Category Archives: Training


Show All Your Cards in Bend, Oregon

Show All Your Cards in Bend, Oregon

At last year’s conference in Portland, attendees had fun picking their top three location choices for OSTI’s 2016 event. Bend was the clear favorite. With its sunny, dry climate, infinite outdoor activities, friendly people, blue skies, and gorgeous mountains surrounding the town, what’s not to love? Come make a long weekend out of it and join us for OSTI’s 2016 conference, “Showing All Your Cards” the weekend of Sept 23-25 at Central Oregon Community College’s Boyle Education Center. Check out our special student and member rates and lock in your early bird ticket pricing today.

Why Should I Attend OSTI’s 2016 Conference?

Ask any OSTI conference goer who’s attended previous events and they will tell you how thoroughly they enjoyed meeting other translator and interpreter colleagues and learning from the diverse group of presenters. The sense of community from being amongst one’s peers is energizing and invigorating. If you’re a court interpreter, you will be happy to learn that the conference will earn you 4.5 general credits from the Oregon Judicial Department. The ATA is offering 7 CEUs for attending the conference and credits have been approved by the Washington DSHS as well. CEUs from the Washington AOC are pending.

Pre-conference Activities

There never seems to be enough time to network and talk to everyone you’d like to during a packed weekend, so this year we built in some additional time for just that. Friday night, September 23, we’ll kick off the weekend with a picnic in Drake Park.

Conference Day, Morning

Saturday, September 24, we have a full day planned starting with a continental breakfast at 7:00am. Morning presenters are Pat Hartley, Bend police detective, who will enlighten us on the ins and outs of the polygraph machine, and Juan Gutiérrez Sanín, MD, sharing with us his in- depth knowledge about genetics, in a presentation that has been approved for 2.0 CEUs through CCHI.


We’re splitting up the day with a long lunch off site. You get to explore the gastronomic delicacies Bend has to offer and either return for OSTI’s annual Board meeting or continue to relax and network over coffee and dessert until the afternoon sessions begin.

Annual Board Meeting

OSTI’s annual Board meeting is open to all who are interested in hearing about the accomplishments and future plans of our growing organization. OSTI members will have the opportunity to hear from and vote on candidates running for three open positions: Treasurer, Director, and President. If you haven’t yet become an OSTI member, the time to do it is now! Only OSTI members can vote on who will hold these important positions on the Board. You must be registered as a member no less than 30 days prior to the conference to be eligible to vote. Apply to become an OSTI member here and get a discount on this year’s conference.

Conference Day, Afternoon

During the second half of the conference, we will hear from local experts Sierra Groenewold and Jacquie Hinds on Behavioral Health and medical interpreting. Martin Cross follows to reveal the secrets of translation for the courts. We’ll wrap up the day hearing from OSTI President Helen Eby, who will speak about the ATA study group, and OSTI members Denise Fainberg and Susanne Kraetschmer, who will share their experiences preparing for, taking, and passing the ATA exam. Not an easy feat but a very timely topic since OSTI will be hosting the ATA certification exam for the second time on Sunday, September 25th from 10 to 1.

Curious Title

Why the title “Showing All Your Cards”? You’ll have to read more on our EventBrite site to get a teaser as to what this title means; the deeper truth behind the selection will be revealed to conference attendees only.  So, get your early bird tickets now before prices go up August 9th and plan some fun activities before and after the event with ideas from Discover Bend.  See you there!


“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.


ATA study program – week 1

By Sarah Symons Glegorio
Translator | Spanish, Portuguese → English

The first live online session of the OSTI ATA certificate study group kicked off with a round of introductions by all the attendees. In addition to the Spanish-English participants, we also welcomed a couple of French-English participants and it seems as though the group may be growing throughout our 25 weeks together. Helen Eby, the OSTI president and study group organizer and moderator, explained that “As an association, we thought we should help colleagues cross the certificate finish line.” Last year study meetings were attempted but they weren’t structured enough so she developed this syllabus to provide just that. Disclaimer: This course is an experiment and is not a guarantee to pass the ATA certification test!

Continue reading


Keys to a sustainable interpreting and translation freelance business – Free OSTI presentation

Event updated with resources used at presentation.

Saturday, November 14, 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Free OSTI presentation, Gresham, Oregon
Oregon Court Interpreters will earn two general continuing education credits for completing this workshop.

Speaker: Helen Eby
Location: 24800 SE Stark Street, Gresham, OR 97030, Cascade Room 1 and 2, at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center Continue reading


Thinking about Taking the ATA Translation Certification Exam?

What a major achievement for OSTI to bring the ATA certification exam to Portland in October this year! Translators of the 26 language combinations offered will have the opportunity to take the exam in their own backyard, so to speak!

Two of our OSTI members, Lotte and Susanne, have formed a study group for English to German translators. Their approach is to select a current newspaper article from a renowned newspaper like the New York Times, Financial Times or Reuters and adapt it to exam length (225 to 275 words).

Both translate the text passage under exam conditions, i.e. handwritten and without the use of online resources in 1½ hours (the exam requires the translation of two passages in 3 hours). They submit their translation to each other for editing and then meet in person to discuss their mistakes, possible alternative translations, the general quality of the translation and the possible grading according to the flow chart for error point decisions published by the ATA.

To learn more about the eligibility requirements as well as the application process for the exam, you can check out the ATA website which offers a plethora of information on the subject. There is a free webinar available that answers just about any question you might have – you can find it by clicking this link.

A more personal account on the certification process that is worth looking into can be found on ATA-certified French to English translator Corinne McKay’s blog “Thoughts on Translation”.

Are you thinking about forming a study group for your language pair and looking for partners yourself? Just get in touch with membership at or write an email to the listserv (a member benefit)! Good luck with your exam!

When you are ready to register for the exam, you have to register with the ATA, not with OSTI. Click here to register! There are prerequisites, such as being an ATA member, so be sure to register with plenty of time!

Post by Susanne Kraetschmer
Translator English > German
ATA Member
Membership Coordinator – Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters


OSTI starts the year with a guest from Argentina

– Can we leave? I want to get there early to find a place to park…-

To start 2015 with a bang, the first translators and interpreters meeting was held on January 2nd on a cold and rainy typical Oregon´s afternoon. While we thought we would learn something of interest, we found that the evening there was fun, and a delicious dinner with warm soup helped us overcome the weather.

The inspiring words of Clelia Chamantropulos, a master in the art of language who turned those hours of conversation turn into seconds, left us with an appetite for linguistics. Colleagues and friends were very happy and enthusiastic since it was Friday.

We went through issues right away:

– Neutral Spanish or Neutral Castilian?
– We must not to get into unnecessary trouble: Avoid local jargon, slang, idioms and go from classical words to classical terms.
– Warning! Phrases like “Una mujer es como capullo de aparador” where the word “capullo” (rosebud) could be interpreted in different ways.
– The interpreter/translator must be multicultural and take the time to learn what the meaning of the word is “From here to Timbuktu”.

Well, we went from the colloquial oral and/or written language to the medical language, where the “Libro Rojo” (Red Book) by Fernando Navarro made its triumphant appearance and each one of us held it for a few moments… Even the “mulas” (mules) were subject of conversation and the language is not sexist!
Words kept coming, one after another.
The first ruling was made:
“People that are seeing a text think that the same number of words needs to be there to know the text is correct”.
And the game of confusion begins:
“Asesoría vs Consultoría” (Advice vs Counseling).
“El Suscrito vs Yo” (The undersigned vs I).
“Consideración vs Consideration”.
“Español vs Castellano” (Spanish vs Castilian).
“Empoderamiento vs Facultar/Atribuir” (Empowerment vs authorize/attribute).
“Sufragio efectivo no reelección” (“Effective suffrage, no re-election”)

So we had to go back to what we already know, and Sergio Viaggio, interpreter and Argentine UN translator, says: ”Depende del Contexto” (It depends on the Context)

At the end of the day we are guilty of “the social circumstances of the moment” with which we will respond to an unknown number of goof-ups (as Paty would say) that we deal with day in and day out.

The interpreter/translator needs a daily dose of updating in any manner that he wishes to take it: training, conferences, movies, magazines, general reading. “The meaning does not reside in the words but what the idea that is being transmitted with words”.

– Can we leave? I want to go to bed early because I work tomorrow…-

Guest post by Laura Orozco


Medical interpreting training

The Oregon Health Authority website appears to be under repair.

However, the OSTI site has a page dedicated to information on the Medical Interpreting Certification Program! In the OSTI calendar, we have also listed the upcoming trainings in Oregon that are authorized by the OHA for certification.

We look forward to serving our members. We are aware that some of this information may be outdated, but we have been making an effort to stay current with the latest updates of the OHA throughout the year, so we trust that it is generally up-to-date. We look forward to letting our members know when the OHA site is live again! In the meantime, you can check the list of approved training programs here so you can continue to seek training options that meet your needs.