My Experience with the ATA
In October 2017, I was attending a Linguist Mixer event held at the Netflix Los Angeles office. While I was there I met another translator who told me about the American Translators Association (ATA). She shared with me how she had benefited from being a member of the ATA. I have been a translator and subtitler for over 15 years and I am relatively busy with my work and life. I had heard about the ATA before, but I never thought about joining it. The main reason that I did not get involved with organizations like the ATA and get certified was not because I didn’t need help, professional development, or desire to network with fellow translators, it was mainly due to my own ignorance about the benefits that are associated with it.
The fellow translator I met told me that she really learned a lot in the conferences and sessions held at each ATA annual conference. She said she would be going to the next one in DC where I live, and I told her that I may go to check it out as well.
I became an ATA member and signed up for the conference rather late, so it was quite expensive because I had already passed the deadline for early registration. I attended some sessions and met a few people. I met some other Chinese translators but ended up missing some networking opportunities due to having to leave early.
I learned two important things from this ATA conference. First, I met Sara Maria (韩梅) Hasbun, Managing Director at Meridian Linguistics who told me about Locworld. She said that she got her first big job for her company at that conference. I was able to go to that conference in Seattle this year. Although it mainly focuses on corporate businesses, it was still a good venue to learn about new technologies and network with other people in the industry. Many big companies tend to work with the largest translation companies. However, many corporations that have translation departments were there and many of them are still working with freelance translators directly. This is a great marketing opportunity with the potential to open new doors for anyone looking for more direct clients.
The second thing I learned about the ATA certification was its importance to potential clients. I passed the ATA certification this summer for English to Chinese pair. I did not get more direct clients right away, but it certainly helped me to gain more trust from potential clients. I would encourage those members who haven’t taken the exam to do so. It will surely help you.
I was hesitant to join this year’s conference as I felt a little disoriented at my first ATA conference. I did not know many people and many sessions were not what I really wanted to attend but I didn’t know at the time. It was difficult for me to tell just from the titles.
However, with the help of Pency Tsai, the president of the ATA Chinese language Division , I was able to have a room at the Sheraton Hotel just opposite the ATA conference venue. I had not planned on attending so I did not book the hotel early enough. My expectations were not very high for this conference, but I was pleasantly surprised.
First, it felt a lot warmer this time. I had made more friends and met more new people. The hotel was nice with breakfast and afternoon snacks included. I am grateful to Pency for that.
The ATA director Evelyn Yang Garland explained my feelings perfectly. She said that if you are new to the ATA, you probably don’t know many people and it can be hard for you to find the right sessions. But after you know who is speaking in each session, you will find some of them are amazing speakers. That is exactly how I felt. I was a little disoriented at my first ATA conference, but I found my place at this one rather quickly. Many sessions were quite interesting.
I was impressed with the session by one speaker who talked about the importance of good customer service. He said, if we are to treat our customers nicely, we should also treat our translators this way. Many translators testified they had great experiences working with his company. It reminded me of what I heard from the founder of East Penn, a battery company located in Pennsylvania. East Penn Manufacturing Co. ranks as one of America’s Best Large Employers for 2018 by Forbes and Statista.  The motto of the founder of this company is that their success lies in three simple things: Treat their customers kindly, treat their employees kindly, and treat their vendors kindly. This simple rule has made them very successful.
The language business is not only about documents and computers, it’s about people. Unfortunately, I have encountered some businesses and agencies who did not pay me for my work. I would imagine many freelance translators have faced this same issue. Despite those experiences I remain grateful that there are many wonderful people in this industry as well and they are doing amazing work. They encourage me to continue learning from their great examples.
I also had the opportunity to network with many different companies and was interviewed by my company’s technology partner SmartCat. If you have a translation company or if your company has a translation department, and you cannot afford to afford a TMS system, SmartCat is worth a try. It offers free CAT tools integration, payment solution, simultaneous translation, and editing as well as a Translator Marketplace.
I am not being paid to advertise for these companies, I am only mentioning them because I think they may be helpful for some of you.