Category Archives: OSTI updates

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Reflections on the 2016 OSTI Annual Conference

-by Jazmin Manjarrez

On a beautiful sunny weekend in Bend, Oregon, a group of translators and interpreters came together to celebrate the Third Annual Conference of the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters.

Friends and colleagues gathered to share coffee and pastries, in anticipation of a promise of an exciting day of learning.

First up was Detective Pat Hartley.  He was very knowledgeable and forthcoming as he took us behind closed doors to a place most of us have never been: the process of polygraphs while working with interpreters.  What truly happens as the process of a polygraph begins, adding to the mix an interpreter?  He walked us through the initial interviews; deciding if the subject is fit for a polygraph, and how the detectives work closely with an interpreter to ask the crucial questions.  It was all so very interesting.

Up next was Cindy Roat, who spoke to us about technology and how it can be incorporated into language access in healthcare.  Who knew there were so many technologies being developed specifically for language, some more effective than others. What does the future have in store?  Will interpreters and translators eventually be replaced?  Interpreters and translators have a keen sense that observes and detects little nuances that machines could never do.  Not to mention machines could never understand culture in healthcare.  As a colleague once said, “machines do words, people do languages.”

After a well-deserved lunch break, we quickly got back to business.  The Annual Board meeting got on the way.  Various reports were presented to the members, including the treasurer, membership, Facebook progress, etc.  Then the time came to elect a new OSTI president, director and secretary.  Each candidate spoke eloquently as to why they were running for the respective posts.  Our members asked candidates about their vision for OSTI, and how OSTI will advocate for the profession, among other things.  The votes were in, members had spoken, and a new board emerges.  Congratulations to Lois Feuerle, president, Susanne Kraetschmer, director, and Svetlana Ruth, secretary.

Time for the learning to continue.  Jacquie Hinds and Sierra Groenewold, LPC  delivered the challenges of interpreting in behavioral health.

The group is hungry for more knowledge, some eagerly awaiting our presenter Martin Cross, none more interested than our translators as to what this knowledgeable man would reveal.   Translation is tricky, but we already knew that, yet Martin brought up some excellent points keeping our audience engaged.

As we near the end, we discuss the ATA exams.  Susanne and Denise share their experiences preparing and taking the ever so challenging exam.  The participants were quickly engaged and enthralled by the complexity.  We learned that the best resources are paper dictionaries, technology not so much.  We found out that soon the ATA would be rolling out a keyboarded exam, a relief for many hoping to take the exam next year.  This year there were seven individuals who signed up to take the ATA exam the day after the conference, and we wished them the best of luck!

Also, this year OSTI organized an ATA exam study group, the brainchild of Helen Eby.  She and the study group briefly shared what it was like to study as a group and how they supported each other in this grand adventure.

As the conference ends, we thank the organizers, presenters, table guests for making this year’s conference a success.  Moreover, a very special thank you and a well-deserved standing ovation is given to our departing President, Helen Eby.

A great day of learning and networking was had by all.  Many head out for some food and libations, while others begin their journey back to Portland. We say goodbye to our colleagues; good luck and good night, see you next year at OSTI’s Fourth Annual Conference.

News

“Death by a Thousand Cuts”

By Juan Lizama

It is not the complex syntax, long sentences or technical passages that dash the hopes of most candidates seeking to pass the American Translators Association (ATA) certification exam.

According to ATA exam graders Holly Mikkelson and Paul Coltrin, it is the many one- and two-point errors throughout the exam that add up to a failing grade.

“One of my colleagues calls it ‘death by a thousand cuts’,” Mikkelson said.

Mikkelson and Coltrin recently agreed to review translations into English and Spanish of past ATA exams done by a group of Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters members studying for the exam. The group of about a dozen members meets online on a weekly basis to discuss translation assignments, different resources and strategies for translation. They also correct each other’s work using the ATA list of mistakes and the ATA grading scale. Mikkelson reviewed the Spanish to English translations and their corresponding peer reviews, and Coltrin reviewed the English to Spanish ones. Each of them presented their findings to the group in separate online sessions.

The ATA currently offers exams in 29 language pairs. According to the recent March-April issue of the ATA Chronicle magazine, the overall passing rate for foreign languages into English was 15.81% between 2004 and 2014.  Meanwhile, the overall passing rate for English into foreign languages was 14.11% for the same period.

The vast majority of translations that are out there in the real world, which in some cases are mediocre, fall short in the sense that they are “a word by word rendering of the source text, slavish of the patterns of the source text,” Coltrin said.

“People often say that [a document] ‘smells like a translation’,” Coltrin said in Spanish, quickly switching to English. “And that’s not a compliment when they say that. If it has a strong feel of a translation, it’s probably not a good translation.”

“It’s perfectly fine for the translator to take freedoms in a translation as long as it preserves the meaning and flows nicely,” Coltrin said.

“It’s not just desirable to make the translation smooth and functional,” he said. “It is our obligation.”

Mikkelson echoed Coltrin’s comments, adding that not using common sense and not reading the whole passage before starting the translation has led exam takers to mistranslate parts of the source text.

“They can be prepositions, grammatical mistakes, misspellings that in and of themselves are not serious, but they add up,” Mikkelson said. “Those [errors] may be from carelessness, failure to proofread. They have a ‘yes’ instead of a ‘no’, ‘black’ instead of ‘white’.”

ATA graders use guidelines in the form of a flowchart with a scale of zero to 16 points per error. A score of 17 and under is a passing grade. The mechanical errors, those having to do with the misuse of the target language have a maximum of four points per error. On the second column are errors that can impact content, language use and understanding of a sentence, paragraph, and even the entire text. These errors can be zero to sixteen points.

“I’ve never seen a sixteen-point error,” Mikkelson said. “Even eight-point errors are rare.”

One of the many concrete examples Mikkelson highlighted from the group’s Spanish to English translations was the use of “earth” in a passage about agriculture, instead of using “land” or “soil”. This type of error distorts the meaning because the reader might think the sentence is referring to the planet as a whole.

“This would be a two-point error because it would cause confusion,” she said. “But it doesn’t take out a whole paragraph and the text is still useful.”

Mikkelson advised the group to be careful with the little quirks of English in adverbs such as either…or and neither…nor. Using them with “without” or “not” would make them a double negative. There’s also a reversal of the subject and the verb with the use of these adverbs.

“So you say, ‘neither did he do this’, instead of, ‘neither he did this’; or, ‘only then did I realize, rather than, ‘only then I did realize’,” she said.

Coltrin warned about falling for the traps within the passages, such as punctuation marks. He referred specifically to how the use of the dash in English is so different from its use in Spanish.

“Make no mistake,” he said, “when we choose passages, we like putting that type of challenge in there because it definitely helps us to differentiate between people that really have a strong awareness of Spanish writing conventions and how they are different from English and test takers who don’t have that awareness.”

Coltrin advises to take advantage of the practice tests ATA offers for a fee.

“Sometimes, people waltz in to take the exam, unprepared, and then they are surprised that they didn’t pass,” he said. “Later, they ask for a review of the exam, which is much more expensive.”

They could have gotten that feedback beforehand with the much less expensive practice test, which can be a good tool to prepare.

Coltrin commended the OSTI study group for their approach to preparing not only for taking the exam, but also as a way to become better translators. Mikkelson said that translation is also a great way for interpreters to improve their delivery in the target language.

And the response to the burning question from group of whether they have a chance of passing the exam—which only one member dared to ask Mikkelson—was:

“I did see some good translations there,” she said. “There were definitely some passing translations among the batch. Good luck to everybody.”

About the Author:
Juan Lizama is a native of El Salvador and currently works as a full-time interpreter and translator at OHSU Hospital in Portland, Oregon. He is a participant of the OSTI study group preparing to take the ATA certification exam.

News

OSTI March Board Meeting

OSTI members are invited to join the Board at the March Board meeting.

Date: March 5, 2016
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. meeting
3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. socializing

Place: Beaverton Community Center
Sycamore Room
12350 SW 5th St.
Beaverton, OR 97005

The agenda is below for your reference. Those who plan to attend through GoTo Meeting may contact the membership team at membership at ostiweb.org for online login details. OSTI Board meetings are open to OSTI members in good standing.

2016 03 05 AGENDA

News

2015 wrapup

OSTI has accomplished a lot in 2015 thanks to the hard work of its members.

Our conference was a success,and we look forward to another one in 2016.

Our efforts to help the Oregon Health Authority define the role of health care interpreters were fruitful, and we did so in cooperation with ASL interpreters.

We had our first vote to install new members.

We represented our members in other forums, such as the Association of Legal Professionals and in Washington DC, advocating for working with certified interpreters and translators.

We gave our first free presentation.

Two members passed the ATA exam – one did so at the exam hosted by OSTI at the conference!

We kept our members informed on court interpreting updates.

We kept our members informed on the most up-to-date best practices in the industry on translation and interpreting.

We started a jobs page for our members.

Happy holidays, and we look forward to serving our members and the rest of the interpreting and translation community in Oregon in 2016. Our calendar lists the activities coming up!

We look forward to your partnership in 2016!

News

OSTI 2015 Conference coming soon!

Fall Greetings!

This is Erin, member of OSTI’s Continuing Education Committee and one of the organizers for our 2nd annual conference Building the Vocabulary of Success on October 9th (evening only) and 10th (all day). The big event is just three weeks away so you will want to act soon before prices go up. Continue reading