By Lorena Ortiz Schneider
This was yet another great annual conference, starting with Advocacy Day (for me and a few other ATA interpreter members).
We attended a morning informational session with Bill Rivers, NCL-NCLIS Language Advocate, who prepared a group of about 25 translators and interpreters to hit the Hill on 3 very relevant issues:
- Inaccuracies in Prevailing Wages Rate Determinations for Translators and Interpreters
- Language Services Procurement: The Need for the Best Value Approach
- Machine Translation vs. Human Translation
The first two were very near and dear to my heart, as they explained why there has been a downward pressure on interpreter fees over the last 10 years: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on which the Government Services Administration (GSA) bases the value of its contracts, hasn’t taken into consideration the income earned by the majority of T&I professionals (1099 earners and highly paid government linguists). The GSA also applies the Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) approach instead of the Best Value model to purchase T&I services. Thus, lumping what we do together with other commodities such as the purchasing of pencils, paper clips and water coolers.
So, we hit the hill, grouped by state, and took turns promoting change for our industry. Granted, we met for 15 minutes max with our legislator’s aids, but, nevertheless, we got on their radar by driving home the message that T&I services are not commodities but rather performed by very highly skilled professionals on which hinges significant meaning, as with sensitive Department of Defense communications; therefore it’s best not to go with the lowest priced, most unskilled linguist available.
The main conference opened up with a bang on Thursday, and at the end of an enriching day of various sessions ranging from Honoring Diversity: Working in Minority Languages to Interpreting in Education, the Interpreters Division (ID) held its Annual Meeting. The room was packed!Our fearless leader, Carol Velandia, who was in India, sent a heartfelt letter that I read to our members. People were grateful for her words.
Tianlu Redmon, our social media guru, gave a tremendous presentation full of interesting stats, that, again, people were super happy to receive.
Melinda Gonzalez-Hibner unfurled a stunning explanation, very clear and concise, about the new Certified Interpreter (CI) tags. I am sure that ATA HQ will soon be very busy processing applications, because many members were very enthusiastic about this great new resource to promote themselves. Many of us are also hoping that one of the benefits of this new ATA credential will be voting rights for interpreter members. If you have not joined the ID yet, but are reading this blog, be sure to sign up and join the Interpreters Division.
Milena Calderari-Waldron also promoted the session she gave with her colleagues from the Government Division on certificates and certification and everything in between. I attended that one and it was indeed SUPER. Milena is a great presenter, direct, articulate, engaging and very funny!
Cristina Helmerichs spoke about the ID Guest Speaker Cheri Wilson’s two sessions about implicit bias, which were very well attended. She was just amazing in her presentation of a very complex and relevant topic that we all deal with on a daily basis. I am so glad Carol found Cheri! For those of you who attended the conference but missed her sessions, you can listen to them because they were recorded for the Virtual Conference.
It is an election year, so if you are interested in becoming the next Administrator or Assistant Administrator, please let us know so we can pass your name onto the Nominating Committee.I have to say that I just loved the way the hotel (ATA?) decided to announce that the sessions were about to begin after the mid morning and afternoon breaks. There was a gentleman with a little xylophone (see the video clip) tapping out a gentle, soothing yet attention-grabbing little tune.
Last but not least, our networking dinner with the Medical Division was a success. We had close to 60 attendees. The food was delicious and Flavia Lima pulled it all off with aplomb! We held a raffled of 4 books on interpreting themes, so people were really happy to see educational materials on offer. The person who got the Medical Interpreter textbook had us take a photo of her with two of the authors, who also attended the dinner: Katharine Allen and Giovanna Carriero-Contreras. See the photo below.
To all of you who were able to attend the conference, thank you for your help in making these events a success! It was great to see you all again and I look forward to New Orleans next year.
Interpreters Division Assistant Administrator