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Reflections from ATA60 in Palm Springs, California

12/28/2019 1:05 AM | Catherine Breckenridge (Administrator)

Reflections from ATA60 in Palm Springs, California

By Amy Polenske

A few weeks ago, I headed to Palm Springs, California, for what I was certain would be another enriching conference experience at ATA60. I joined roughly 1,400 other translation and interpreting professionals seeking to take advantage of all the professional development and networking opportunities that the annual ATA conference has to offer.

Conference Venue

This year, the conference was held at the Palm Springs Convention Center. Past conferences have been hosted at large hotels, so this was a new model for ATA. Personally, I enjoyed the setup. I stayed at a hotel adjoining the convention center so most events were a short walk away and all meetings and sessions were on the same floor so it was easy to find where you needed to be. For those staying at other nearby hotels, the beautiful weather made traversing a few blocks to the venue an added bonus. The Welcome Celebration, Closing Reception, and daily breakfast were held outdoors, allowing conference-goers to enjoy the mountain landscape as we caught up with colleagues and introduced ourselves to new faces.

Session Highlights

The conference sessions offer a vast array professional development learning opportunities. I sought to learn more on a variety of topics, with a particular interest in how technology is playing a role in our industry. In Can Machine Translation Boost Your Productivity? An Experiment, speaker Johanna Klemm explained how she incorporated MT into her freelance translation workflow (after discussing with her client) to increase her productivity about 10% compared to non-MT workflows this past year. This approach is an interesting contrast to how translations agencies are employing MT in-house and then seeking post-editing services from freelance translators. Seeing a freelancer successfully leverage MT in particular settings on her own gave me a new view of MT’s possibilities for the future.

Another session, Why Translation Technology Still Matters, brought together representatives from SDL, Wordfast, and MemoQ to discuss current technology trends in the industry such as cloud-based platforms, speech-to-text functionality in CAT tools, and the increasing number of features packed into traditional desktop CAT tools. The speakers also offered insight into how they see translation technology evolving in the future.

I also attended an interpreting session presented by Odilia Romero called Indigenous Migration to the U.S.: Historical Perspective, Contemporary Problems, and the Struggle for the Recognition of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. While I do not work in interpreting myself, the topics covered were highly relevant to the current debate surrounding immigration in the U.S. and I enjoyed gaining insight on the particular struggles that indigenous peoples face due to language barriers, in addition to the growing need for trained interpreters of indigenous languages.

Networking and Catching Up with Colleagues

Networking opportunities were abundant through structured events, such as Brainstorm Networking and the Job Fair, but they are also easy to experience spontaneously when you’re surrounded by 1,000+ industry professionals. I was happy to run into a number of fellow MATI members in Palm Springs. I also had the chance to reconnect with fellow volunteer translators from micro-lending platform Kiva, former co-workers, and MALLT alumni. Finally, I made new connections with students, translators, and Project Managers. I always find it inspiring to hear about other people’s careers and the diversity of work present in our industry.

I left ATA’s Annual Conference feeling rejuvenated and motivated to take on new challenges in my professional life, and would recommend the experience to anyone seeking a different perspective or new opportunities in translation and interpreting.


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Midwest Association of Translators & Interpreters
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