The ATA 55th Annual Conference: a review


This has been the first ATA conference I've attended "live", and it has been a great pleasure to meet other first-timers and more experienced conference-goers. Thanks to the Buddies and Newbies program and to my buddy/mentor Catherine Christaki the conference felt less overwhelming than I anticipated. The variety of sessions this year was very impressive and made choosing just one to attend quite challenging; fortunately, eConference materials will allow to catch up with the many ones I've missed.

Translation skills

Attending just “Taking the Culture Hurdle: A Plea for More Courage in Translating” by Christiane Nord would have made the trip to Chicago worth it. The seminar was about overcoming the divide between a source and a target culture and making a text accessible, attractive and comprehensible for its target audience. This topic is also discussed in the new book published by  BDÜ Fachverlag, and I am very much looking forward to reading it.

The next-day session “Globalizing Functionalism the Functional Way” was a great follow-up to the seminar: a practical example of communications purpose analysis and usage of source and target text profiles to support translation decisions in each individual case and achieve balance of different functions of the text in the target language.

Another session on the topic of [common-sense] adaptation was “Marketing Translation: When Capturing Meaning Isn’t Enough” by Jeana Clark and Esma Gregor. They have highlighted the hidden challenges of marketing texts and listed the prerequisites of a successful marketing translation (insider information, knowledge of nuances and marketing flair), as well as presented several less-than-perfect real-life examples.

I thought it was interesting that the presenters distinguished between translators, marketers and copywriters and suggested working with copywriters on marketing translations, at the same time recognizing that it might be hard to justify the additional cost to either translation agencies or direct clients. I would agree that this is could be a promising way to collaborate, but at the same time think that the second approach – acquiring basic knowledge on marketing ("Marketing 101") and developing your (copy)writing skills in target language is more feasible (and this is why I’m currently taking a copywriting course).

A very interesting approach to producing more idiomatic translations was presented by Grant Hamilton in the “Switch Hitting for More Idiomatic Translations” session. Despite my rusty French, I have enjoyed an opportunity to see how less obvious and more elegant solutions are made possible by comparing translations of tricky terms in the opposite direction.

Not surprisingly, in English among the “difficult” terms were some of the expressions that also are not rendered easily into Russian (“community”, “focus”, “compelling”). An important reminder was that verb/noun and tense changes can also help to create more attractive texts.

It was fun to try and work out a possible solution to each translation challenge, and I wish that that there was a similar session for English<>Russian language pairs.

Although I have not attended many Slavic languages sessions, I have enjoyed opportunities to network with fellow Slavic languages translators and interpreters at social events: the Division Open House, the newcomers’ lunch and, of course, at the SLD banquet.

The Slavic Language session I’ve attended and very much enjoyed was “Recent Trends in Contemporary Written Russian” by Elizabeth Macheret. It is very easy to dismiss new changes in the Russian language as errors and result of poor education, but, as Ms. Macheret has pointed out, “today’s errors will in some cases become tomorrow’s rules”. The examples presented at the session encompassed a number of trends, from hyperforeignisms and loan words to usage of prepositions and changes in vocabulary and semantic content.

Morphology, punctuation and style become more interconnected
— “Recent Trends in Contemporary Written Russian” by Elizabeth Macheret

These examples have lead to an interesting discussion of “right” vs “wrong” and of which reference sources can help overcome the “new Russian” challenges (some of the reference materials mentioned are: a book by Maxim Krongauz, Artemy Lebedev’s posts, also available as a book, or this reference book). A full list of resources by Natalie Shahova is available at the SLD website.

Industry Outlook

Some of the sessions (“Mastering the Challenges of a Direct-Client Portfolio” by Chris Durban, “Why Raising the Bar on Your Own Translation Quality Is about to Get Deadly Serious” panel discussion with Chris Durban, Kevin Hendzel, David Jemielity, and “Why We Need to Become Good Storytellers”by Jost Zetzsche) were on the important topics of specialization, general state and perception of the industry, and professional growth.

Other sessions I've attended were about the “inside” world of translation agencies, such as a fascinating panel discussion on “Why Won’t You Translate for Me?” with Jill Sommer, Sandra Alboum, Terena Bell and Ted Wozniak, or a PM’s journey into “The Adventurous World of the In-Country Review” by Alicia Assini.

I have also attended the “ASTM International Standards for Interpreting and Translation” session by Amanda Curry and Monique Roske, where Helen Eby talked about the practical implementation of standards, as well.

An interesting session on diversification was “Conquering the World of Content: How Translators Can Seize Opportunities in Content Marketing” by Matt Baird.

To find out more about content marketing and how it works, Matt has recommended following Doug Kessler on Twitter or having a look at what razorfish is doing. Some marketing events he has mentioned during the session are:


There were multiple opportunities for it, from the Buddies and Newbies program to the  Business Practices event (featured in the video highlights!), not to forget about the TweetUp.

Want to find out more?

Ekaterina Howard, Pinwheel Translations. English to Russian and German to Russian website localization, transcreation. Russian copywriting. ATA and CATI member.

Ekaterina Howard, Pinwheel Translations

English to Russian and German to Russian website localization, transcreation. Russian copywriting. ATA and CATI member.