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ATA membership / accreditation - could anyone share their experience?
Thread poster: Laura Vinti

Laura Vinti  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:11
German to Italian
+ ...
Jan 31, 2005

This topic might have been discussed before, but I couldn't find it in the forums...
I am considering applying for ATA membership/certification but first would like to find out more about the advantages.
I would be very thankful if anyone could share their experience and for any input/comment in this regard.
Thank you,
Laura

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2005-01-31 14:15]


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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 18:11
French to English
Not worth it, in my experience Jan 31, 2005

Hi Laura.

I am just coming off of a year's membership with the ATA, which I have decided not to renew for several reasons.

When I contacted the ATA about payment by credit card a year ago, the person I spoke with was not very polite or helpful. I joined anyway, and my experience was as follows:

As I translate a common language pair, my name is one of legions in the huge ATA directory, so no work has come my way through that channel. As I have not been certified through the ATA exam, I definitely do not stand out in their directory, further decreasing my chances of finding any work that way.

Personally, I find the ATA magazine of limited interest. Online resources and local professional associations seem more useful to me.

In terms of training, conferences, etc., if you don't live in the U.S. it is hard to take advantage of ATA events.

Lastly, a minor annoyance was that one particular ATA member spammed me, a practice that continued after I asked that person to stop sending me mass mailings with his gripes against the association. I know that ATA was not responsible for this, but it was annoying and reinforced the negative impression I had had of the association from the start.

So, as a translator living outside the U.S., I have decided to spend my money on things like membership in Proz and my local translators' association.

Hope that helps you make a decision!

Regards,
Sara


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Elizabeth Adams  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:11
Member (2002)
Russian to English
+ ...
hard to say... Jan 31, 2005

I am a member and am accredited/certified (whatever they call it now), and in terms of pure numbers, I have gotten enough work through the directory or from people who felt that the accreditation was important to justify the cost of several years of membership plus taking the exam.

However, now I am living outside the U.S. and keeping up my accrediation by going to all the conferences and seminars is impossible. Also, most of my clients are now local Russian companies - this is the market I want to expand in for now.

So I will let my membership lapse for now. If I move back to the states then I would probably pick it up again.

I think the main thing to consider is this: do your clients/potential clients care about ATA membership?

On a side note, I attended an ATA seminar once, and, although I met some interesting people, I felt that the event did not really deliver value for the price. And the magazine is spotty.


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LegalTrans D  Identity Verified
Turkey
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
It paid for me... Jan 31, 2005

I've been an ATA member for a number of years and sat for and passed the accreditation/certification exam in 2003.

In my experience, the membership fees have more than paid for themselves. As an example, I was contacted by an agency in July 2004 on the basis of my ATA membership and have since had jobs to the tune of 80,000 words from them.

I admit that not every year has been like this but I usually got back more than I invested, although I live in Germany.

I wouldn't necessarily join a Language Division - as an overseas member, I see no additional benefit in doing so. Also, the ATA magazine could arguably be better. It takes ages to get across the Atlantic and is outdated by the time it arrives in your mailbox. Since nobody advertises jobs in it, though, this is not a big problem.

You might want to give it a try for a year and then see for yourself. The US dollar is low at the moment, so it wouldn't be that high an investment.

Good luck!

Volkmar


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Marian Greenfield  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:11
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Personally speaking... (this is NOT an official ATA response) Jan 31, 2005

Hi Laura,

Great to "see you". Hope you can make it to the ATA Financial Conference in April that I told you about last year. I think you will find it quite worthwhile. (See http://www.atanet.org/pd/finance/ for details.) Am working hard at getting some really good Italian sessions.

You already know this, but for purposes of full disclosure, let me mention that I am President-Elect and Chair of Professional Development of ATA and obviously an ATA supporter.

Nonetheless, in our personal conversations and in virtually all dealings with ATA members and non-members, I think I have proven to be frank and objective about ATA's benefits and shortcomings.

I do not know if ATA certification offers much benefit in attracting clients abroad. I do know, however, that even though there are 217 translators who list Spanish Finance and Economics as their specialty, 73 of whom are certified, each year I get at least a couple of really good new clients from my on-line Directory listing.

I also know that some U.S. clients and some U.S. government agencies require ATA Certification of all their freelancers. So I would certainly say that if your goal is to attract U.S. clients, ATA Certification is worthwhile. Especially if you can couple that with attending any ATA events such as the Annual Conference (in Seattle this year) or the ATA Financial Conference (Jersey City, NJ, April 29 - May 1), where you have the opportunity to meet with potential clients face to face.

At worst, it is another "arrow in your quiver". And the more
arrows you have, the better.

I also highly recommend taking the practice test under simulated testing conditions and with enough time to return and receive it back graded before you sit for the actual exam. It will give you a good idea of what the graders are looking for and thus give you a better chance of passing.

As for the Continuing Education requirements, your association membership and the events you already attend in Europe should be more than enough to meet the 20-point requirement over 3 years.

Hope to see you in April.

Best regards,
msg
Laura Vinti wrote:

This topic might have been discussed before, but I couldn't find it in the forums...
I am considering applying for ATA membership/certification but first would like to find out more about the advantages.
I would be very thankful if anyone could share their experience and for any input/comment in this regard.
Thank you,
Laura

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2005-01-31 14:15]


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:11
Member (2000)
Greek to English
+ ...
certification valid while you're a member Jan 31, 2005

I was an ATA member for a year a while back. I did get a couple of clients thanks to the ATA directory. I took the practice test and I was going to take the accreditation exam, but then I decided not to. I also decided not to renew my membership. Why? Because I found out that even if you pass the exam and thus become "accredited", this accreditation is valid only as long as you are an ATA member. If you're no longer a member you cannot call yourself "ATA accredited" (or "certified", as they now call it). This didn't make sense to me. In my opinion you are either qualified to be "certified by ATA" or you're not. Paying the yearly fee should be irrelevant.
Other than that, I enjoyed the ATA chronicle very much; I learned a lot about our profession from its articles.
Maria


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Laura Vinti  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:11
German to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for all the information Jan 31, 2005

Thank you to everyone for sharing your experience!
Your feedback has been very useful.
And thank you, Marian, for your very informative reply. I didn't know the ATA offered a practice test, I might consider taking it before trying the real one.

Marian Greenfield wrote:

Great to "see you". Hope you can make it to the ATA Financial Conference in April that I told you about last year. I think you will find it quite worthwhile. (See http://www.atanet.org/pd/finance/ for details.) Am working hard at getting some really good Italian sessions.


Great! As you might have seen, I do plan to attend the Financial Conference in NJ and have posted the relevant info in the Events and Announcements forum, hoping to meet many fellow Prozians there.

Again, thanks, and see you (hopefully) soon!

Laura


[Edited at 2005-02-22 16:12]


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Donna Sandin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:11
Member (2004)
Portuguese to English
Defense of ATA based on my own experience Feb 1, 2005

I’ve been a member of ATA since 1984. I had recently returned to the US after beginning my career overseas. I thought it was a good idea to join the leading professional association and learn more about it (since although I had 5 years experience, I’d entered the field very informally). I saw accreditation as a big help in attracting new clients and never considered not taking the exam in both of my language pairs. It has not bothered me that I need to remain a member in order to keep the certification – I feel I am helping support the profession in general.

I like the magazine very much. But I have seen it evolve from a mere newsletter, so perhaps I’m overly impressed.

I’ve attended most of the annual conferences since 1984. The actual conference fee is very reasonable; it’s the travel and hotel costs that add up. There is plenty of opportunity to meet prospective clients, as well as other translators. (In my experience, it’s word-of-mouth from other translators in the reverse of your language pair or even in other language pairs that is, in practice, a major source of getting new clients). As for subject matter – there is always a tremendous variety of presentations to choose from. But no one is paid – the presenters take the initiative to volunteer and submit their plans to HQ for approval. This means that the quality of presentations will vary and that some who were scheduled to appear may cancel at the last minute.

Since the online directory became well established, I find that even if clients hear about me from some other source, they check my listing on the ATA directory. Not often do I hear from someone who says they found me thru a “cold” search of the language pairs. I personally would not recommend a translator who is not a member of ATA, and in general would try to recommend only certified members. I think presence on the directory is an indication of a professional attitude But hey – I’m kind of old-fashioned.

ATA has at several times in the past had to suffer “gadflies” such as the fellow who spammed a lot of members in 2004 with his messages of discontent. The fact that everyone has e-mail now makes circulation of unwanted messages unavoidable. This fellow threatened to sue ATA for NOT allowing him access to the full e-mail list of all members, but ATA of course held fast.

Whether membership in ATA is helpful to a translator not living in the US – I’m positive it helps win you American clients, but that may not be of interest to you or may depend more on language pair.

You should recognize that ATA has an American “slant” if you will, and that its members generally support that approach. When ATA began offering the certification exam outside the US, it caused an uproar and many e-mails attempting to recruit support on both sides. Turns out that members were evenly split on the matter of making the ATA “more international.” ATA said at the time that it was not planning to aggressively promote international membership.

Those who say ATA does “nothing” for them are usually upset because ATA would not help them in a commercial dispute with a client. ATA’s policy has been hands-off, whether the complaint comes from a corporate member or from an individual translator, but this may change.


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Agnes Douwes  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:11
English to Dutch
Depends on where your clients are Feb 1, 2005

Hi,

I am an ATA member living in the Netherlands, and I have been ATA-certified for English into Dutch translation since December 2004. ATA membership has been very worthwhile for me - but that is mostly because I actively target American clients. That, in turn, is because I spent 15 years living in the States, where I got my degrees and professional work experience. So naturally my expertise is in American English rather than e.g. British English.

At the moment around 90% of my clients (American) have found me through my listing in the ATA directory. From my perspective it's a nice piece of passive marketing, I'm out there for American translation agencies, they do care about the certification and they have managed to find me and provide the largest chunk of my income. Only current drawback in this is of course the low exchange rate for the dollar...:(

As far as ATA-certification, both my amount of work and income have increased since obtaining the certification. I have the added benefit that there are very few ATA-certified English -> Dutch translators actually living in the Netherlands (most of them are in the States). This gives me a very nice niche for American agencies who are looking for a so-called "in-country translator" who is living in the Netherlands - but with American credentials.

But all of this benefit clearly depends on my own background and marketing strategy. For many of my Dutch colleagues who have no special ties with America, the membership would perhaps make a lot less sense.

I agree with some of the comments about the ATA magazine, but I have gained a lot from attending the annual conferences, in terms of educational sessions as well as networking with potential clients and other English-Dutch translators. There is also a great mailing list for ATA members in my language pair.

All in all, the benefits are clear to me - but it does depend on where your clients are, or where you'd like them to be.

HTH,

Agnes Marston


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Simona Zanfir
English to Romanian
+ ...
tips/advice Feb 1, 2005

Hey everybody,

I saw today the pros and cons regarding the ATA. Now, it's my turn for questions/advice. I'm native Romanian and certified translator (by the Ministry of Justice) for English and French. I checked the ATA website and I saw that the Association does not include Romanian in the language pairs for the certification. I also found an association for translators living in Southern California. Since starting next year I'll be living in L.A. my questions are:
1. Should I join ATA or SCITIA (i.e. the Southern California Translators Association)?
2. Is there any hope for Romanian in the future in terms of the ATA certification process?
3. What kind of certifications would I need in the States in order to continue working as a freelance/certified translator?
4. Any other tips/advice?

Thanks,

Simona


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M.Badra  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 13:11
English to Portuguese
The best investmente I have ever made Feb 2, 2005

Laura,

I’ve been an ATA member since 2001 and got my certification/accreditation in the same year. Living in South America and working mostly for foreign clients, I believe it is important showing them I have the same professional standards as my colleagues living in the US and the ATA certification is a good tool to achieve this.

Many of my best clients contacted me thru the ATA directory and I believe that the certification is key in acquiring new clients outside my local market.

I always say that ATA membership was the best investment I have ever made in my professional career.


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Marian Greenfield  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:11
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
local chapter vs. national, Romanian certification Feb 8, 2005

Dear Simona,

Some quick thoughts on your questions:

1. If possible,it is best to be join and be active in both the national association and the local chapter, in your case ATA and SCATIA. This offers you the opportunity for both national (actually international in the case of ATA, as our conference attracts many people from abroad) and local networking.

Of course, I'm a bit biased here... I've been Treasurer, President-Elect, and President of my local Chapter (New York Circle of Translators) and Director, Chair of several committees and now President-Elect of ATA and a long-standing, very active member of both.

However, I can honestly tell you that virtually every client resulted from some personal contact through either the ATA or the NYCT or through my teaching.

I don't know if you'll be in California by November of 2005, but if you are, you should try to attend the ATA Conference in Seattle. It will be a real eye opener.

2. As for ATA Certification in Romanian, that is a possibility. But here's how it works: Certification in any language pair is driven by volunteers working in that pair. So if you join ATA and start working with other Romanian translators (and I can put you in touch with at least one or two), there could be Romanian certification within 1-2 years.

3. There is no official certification required to work as a translator in the U.S., except in court, and that's only for Spanish and Hatian Creole (I don't understand that either...)

4. Network, network, network.

msg

Simona Zanfir wrote:

Hey everybody,

I saw today the pros and cons regarding the ATA. Now, it's my turn for questions/advice. I'm native Romanian and certified translator (by the Ministry of Justice) for English and French. I checked the ATA website and I saw that the Association does not include Romanian in the language pairs for the certification. I also found an association for translators living in Southern California. Since starting next year I'll be living in L.A. my questions are:
1. Should I join ATA or SCITIA (i.e. the Southern California Translators Association)?
2. Is there any hope for Romanian in the future in terms of the ATA certification process?
3. What kind of certifications would I need in the States in order to continue working as a freelance/certified translator?
4. Any other tips/advice?

Thanks,

Simona


[Edited at 2005-02-11 21:17]


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Rossitsa Iordanova
Belgium
Local time: 18:11
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
ATA Feb 9, 2005

Hi all!

I find this discussion a very interesting one!
Why?
Because I've got to admit that to read in the CV/Resume of a translator that he/she is an ATA - member and ATA accredited seems to produce quite an effect on assignors of translation jobs.

I am a long-years' working professional translator and I have come to understand that neither my Diploma nor my experience are acknowledged easily abroad simply because I do not have affiliation to the world known certifying and accreditting 'powers'.
All right! I can understand!
Then ... perhaps it would be beneficial to get one.

Can I find out how?

Thanking you all in advance and wishing you a most wonderful day!


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Simona Zanfir
English to Romanian
+ ...
thank you Feb 12, 2005

Dear Marian,

Thank you for the information. Unfortunately I'll be in N.Y. this August for a month and only next year, starting July I'll move to L.A. Your message however helped a lot.

As I might have said in the previous message, I'm trying to acquire as much information as I can. I've been a translator for some years now, I have a BA in Translation Studies and my own translations office here, so I would really want to continue working in this field even after I move. I'm aware that things are different in the States and that is why I want to know everything there is to be known beforehand.

Thanks again and I'll take the liberty of e-mailing you about the Romanian translators.

Simona


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Monica Colangelo  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 13:11
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
ATA-accredited = professional? Feb 13, 2005

This is copied and pasted from ATA's site:
"Thank you for your interest in the American Translators Association. ATA Membership is open to anyone with an interest in translation and interpreting as a profession or as a scholarly pursuit."

From this I infer that you do not need to be a professional translator to be ATA-certified. By professional translator I mean someone with a University degree in translation. This is a never-ending controversy, I know. About half the people who work as translators have no degree. It is a very unfair profession indeed. I know when to give my children some medicines but that doesn't make me a doctor. My 12-year-old can clip her toenails (and so can most of us, I'm sure) but she won't go about claiming to be a podologist. Neither would any of you... or would you?

So in my opinion being ATA-accredited does not really mean much. In Argentina to be accredited by the Argentine Association of Translators you have to have your University degree. And to get one you must have studied the target language for many years before even considering going to University.

Sorry about the harshness. I am in a particularly terrible mood today. 0ver a month ago I moved almost 300 miles south of the place where I lived all of my life and have not got a phone or an Internet connection yet. I missed quite a few jobs because I was not there at the right time (i.e. the computer@www) and today I was contacted by a company that turned down my outrageous rate of .08 for the translation of a contract because they found somebody that could do it for just .02
"You know, she does not have a degree as you do and not your almost 30 years' experience, but then she knows both English and Spanish and she only charges two cents per word."

Have a nice weekend.:(


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