interpreting services was already apparent to Carlos Flores, who served for about seven years as the only Hispanic and Spanish-speaking member of the Fort Worth City Council. When he was elected in 2017, no one could translate or interpret for Spanish-speaking residents who called the city with a question.
“Resources were extremely scarce,” Flores said. To help bridge the language gap, he made sure to hire a district director who spoke Spanish. There are now two Spanish speakers on the city council who have bilingual staff. Flores said hiring Frias creates an opportunity for the city to engage Spanish speakers in city decision-making. “Communication is only a first step in engagement.”
Live interpreting services will also be available at key public meetings, including presentations on key issues such as short-term rentals, said Reyne Telles, Fort Worth’s Chief Communications Officer. Now, part of the city’s challenge is letting Spanish speakers know that this new service is available. “We’re starting by reaching out through social media…and from there we will continue developing the promotion of these services,” Frias said. “It’s building that trust.”
The city is lagging when it comes to non-English language resources, said Annette Landeros, president and chief executive officer of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “I don’t think people are aware of how many new immigrants and refugees we welcome here in Fort Worth,” Landeros said. “Once they get here, they’re our neighbors or community members, and making sure that they and their families are safe is important.”
Telles hopes to expand Fort Worth’s translation/interpreting services for other high-demand languages such as Vietnamese. In the meantime, Frias hopes her work will help integrate Spanish speakers in Fort Worth and put them on a path to learning English and engaging with the city in new ways. “I think this city has a very unique way to make you feel welcome,” Frias said. “I have experienced that myself, because I am an immigrant. What the city is doing now is just going to open the door even more for not just Spanish but for other languages.”
Comcast Launches Live Video ASL Interpreting at Philadelphia Stores
Metro Philadelphia (PA) (10/29/23) Tomczuk, Jack
Comcast’s six Xfinity stores in the Philadelphia area now offer deaf and hard of hearing customers live, remote video American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting. Customers can opt to communicate via the remote interpreter or by texting with an Xfinity employee. Comcast said it is the first telecommunications firm to offer this service.
“Remote interpreters are able to interpret everything that the customer needs,” said Shaun Wilson, manager of the Xfinity outlet on City Avenue in Wynnefield. Comcast launched the pilot program in its Philadelphia stores in October. Xfinity stores in St. Augustine, Florida, San Jose, California, and Frederick, Maryland, are also testing the interpreting service.
Comcast representatives said the idea for the service originated with Tom Wlodowski, Comcast’s vice president for accessibility, and his team in Philadelphia. “We believe that this ASL remote video interpreting service will make the in-store experience more welcoming and efficient for our deaf or hard of hearing customers and retail associates,” Wlodowski said. He added that Comcast provides ASL interpreting in collaboration with the Communication Service for the Deaf, a global social impact organization that provides technologies, resources, and services that benefit the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
In conjunction with the pilot program, Comcast awarded a $25,000 grant to the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf to fund a program for deaf and hard of hearing young adults interested in technology careers. The company has previously partnered with the school on digital equity projects.
Hundreds of Parents in Florida School District Demand Better Language Services
WCJB (FL) (10/28/23) Solache, Zitlali
Over 600 parents in Alachua County, Florida, have signed a petition urging the school district to provide translations of key school communications.
“It’s a right that any parent and any student in the school district can request,” said Adriana Menendez, social service manager with the Rural Women’s Health Project, a health justice organization. “They have the right to receive translation services. They should be able to receive information in their language.”
Menendez advocates for immigrants in the county and said she has witnessed the problem associated with language barriers first-hand. “One time a parent who only spoke Spanish received a ‘no school’ notice in English,” Menendez said. “They dropped off their child at school. When their child opened the classroom door, there was no teacher or students inside.”
Advocates such as Ethan Maia, program manager of the Gainesville Immigration Neighbor Inclusion Initiative, said the school district has fallen short in bridging the language gap between parents and staff. “Many of these families are just left out completely in the dark,” she said. “Or if they’re trying to reach out to the schools, they are unable to get an interpreter in their language so they can actually effectively communicate with their child’s school.”
Alachua County School District officials said they are working to develop new programs to address the need for better language services. “We instituted the Language Line program that allows us to communicate with parents by phone or through Zoom in 200-plus languages, including American Sign Language, so we’re getting a lot of use out of that,” said Alachua County Public Schools Spokesperson Jackie Johnson. She added that the school district also hired a Spanish interpreter in August 2022.
“Sometimes when we ask for a translation service or for someone to interpret, we have to wait a long time,” said parent Marvin Ramos. “Assistance in other languages would also be great because people speak several languages, not just Spanish and English.”
Johnson said district officials will continue to work to bridge language and cultural barriers.
Submit Your Overall ATA64 Survey for a Chance to Win
Your ideas and suggestions have helped shape ATA’s Annual Conference over the years. So please take the time to complete your ATA64 overall conference survey and tell us what you think. Surveys submitted by December 1 will automatically be entered to win a free registration for the ATA65 Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon (October 30-November 2, 2024). Look for the surveys on the ATA64 Conference app. Questions? Contact email@example.com.
ATA64 Continuing Education Points
ATA-certified translators earn 1 CEP for each hour of conference sessions attended, up to a maximum of 10 CEPs. In addition, ATA-certified translators may earn 1 CEP for each hour of AST courses attended, up to a maximum of 5 CEPs per day. Certified and credentialed interpreters may also be eligible for ATA64 continuing education credit! Check out the Continuing Education Credit page on the ATA64 website to learn more.
To receive your CEPs, retain the Certificate of Attendance that you will receive by email after the conference.
Watch the ATA64 Video Wrap-Up and View the Photo Gallery
If you missed the Closing Session on Saturday, then you missed the ATA64 video recap. Here it is again! Relive the moments or see what you missed. Click to watch! And don’t forget to check out the conference photos!
Visit the Websites of Our ATA64 Sponsors and Exhibitors
Sponsors and exhibitors played a crucial role in making this a memorable conference. Please take a minute to visit the websites of our ATA64 Sponsors and Exhibitors and consider returning their support in your business decisions.
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
The editorial team of Translatio, the quarterly newsletter of the International Federation of Translators (FIT), is seeking articles from members of FIT organizations in English, French, or Spanish for their last issue of the year.
Articles can be about initiatives or achievements at your association or organization, International Translation Day, past or upcoming conferences, board elections, etc. To recap a recent initiative or event for fellow member associations, consider sending high-quality photos with detailed captions in lieu of an article. If possible, please consider providing submissions in more than one language to assist the editorial committee. Articles that do not meet the submission guidelines will not be accepted. Please note that articles may be edited for clarity and style. (Past issues may be viewed here.)
The deadline for submissions is November 24, 2023.
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!
Episode 94: How ATA Can Benefit Your Career
Matt Baird and Andie Ho co-host this episode to spotlight the importance of joining professional translation and interpreting associations. Their guests, Céline Browning and Marco Díaz, are great examples! Why? Although Céline and Marco have followed completely different career paths, they both have one thing in common: They joined ATA and became active members fairly early in their careers, and they both agree that it had a significant impact on their early success and where they are today. Listen Now
Some Uncomfortable Truths about Machine Interpreting December 5: 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. EST Presenter(s): Jonathan Downie
Join this webinar to explore the future of human interpreting in the age of AI, addressing the fears and opportunities posed by machine interpreting while unveiling essential insights to empower you in an evolving landscape! Register Here
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
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
Password Management and General Cybersecurity: Keep Yourself and Your Clients Safe (By Danielle Maxson)
If you follow tech news, you know that it’s not at all difficult to find reports of major companies being hacked and having data stolen. Losing control of your personal information is bad enough, leaving you vulnerable to crimes like identity theft and credit card fraud. But members of the T&I community are also trusted with our clients’ information. We need to protect their secrets as well as our own. In a cyberworld that seems increasingly more dangerous, how can we keep our secrets safe? For language services providers, this is not just an academic question.
Not Getting Any Internships? Create One. That’s What I Did. (By Anees Gharzita)
Are you hoping to complete an internship in the language services industry but aren’t sure where to start? I was in this boat recently, but I doubled down, changed my game plan, and in the end created a dream internship where I learned so much and made an impact in my area of interest.
Got Standards? (By Andy Benzo)
We cannot underestimate the power of standards when it comes to educating clients! Not only are we adhering to international standards, but we are also following the best practices in our profession to guarantee accuracy, consistency, and professionalism.
ATA’s Language Technology Division Members Reflect: Language as a Technology? (By Members of ATA’s Language Technology Division Leadership Council)
Members of the Leadership Council of ATA’s Language Technology Division found some intriguing ideas contained within an article in Bloomberg’s Tech Daily entitled “Language Was the Original Technology, and It’s Under Threat.” Here, they respond with some novel and personal reflections on the subject, most especially on a key takeaway which, not surprisingly, elicited some very different perspectives.
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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 is a professional association founded in 1959 to advance the translation and interpreting professions and foster the professional development of translators and interpreters. With thousands of members in more than 100 countries, the Association includes translators, interpreters, language services providers, educators, project managers, localization specialists, hospitals, universities, and government agencies.
ATA Newsbriefs provides executive summaries of noteworthy articles about the translation and interpreting professions. It is distributed every month to ATA members as an exclusive membership benefit. The editorial staff monitors nearly 11,000 newspapers, business publications, websites, national and international wire services, summarizing significant articles into easy-to-read newsbriefs.
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