Announcing the 2020 Launch of the ATA Exam Study Groups Organized by OSTI

If you’d like to partner with someone for accountability and motivation to prepare for the ATA certification exam, OSTI is organizing study groups to help people keep on track with your exam preparation.  

The study groups will function as they did last year; after signing up, you will be partnered with another person in your language pair as available.

If you’re in the Portland area, join us on Thursday March 5 at the Cardinal Club from 7:00 – 8:30pm for a live Q&A session on exam prep. The address is 18 NE 28th Ave, Portland, Oregon. Please RSVP at

The basic info for the study groups is the same as in the post below:

Here is the link to sign up for the study groups:

Good luck!

ATA Exam Study Groups Organized by OSTI

Are you interested in becoming an ATA Certified Translator? Would you like some guidance and motivation to prepare for the exam? OSTI is organizing groups to practice, study and prepare for the ATA exam, which is offered in the following languages:

Arabic to English
English to Arabic
Chinese to English
English to Chinese
Croatian to English
English to Croatian
Dutch to English
English to Dutch
English to Finnish
French to English
English to French
German to English
English to German
English to Hungarian
Italian to English
English to Italian
Japanese to English
English to Japanese
Polish to English
English to Polish
Portuguese to English
English to Portuguese
Russian to English
English to Russian
Spanish to English
English to Spanish
Swedish to English
English to Swedish
Ukrainian to English
English to Ukrainian

Intrigued? Read on…

These study and practice groups are intended to be self-directed exam preparation groups. OSTI will provide tips and match group members, but you reap what you sow. There are no guarantees of passing, just meeting great colleagues, learning the ins and outs of the ATA exam, and honing your skills. Success depends on a number of factors, including translation and language skills, and effort exerted.

We’ll kick off the groups on May 22nd with a social gathering to meet local colleagues. The goal of the groups is to complete 7-10 practice “mini exams” (even if they aren’t all bona fide ATA practice passages) before the OSTI exam sitting in September 2019. Of course groups can continue or take breaks as they see fit. You don’t need to test at the OSTI sitting (or even have plans to sit for the exam) to participate.

The basic steps are as follows:

  1. Translate. Each week, members of each group will translate the same practice passage or article under exam conditions. We highly recommend starting off with actual ATA practice passages, which are available here ($80 for ATA members and $120 for nonmembers), in order to get feedback from actual ATA graders.
  2. Review. Submit the translations for feedback (if they are the official ATA practice passages) and exchange them for review amongst your group members. Groups can decide what works best for review, but we’d recommend pasting the text into a Word document and marking them up using Track Changes. Then send them back to the author for follow up as a group.
  3. Discuss. Go over the different choices and results amongst the group, either via email or in a live online session via Zoom or Google Hangouts. If group members completed an actual ATA practice passage, it may take a month or so to get your results back, though it would be interesting to have a before-and-after discussion of those passages.
  4. Repeat. Once the official ATA practice passages have been completed, groups are responsible for sourcing their own articles to practice on. It may be possible to determine where the ATA practice passages are from and use other articles from the same publication.

Groups will decide their own frequency and availability, but we recommend 1 practice run every 1-2 weeks, which would be a time commitment of about 1-3 hours per week.

The key is getting used to translating under the exam conditions. For example:

  • 1.5 hour time limit per 250-word passage (on the actual exam, candidates have 3 hours total to translate 2 passages)
  • Restricting yourself to paper and PDF dictionaries for handwritten exams
  • If internet is available at the computerized exam, restricting yourself to the accepted online dictionaries (i.e., no ProZ, no forums or anything considered as interactive, or machine translation; see the full list here), or to paper and PDF dictionaries in the case of the handwritten exam or if internet is unavailable
  • No spell check or grammar check
  • Translating in WordPad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac)
  • Using a source text that’s printed on paper and cannot be copied onto the computer
  • More details from the ATA

OSTI will provide some guidance and recommendations on how to prepare for the ATA exam and will be hosting an exam sitting on September 15, 2019 in Milwaukie, Oregon. Group members are strongly encouraged to read the ATA’s published information on the exam.

Groups are also invited to share resources for their given language pairs. If there are enough people interested, we could see about arranging for a workshop-type class where you can practice your skills and receive bona-fide feedback. (Here’s an example of a similar ATA workshop in Houston.)

The time commitment is estimated at about 1-3 hours per week. The study groups themselves are free and open to all translators seeking certification in one of the aforementioned language pairs. The ATA practice passages cost $80 each and are available here. The ATA exam itself costs $525 and sign-up information is available here.

So, are you in? YES! Sign up here.

Not sure? Leave a comment or email us any questions you have and we’ll compile a list of FAQs for a follow-up email and future blog post.

Additional Resources
“Death by a Thousand Cuts” by Juan Lizama:

“Ergonomics for ATA’s Certification Exam: Unspoken Advice with Untold Benefits” by Emily Safrin:

“Am I Ready for the Exam?” by Nora Favorov:

“How I Passed the ATA Certification Exam on the 1st Attempt” by Sarah Symons Glegorio:

“How I Became a Certified Translator in 10 Hours, from Scratch” by Rony Gao:

“Translation Certification Study Resources” by Helen Eby:

Oregon Health Authority Survey

Dear OSTI Interpreter,

The Oregon Health Authority’s Office of Equity and Inclusion (OHA-OEI) invites you to respond to this survey because it is interested in your perspective on the working conditions for interpreters. Survey responses will be analyzed for insights on how to improve program services, laws, and policies, and the working conditions for health care interpreters in Oregon. It is necessary to complete the survey during your first attempt, in order to ensure that  your responses are  recorded. Be sure to include your name and contact information so that OHA can send you your CEUs. 

What you get for completing this survey:

You will receive 2 Continuing Education Units (CEU). Your CEU certificate will be emailed to you separately and will count toward the 24 hours of required CEU’s for renewing OHA issued HCI letters. The CEU credits will not count toward the requirements for other national or states programs.


To ensure that your personal information is kept separate from your survey responses, a separate window will open about a minute after you complete the main survey. Please note that your personal information will only be used for emailing your CEU certificate after the survey closes and will not be shared.

The survey closing date has been extended and will now close on October 15th, 2018 and the results will be published on the OHA/OEI website two months after the survey ends.


Here is a link to the survey (

If you have questions, please contact:

Kweku Wilson, HCI program coordinator
(971) 673-3328

Please click this link to begin the survey

Attention OSTI Voting Members – Elections, Bylaws Amendment and Referendum


Dear All OSTI Members,

As you know, we have an election coming up where we will be electing a President, a Director and a Secretary for a term of 2 years each. Candidate materials have already been distributed by the Chair of the Nominating Committee.

However, in addition to the election, we will be voting on 2 other issues:

(1) A bylaws amendment addressing a very practical issue, i.e., when new officers and directors will assume their duties after having been elected.

The Board urges OSTI members to vote in favor of changing the date on which new officers and directors officially take office from January 1 of the year following the election to immediately after the election.

This change is not radical; it simply permits new officers to assume their responsibilities immediately after the election rather than waiting almost 4 months to start their new duties.,

(2) A Referendum on whether OSTI should become an ATA affiliated group.

Once again, the Board urges OSTI members to vote in favor of OSTI becoming an ATA affiliated group.

The ATA, a professional membership organization, is 10,000 members strong and represents both translators & interpreters. The ATA recognizes both translator and interpreter certifications – In the case of interpreter certifications the ATA recognizes both the state and federal court interpreter certification credentials as well as the medical interpreter certifications offered by CCHI and the National Board.

Although the Interpreters Division and Spanish Division represent a huge portion of the ATA’s membership, the ATA also has a number of divisions focussing on supporting other languages groups and different subject matter areas.

There are benefits from being associated with an organization of this size and with such a high national and international profile

Below is the detail. It is also available in this PDF file. Proposed Bylaws (Final)

Thank you for your attention!



Loie Feuerle
OSTI President


Read More

The Translators and Interpreters of Tomorrow: OSTI School Outreach

By Emily Safrin



I’ll admit it: despite my enthusiasm to accept an invitation to copresent on translation and interpreting (T&I) at a local high school, I was nervous. If my own high-school experience was any indication, surely the students could laugh us right off the figurative stage. Luckily, I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

At the invitation of a teacher at iTech Preparatory in Vancouver, Washington, fellow OSTI member and Membership Committee Chair John Wan and I prepared a presentation on T&I careers this past February. Our different paths complement one another well: John works as a Mandarin-language court interpreter, whereas I focus on Spanish-English medical translation and have also interpreted in health-care settings.

On the morning of February 8th, 2018, we drove to Vancouver to present. We were impressed to learn shortly beforehand that the class was completely focused on T&I. Nonetheless, we planned to open with a comparison of translation and interpreting—surely the natural place to begin for most audiences. But the students’ knowledge quickly exceeded our expectations: they had no trouble uniformly explaining the difference between the two professions. With that out of the way, we turned to a discussion of what it takes to be a translator or interpreter, centered around the question, “Is being bilingual enough?”

With the 2018 Winter Olympic Games having commenced just the day before, we used an Olympics-themed analogy to make our point, asking students, “What would it take for you to compete against Usain Bolt?” (These bright students needed no introduction, but for anyone unfamiliar: Bolt, who made his Olympic debut in 2004, is widely recognized as the greatest sprinter of all time.) It took no more than one response to cut to the chase: “Legs!”

Our point was that many things make Bolt the best in his sport, but without one vital “tool” in particular—his legs—none of those traits or skills would matter, because he wouldn’t even be able to set foot on the track. The same goes for T&I: to even attempt to perform the task, being bilingual is a prerequisite, but it hardly makes you the Usain Bolt of T&I. All it does is allow you to “compete”—that is, perform the task, however spectacularly or poorly you may perform. Put another way, without knowing at least two languages, you wouldn’t be able to even make an attempt at translating or interpreting, but just because you’re bilingual (or have legs) doesn’t mean you’re any good at the undertaking; it takes a natural adeptness and plenty of practice.

Having gotten this ubiquitous question out of the way, we talked about what it really takes to be a translator or interpreter and what the two different careers look like. We shared photos of the many settings where interpreters work: hospitals, court rooms, law firms, conferences, the United Nations, and via video remote interpreting. The photos of translation settings were somewhat less glamorous, mostly involving computers and dictionaries—but I assured them the task was no less enthralling, and I think by the end of the morning they were convinced!

With the necessary skills in mind, we asked students to try their hand at translating. To do this, we tied in the inevitable topic of machine translation (MT) by presenting students with a Spanish proverb and asking them to best suggestions by Google Translate and DeepL. The slide looked something like this:

Spanish proverb: A caballo regalado, no le mires el dentado.

Google Translate’s attempt: On a gift horse, do not look at the teeth.

DeepL’s attempt: On a gift horse, don’t look at the toothed horse.

In no time, a student provided the equivalent phrase in English: “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” His classmates seemed duly impressed by their peer’s ability to easily one-up the highly touted MT engines, proving, albeit in a simplified sense, that human translators continue to serve an essential and as-of-yet irreplaceable role in intercultural and interlinguistic communication. (We were sure to address the usefulness of MT in given scenarios, but we also wanted students to recognize how their humanity sets them apart from the growing machine workforce.)

Following the translation activity, John described a typical day on the job as a court interpreter, and I explained my work as a self-employed translator, complete with commute from bed to desk. We also showed a clip from a Ted Talk on consecutive note-taking, with hopes to do an interpreting role play, but thanks to a flood of thoughtful questions throughout the presentation, we had to cut the agenda short.

Here are just a couple of the students’ questions:

  • (After I showed them a photo of a frazzled woman at a computer representing the translator’s work environment): “What are some of the challenges you face when translating?”
  • “How long are you given to complete a translation project?”
  • “What do you charge for a translation?”
  • “What dictionaries do you use? Have you heard of Context Reverso?” (I had not, but I’ve since compared it to Linguee, with interesting results.)

Finally, we quickly touched on certification, education, and training opportunities in T&I, as well as professional organizations (including OSTI, of course!).

When it came time for photos, we asked students to choose a prop that represented the profession they were most interested in from items we had brought (dictionaries and laptops were to symbolize translation and microphones and headsets symbolized interpretation). There were more budding translators than interpreters, but the interpreters made up for this in their delight with the interpreting equipment.

By the time we left, I forgot that I had even been nervous beforehand. I felt exhilarated—not to mention enthusiastic about the future of T&I. Seeing students so engaged with our work reminded me of how lucky I am to love what I do, and I returned to work that afternoon with a renewed sense of pride and satisfaction.

The following day, I shared our materials with the teacher via email. She sent thanks and a reflection on the impact of our talk, which meant as much to me as I’m sure it did to her: “When I saw my least motivated heritage student pick up the biggest dictionary, I knew she was inspired to be a translator because of you.”

Needless to say, we’re grateful to have had the chance to spend time speaking with the translators and interpreters of tomorrow, and we look forward to seeing other OSTI members do the same. If you’re interested in participating in school outreach, drop us a line!



Success update on Worker’s Comp!

We have an update on the advocacy that OSTI has been advancing with regards to interpreter payment and policies for worker’s comp medical appointments*, and SPOILER – it’s good news!

On January 23, Fred Bruyns, Policy Analyst for the Worker’s Compensation Division, sent out their proposed updates to the worker’s compensation rules, which included this, under the new medical services rules (emphasis mine):

436-010-0225 Choosing a Person to Provide Interpreter Services

(1) A worker may choose a person to communicate with a medical provider when the worker and the medical provider speak different languages, including sign language. The worker may choose a family member, a friend, an employee of the medical provider, or someone who provides interpreter services as a profession. However, a representative of the worker’s employer may not provide interpreter services. The medical provider may disapprove of the worker’s choice at any time the medical provider feels the interpreter services are not improving communication with the worker, or feels the interpretation is not complete or accurate.

(2) When a worker asks an insurer to arrange for interpreter services, the insurer must use a certified or qualified health care interpreter listed on the Oregon Health Care Interpreter Registry of the Oregon Health Authority, available at: If no certified or qualified health care interpreter is available, the insurer may schedule an interpreter of its choice subject to the limits in subsection (a).

(3) For the purpose if this rule, interpreter services means the act of orally translating between a medical provider and a patient who speak different languages, including sign language. It includes reasonable time spent waiting at the location for the medical provider to examine or treat the patient as well as reasonable time spent on necessary paperwork

* Reminder Note: While the Worker’s Compensation Division (WCD) oversees the medical side of Worker’s Comp claims, the Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) oversees the administrative hearing side of claims, and has a different payment policy. This advocacy was specifically for the medical side.

Thank you for your support!

For a recap on how we got here, please read this update from the OSTI Blog:

OSTI’s Advocacy Regarding the Worker’s Compensation Division’s Medical Interpreter Policies*

* Note: While the Worker’s Compensation Division (WCD) oversees the medical side of Worker’s Comp claims, the Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) oversees the administrative hearing side of claims, and has a different payment policy. This advocacy was specifically for the medical side.

As some of you may have heard, last year the Oregon Worker’s Compensation Division (WCD), which oversees medical appointments for patients seeking treatment for injuries sustained on the job, modified their interpreter payment policy so as to increase the amount paid to interpreters for their work during WCD medical appointments. This was good news! However, after reviewing the new payment policies, two glaring issues became apparent:

  1. There was a major discrepancy between the WCD’s own definition of “Interpreter.” In the “Definitions” section, it is plainly stated that a friend or family member may not act as an interpreter during a medical appointment. However, later in the policy, the section on interpreter services begins with a different definition of “interpreter” which in fact, encourages claimants to invite a friend or family member to interpret. As you no doubt know, inviting interested, untrained parties to act as ad hoc interpreters is in no way a best practice, and can result in dire physical and legal consequences for the claimant.
  2. Interpreters for medical appointments were not guaranteed payment. The policy makes a distinction between several kinds of appointments and, for some appointments a no-show or too-late-show by either claimant or provider, and late cancellations, would result in non-payment for interpreters. What’s more if the claim is denied and the interpreter is billing the insurance company, the interpreter would not be paid. That section invites interpreters to bill the claimant(!) which is one of the Title VI violations mentioned earlier. While payment for no-shows and late cancellation falls under industry standard and professional practices, non-payment for denied claims would make an interpreter interested in the outcome of a claim, which nullifies his or her impartiality.

OSTI Vice President, Jazmin Manjarrez, brought these issues to the OSTI Board’s attention several months ago. She contacted the WCD’s Rules Coordinator, Fred Bruyns, to ask how to go about changing these rules.


After months of correspondence and a formal request for a rules change, on Monday 11/27/17, OSTI member Joan Milligan and OSTI Advocacy Committee Chair Jessica Dover attended the annual Worker’s Compensation Division’s Administrative Rule Revision meeting in Salem Oregon. Joan took the lead on researching and organizing materials for this meeting; she painstakingly reviewed the entire WCD policy to see if there were more issues to bring to their attention (and there were), and she researched and printed the section of Title VI which addresses linguistic equal access for LEP persons and, specifically, the requirement for professional interpreters, which supports our arguments. In fact, that section gives specific examples of violations and one references a government agency that expects LEPs to bring a friend or family member to interpret for them.

The WCD has published Joan and Jessica’s pre-prepared notes and Joan’s highlighted Title VI printout on their website, which you can access here:

In attendance at the 11/27/17 meeting, in person and telephonically, was a mixture of about 20 representatives from the WCD, insurance companies, providers, health care systems, at least one interpreting agency, and, of course OSTI. There were many items on the agenda that had nothing to do with interpreters, however please see pages 16 and 17 of this document, as that is when Joan and Jessica were given the opportunity to present their arguments and notes:

For an audio recording of Jessica and Joan’s comments to the board, skip to time signature 2:02:00 here:

Joan and Jessica tailored their arguments to the issues on the WCD agenda. While WCD representatives themselves seemed interested, receptive, and supportive. The main pushback came from some providers, who preferred to use their in-house staff to interpret whenever possible as opposed to certified interpreters, and the insurance companies, who emphasized patient “choice” of interpreter (the logic being that the patient can choose their provider, so they should be able to choose their interpreter). Jessica and Joan pointed out that if a patient does not have guidance as to where to find a certified and qualified interpreter, they are most likely going to bring an interested party (a friend, coworker, supervisor, or family member), which is ethically unacceptable. Expediency was another reason that health care systems and providers gave for why they must use the claimant’s supervisor or family member as an interpreter, as many claims start as emergency situations after an on-the-job injury. Joan and Jessica pointed out that telephonic and video remote interpreters are always an option in that situation, and that since these medical appointments are quasi-legal and may result in a complaint and ultimately a hearing, great care must be taken with even the most basic of intake forms to ensure that expediency does not trump quality. They emphasized the importance of accuracy and compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Most of the advocacy around the no-show and cancellation policies occurred during the meeting breaks, in conversation with Fred Bruyns of the WCD. Given the limited time assigned to these issues, it was not possible to address every bullet point of Joan and Jessica’s pre-prepared notes, however the main issues were addressed and their presentation seemed to have a positive impact on the Worker’s Comp Division, as Mr. Bruyns wrote this follow up on Tuesday 11/28/17:

Thank you for joining us yesterday and for your advice on use of interpreter services and payment for those services in the workers’ compensation system. I have distributed your document, as well as the Title VI information, to additional staff members here – it is also posted to our website.

We think that before we can consider some of your recommendations, we should look into Title VI requirements and assess whether we are in compliance with the Civil Rights Act. Clearly, if we are not, that would be a serious matter and necessitate some changes.

OSTI will continue to follow up on the WCD’s progress on their Title VI review and the implementation of our changes to their policies.

Notice of OSTI Board Meeting

Following is the Notice of the next OSTI Board Meeting:

Date: January 25, 2017
Time: 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Place: Sylvan Heights Community Center
7600 SW Barnes Rd.
Portland, OR 97225

This will be an in-person only meeting.  OSTI Board meetings are open to OSTI members in good standing.