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InforMATIon Blog

The MATI blog features articles pertaining to translation and interpretation. Subject matter includes issues pertaining to the field in the form of explorations into language, methodology and technology, book reviews, biographies, notes on presenters and meeting summaries. The views, opinions and statements expressed within each posting do not necessarily reflect the position of MATI as a whole.
  • 03/09/2018 10:09 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    Madison Civil Rights Department Takes on the Language Barrier

    By Manuela Francavilla, MATI Secretary

    On November 6, 2017, at MG&E headquarters in Madison, the Civil Rights Department of the City of Madison and Mario García Sierra, a community advocate and Community Services Manager at MG&E, organized a meeting where translators and interpreters from the community engaged in a discussion of the city’s Language Access Plan (LAP).

    Because “all ‘Public’ and ‘Private Entities’ receiving Federal financial assistance are obligated under Title VI” (City of Madison, Civil Rights Dept. website) to offer free translation and interpreting services to their patrons, and also because community advocates had expressed their concerns about the full accessibility of Limited English Proficient (LEP) residents to city services, the City of Madison has been working on the foreign language issue for some time.

    In fall 2016, the city’s Common Council adopted Resolution No. 34666, which not only prohibited the use of translation machines but also assigned the Civil Rights Department the task of developing a plan to address the language barrier problem. Since then, the department has been working on the draft of the LAP. During these months, they met and talked with many interested groups and also decided to host the November 6 event in order to introduce the draft to language professionals in the community and get their feedback “before the city moves forward to the next phase,” as García Sierra stated in his invitation.

    At the meeting, all participants were supportive of the initiatives described in the 30-page document, including: training all city employees about existing translation and interpretation services; prohibiting city staff from relying on minors, friends, and volunteers “whose competence [in translation and/or interpreting] has not been assessed”; and calling for the future hiring of a pool of full-time translators and interpreters.

    During the discussion, language professionals eagerly shared their thoughts, comments, and advice, all well received by city representatives. For example, in order to evaluate the language skills and knowledge of translators and interpreters, some suggested looking into the many Master’s programs in translation and interpretation offered by universities all over the country, as well as the certifications issued by associations such as the American Translators Association and language assessments by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. In order to ensure the use of consistent, exact vocabulary throughout the city website and in city documents, speakers underlined the importance of preparing glossaries with technical terminology specific to each department. Lastly, in order to track the progress of the LAP, others recommended including a detailed timeline of its goals and phases (the plan has no timeline to date).

    For more information on City of Madison and Civil Rights Department efforts on this matter, please go to

    Manuela Francavilla is an Italian native speaker, translator, and language instructor living in Madison, WI. She has been a member of the Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters since 2011 and in June 2017 was elected Secretary.


  • 03/09/2018 10:03 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    Social Media Tips & Tricks from MATI Conference Keynote

    By Kristy Brown Lust, MATI Director

    How does the general public know what you do? MATI Conference keynote speaker Sabrina Madison posed this question to the audience during the 2017 event and encouraged attendees to harness social media’s power to raise awareness of their work and expand their reach. She said this tool is an excellent method for educating potential clients and the general public about the important contributions translators and interpreters make.


    If you attended, what tips from the conference have you implemented? What new things can you try in 2018? This article summarizes some of Ms. Madison’s key points. See which things you might want to work into your 2018 plans.


    Why Should I Use Social Media Professionally?

    • Share regular content to show up in more search results
    • Use a consistent hashtag when sharing content to create community
    • Show people you’re an expert in your areas of specialization
    • Educate potential clients and general public about importance of translation and interpretatio


    What Makes a Great Professional Profile?

    • Simple mantra: one-sentence description of who you are
    • Good profile photo: with just you in the photo
    • Consistent across all platforms: use same name/handle on all sites and use the same or very similar photo


    What Tools Can I Use?

    • Aviary: free photo editor app
    • #womenintech, Pixaby and CreateHER Stock: stock photo websites
    • Word Swag: app for adding quotes to photos
    • Google Alerts: sign up for news on industries you work in

    Tell us how you’re using social media or give us your best social media tips for business and we’ll share your post with our followers. Just tag @MidwestMATI on Facebook or Twitter.

  • 09/12/2017 9:35 AM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    MATI’s 14th Annual Conference


    MATI 14 will take place on September 23, 2017 at the Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The keynote speaker, Sabrina Madison, will talk about how to “Expand Your Reach with Social Media.”


    This is the first year we'll have two concurrent sets of workshops: one set of workshops focused on interpreting and another focused on translating!

    Register now!

    Presenters are as follows*:

    • Interpreting Sessions
           - Suzanne Couture: "Professional Development for Remote Interpreters”
           - Ana Soler: "Interpreting in Educational Settings: A Growing Profession"
           - Gloria Rivera: "Note-taking Strategies"
    • Translation Sessions
      - Olga Shostachuk: "Is an Emoji Worth 1,000 Words?"
      - Michelle Kang: "Metaphors as Reflected in Our Action, Thought, and Language"
           - Christina Green "Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity in Translation - Language Services for Community Agencies"   

    New this year, we’ll have a photographer at the conference capturing all the exciting moments of the day.


    *Program subject to change

    Thanks to our event sponsors

    Gold Level

    Silver Level

  • 09/11/2017 6:27 PM | Anonymous

    Downtown Madison Hotel Information

    • The Visitor’s Bureau has a list of recommended hotels on their website,  Under Hotels you can choose the location you want by using the drop-down menu in the center of the purple area. Select “Central/Downtown” then click “Discover.” 

    • Hotels in walking distance to/from the Monona Terrace Center are:

    • Hilton - adjacent to the Monona Terrace

    • Best Western Inn on the Park - one-two blocks from the Terrace

    • Hyatt Place - two-three blocks from the Terrace

    • The Madison Concourse Hotel - two-three block from the Terrace

    • Hotels somewhat in walking distance include:

    • Mansion Hill Inn - three-four blocks from the Terrace

    • The Edgewater Hotel (which includes a UW Alumni discount) - four-five blocks from Terrace


    The Visitor’s Bureau also notes that there will be many events happening in town the weekend of the conference so there may be a limited amount of rooms available. If you book lodging outside of downtown, you can:

    • Drive to the Conference (see below for parking options)

    • Catch a cab or Uber

    • Use Madison public transportation

    • Many Madison public buses go to the Capitol Square, which is very close to the Monona Terrace. Here is a link to the City of Madison Metro Transit map, fares, and schedule (make sure to look at the weekends/holidays schedule)



    • City parking in walking distance can be found in public parking ramps and lots (Keep in mind that lots tend to be smaller and fill sooner). Among the closest include:


    • Restaurants are all around Monona Terrace and you can see the Chamber of Commerce website and downtown restaurants map or the Visitor’s Bureau website for more information. Also, weather permitting, you can eat at the Lake Vista Café (scroll down the page) on the rooftop of Monona Terrace.


    • To explore Madison the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce webpage has a lot of helpful information or the Visitor’s Bureau website.  Some suggested highlights are within walking distance of the conference:

    • Or take a simple stroll up and down State Street or along the shores of Lake Monona or Lake Mendota

    If you will stay for the weekend, other attractions include:

    And if your family is with you…

  • 08/15/2017 10:21 AM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    Why Translators and Interpreters Should Tackle Advocacy

    By Kristy Brown Lust, MATI Director


    Local, state, and federal lawmakers are tasked with creating legislation that regulates hundreds of industries. They rely on professionals from those fields to provide context and help them understand what is at stake for professionals working in the industry and how laws impact the people and businesses who use our services. As experts whose field deals with every industry imaginable, translators and interpreters are ideally situated to provide this context to help lawmakers understand the challenges our clients face, as well as the value we provide as language professionals.


    Civic engagement through advocacy is one way translators and interpreters can increase the visibility of our profession and, more importantly, assist lawmakers in crafting legislation that best serves and supports our various constituents. This includes everyone from patients in healthcare settings to military personnel working in other countries.


    The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters recently hosted a free webinar that outlined how language professionals could approach advocacy. One advocacy issue mentioned was meaningful language access requirements for patients with limited English proficiency in healthcare settings. While the specific focus was interpreters working in healthcare, their lessons are widely applicable for all language professionals. The session included presentations from Don Schinske with Cal Capitol Group and California Healthcare Interpreting Association and Bill Rivers with the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS).


    Tips for getting started with advocacy:

    • Conduct research on current legislation related to your field. Often state and national organizations have legislative agendas that can help you quickly find what upcoming legislation will cover. For example, the JNCL-NCLIS website lists legislation they are tracking.
    • Get involved with local and national organizations by signing up for their advocacy action alerts.
    • If you’re attending the 2017 ATA Conference in Washington D.C. in October, plan to participate in the T&I Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill.
    • Write letters to the editor or individual journalists when you see incomplete or misleading news coverage on translation or interpreting or when you want to share your perspective as a professional working in the field.

    Visit CCHI’s website for links to the full presentation audio and other advocacy resources. And check out a recent ATA Chronicle article on the organization’s advocacy and business outreach efforts.

    ATA Advocacy Day Screenshot

  • 08/15/2017 10:16 AM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    Doing Things Machines Can’t:

    How to Thrive in a Changing Industry

    By Kristy Brown Lust, MATI Director


    Do you ever wonder how machine translation and other forms of artificial intelligence will impact your career prospects? Organizers of the On traduit à… series of conferences have a solution for translators—invest in improving skills at which only human beings excel. As the conference website states: “…your added value comes from doing things that machines cannot do. Things like detecting nuance of meaning. Navigating cross-cultural waters. Writing with simplicity and style. Those who hone their craft will flourish. Those who do not will be left behind.”


    French <> English translators keen to take on this challenge gathered for the most recent conference in Quebec City from July 24 to 26, 2017. Over 120 professionals from around the world met for presentations, translation slams and hands-on workshops designed to improve their craft. Attendees learned ways to be creative under pressure, how to translate difficult words that often appear in French or English texts, how to make their translations sing, and much more.


    Presenter Chris Durban, who led sessions on helping companies control their stories and working with journalists, said: “This conference isn’t focused on selling our services or raising prices, but on doing the hard work required to improve our language and writing skills.” This theme was echoed throughout the conference by presenters working in a range of fields.


    Tips offered by presenters to improve skills included reading widely in your target language, subscribing to business press in your areas of specialization (in both source and target languages), exchanging proofreading services with a colleague, and attending events hosted by organizations in your area of specialization (e.g. insurance conferences, chamber of commerce receptions, etc.).


    Photos taken at one of the "On traduit à..." conferences, in Quebec City, July 24-26, 2017.


    Ultimately, although the translation industry is rapidly changing, attendees and organizers remain optimistic that translators who “improve their specialist knowledge and writing skills” will continue to find clients who need and value their services.


    Looking for a local opportunity to invest in your career? MATI’s conference on September 23 is an excellent event where you can learn new skills to implement immediately and connect with other translation and interpreting professionals.

  • 07/30/2017 10:57 AM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    Upcoming MATI webinars

    Date to be determined:

    Specialization. The context unknown for translators in technical translations. Case study in the mining industry

    Nora Fiorini, M.A., English-Spanish translator

    In this webinar, Nora Fiorini will use a case study in mining industry translation to examine issues of context and implicit knowledge. She will discuss the main pros and cons of specialization in translation in general, and for the mining industry in particular. Translation examples/vocabulary and mining theory will be provided. Participants will practice examples of English to Spanish mining texts.

  • 07/30/2017 10:33 AM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    Design and Implementation of Translation Testing Procedures

    By Alaina Brantner, MATI Member


    Regardless of their size, for translation firms providing services in multiple languages, the likelihood that none of the professionals in the organization or department read the language of many of the target deliverables is great. Firms therefore rely on translators from around the world—most of whom their vendor and project managers will never meet in person—for a translation product in a language that no one within their organization can read. When the product is in a language that no one can read, developing well-designed processes to mitigate against the risks associated with working with unqualified providers is critical. These risks include (but are not limited to):

    • expensive rework on live projects causing delays and missed deliveries;
    • ruined translation memory resources affecting the quality and costs of all future projects;
    • lawsuits resulting from translation errors;
    • injury and death resulting from mistranslations;
    • uncontrolled client intellectual property in the form of source content, translation memories, and glossaries found with unknown providers.

    Ultimately, these risks bear on the reputations of firms (not to mention the health and safety of end users) and their ability to protect their relationships with all their clients. A deliberate translator onboarding process is designed to prevent these kinds of outcomes, with layers of preventions in place to ensure the quality of the product for a firm and its clients. A well-developed translator testing procedure is an essential component of that overall preventative process.

    Translator Testing – The Cost Not to Test

    Collectively, any system for translator onboarding consists of three main stages: initial screening, testing, and a probationary period. (For more on the initial screening stage that takes place prior to testing, see my article, “Key Components of Successful Translator Recruitment” in The ATA Chronicle.) Firms invest a significant amount of time and money at the initial screen stage to pass qualified candidates on to testing, and testing represents the next level of investment made by firms in the onboarding process. Not only an additional layer of protection safeguarding the integrity of the product, testing also helps firms ensure that future investments of time and resources are allocated toward developing mutually beneficial relationships with the best talent available. Any candidate’s movement through the overall onboarding process correlates to increasing investments of time and resources that a firm makes in onboarding and training that candidate. The farther candidates have progressed, the greater the losses for firms when they are determined to not meet organizational requirements. Any candidates who do not meet these requirements during live jobs represent the greatest potential losses to firms, not only in the investments made to date in that candidate, but in terms of rework on live jobs and the resulting risks to client relationships.

    The testing phase does not eliminate the risks associated with selling a product that has been contracted for in an online environment in a language the professionals in an organization do not read. Testing does, however, help prevent firms from making great investments of time and resources in candidates that threaten the well being of firms, through lack of subject-matter knowledge, or neglect of best practices. Testing increases the likelihood that the finite resource investments of a firm are being allocated to building relationships and training the candidates that best meet an organization’s needs.

    Strategies for Translation Test Design

    The primary focus of any translation test is the verification of a translator’s language and subject-matter capabilities. Content for translation testing is developed based on the domain in which a firm provides translation services. For example, within the technical fields, tests might include a variety of specialized terminology, while organizations that focus on marketing might utilize texts with idioms and other turns of phrase for a sample of translators’ creative problem-solving strategies. Beyond language and subject-matter-related verifications, the most successful tests will draw upon the experiences of the various stakeholders of the translation and production processes of a firm. For example, based on feedback from reviewers and desktop publishers on each of their respective stages, testing can be designed to account for recurring issues—such as the inconsistent translation of references to headers in the body of a manual, or the placement of formatting tags. This gives vendor managers the opportunity to gauge candidates’ abilities in a range of areas and to better learn if a candidate is a good fit for their organization.

    While translation testing affords firms a valuable opportunity to check translators in a variety of areas, when establishing the grading structure for testing, language fluency and subject matter expertise are ultimately the most critical skills to test. As recommended in the ASTM's “Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation,” organizations will ideally work with a trusted language lead when carrying out the native language editing of any translation samples or tests.[i] This editor checks the translation first and foremost for accuracy and completeness, and during this first pass review, any of certain categories of objective errors, such as mistranslations, automatically disqualify a candidate.

    Once the translation has been determined to be accurate and complete, the editor and/or a non-native proofreader can proceed to check the target content for other stylistic issues. Depending on the field in which an organization provides translation services, consistency will be a major factor. The ability to follow instructions is also key, so reviewers need to check that candidates have adhered to guidelines for the treatment of proper nouns, abbreviations, and conversions. Language-specific conventions can also be verified, to ensure that non-breaking spaces have been used before colons in Canadian French, for example, or that titles are capitalized to meet target language norms.

    Beyond style checks, translation testing is also a firm’s first opportunity to verify candidates’ technological capabilities, including work with more complex file formats and within the computer-assisted translation (CAT) environment. This technology component should not be overlooked. Often, to win work, less qualified providers make big claims about use of and comfort with CAT technology. By including something as simple as a CAT-compatible glossary of a few key terms, vendor managers can quickly determine if a candidate’s capabilities meet their technological claims.

    Finally, budgets are an important factor to consider in the design of translation tests, and firms use a variety of strategies to manage the costs associated with testing. I personally argue against relying on free tests to make the crucial determinations on candidates’ capabilities outlined in this article. Firms that test potential translators by having them translate live jobs for free are advised to carefully consider the repercussions of this strategy. The adage “you get what you pay for” speaks volumes about the results one can reasonably expect from this sort of an approach. To adjust for the skewed results of this strategy, firms are either failing more candidates or lowering the quality expectations of their testing system. Either adjustment is detrimental to a firm’s well-being. The former fails to capitalize on a firm’s investments at the initial screening stage, which is especially costly assuming that for every translator passed on to linguistic testing, 12.5 must be contacted, as was true of my 2016 recruitment efforts.[ii] The latter introduces vulnerability into a firm’s onboarding processes, because unqualified candidates are given greater chances of passing. Overall, the expectation for free services is also an ineffective means through which to positively embark on the mutually-beneficial relationships with the highly-qualified professionals that help to safeguard the integrity of a firm’s product and reputation.

    Translator Testing – A Controlled Environment

    Deliberate testing is developed based on an understanding of a wide variety of factors, including industry standards, the circumstances under which translation is carried out, and the objectives that are met through strong testing procedures. Fundamental to the design of testing is an awareness that firms rely on recommendations made by outside providers for languages that often none of the professionals in their organization read. This awareness must be balanced with realistic expectations for the outcome of the overall onboarding process. No set of actions can account for every eventuality. Still, based on experience and knowledge, procedures can be established and updated to set firms up for the greatest chance of success in their onboarding efforts, and ultimately for the translation services they are able to provide as a result. Carefully designed translation testing is a key component of the overall preventative onboarding process, in which issues with great potential costs for live jobs are identified and overcome in a low-cost, controlled environment, before they can affect a firm’s reputation and its relationships with its end clients.


    Alaina Brantner is a translation consultant specializing in project, vendor, and translation memory management. A Spanish> English translator, she has an MA in language, literature and translation from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She served as a director of the Midwest Association of Translators and Interpreters (an ATA chapter) from 2012 to 2016. Contact:

    [i] Brantner, Alaina. “Key Components of Successful Translator Recruitment.” The ATA Chronicle (American Translators Association), May/June 2017, 22.

    [ii] ASTM International, F 2575-06, “Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation” (June 2006), 6-7.

  • 07/30/2017 9:41 AM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    Group Practice and the ATA Certification Exam

    By Erin Woodard, MATI Member


    An August 2016 ATA Savvy Newcomer article by Juan Lizama described how a group of translators from the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI) studied together for the ATA certification exam. A group of approximately twelve language professionals met weekly online, translated assignments, and reviewed translation strategies prior to taking their respective tests. The group used the ATA exam resources to review one another’s translations in order to provide themselves with a realistic grading experience. In addition, they had ATA exam graders review translations of past exams in order to obtain feedback.

    This group practice approach to preparing for ATA’s certification exam is a helpful way for other linguists to prepare, as well. As translators, we often submit our work to private clients and translation agencies for onward transmission to the end user, however we don’t often have the opportunity to work together and review our translations with fellow professionals. An exam practice group allows translators to provide and receive feedback about their work in an effort to continuously improve the quality of their translations. In addition, it helps linguists prepare for the very specific and targeted grading scale of the ATA certification exam.

    Local groups of MATI members may consider setting up practice groups with fellow translators from their area to prepare for the upcoming certification exam being held before the MATI conference or for future exams.

    MATI members who want to form a practice group might consider meeting other interested members at upcoming charisMATIc events. Small groups might also consider reaching out to other MATI members via social media, phone or email to set up an online study group.

    Members who want to participate in a practice group could source content from many locations, including current events, trade magazines, etc. In addition, the ATA offers a practice exam, which is an opportunity for study groups to not only review each other’s translations, but also to receive feedback directly from the ATA exam graders. This is a great way to identify strengths, areas for improvement, and exam-specific pitfalls you may be experiencing.

    Best of luck to all linguists in the Midwest as you prepare for upcoming exam sittings, whether you choose to study individually or as a group!

  • 07/30/2017 9:11 AM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    MATI Member Spotlight: Erin Woodard


      Language Pair(s): French > English


      Degree(s)/Certification(s): Master of Professional French Studies and Translations Studies Certificate


      How long have you been a MATI member? Since 2015


      How did you acquire your B language(s)?

      I have my Master’s degree in French and I lived and worked in Grenoble and Paris, France.


    How long have you worked in your field? How did you get started in the field of translation and/or interpretation?

    I started to work in the specific field of translation in 2015. Prior to that I worked for an international nonprofit that provides grant funding for international development initiatives. At the organization, I had the opportunity to work with people and languages from around the world.


    What inspired you to get into your field?

    I love foreign languages and have always been very passionate about them. I have found that the field of translation has allowed me to focus specifically on that passion, while continuing to work in an international field which I also truly enjoy.


    Describe an especially memorable or fulfilling professional experience.

    My favorite translating experience has been translating microcredit loans for the nonprofit Kiva. It is an organization that crowdsources funding for entrepreneurs outside of the traditional banking system. Online lenders can contribute to loans for individuals or groups who use the funding for their businesses and pay it back in installments. Once the loan is fully refunded, lenders can use those funds to support another individual. All of the foreign language loans are translated into English by Kiva’s team of volunteers and are posted online on the nonprofit’s website. I love seeing loans I’ve translated receive funding and knowing that entrepreneurs are benefiting as a result of a translation.


    What program/tool/dictionary couldn’t you live without?

    I really enjoy using memoQ. I learned to use it in school and am always excited when I learn new functionality or find a way for it to help me be more effective with my work.


    Do you have a book, blog or methodology that you would like to recommend?

    I try to read all of the ATA’s Savvy Newcomer blog posts, as it which covers a variety of different topics in the translation industry. I find it enlightening and it exposes me to new topics in the field.


    Do you have any tips for those starting out in the field? For those who’ve been in the field?

    I have found that meeting with other translators is particularly motivating. In Madison, there is a group that gathers to discuss translation on a monthly basis, and I find these meetings energizing and inspiring. I enjoy hearing other linguists’ stories and learning how they work. I would encourage translators who are starting out to look for fellow professionals, either in person or online, and to join in the conversation.


    Why did you decide to join MATI?

    I joined MATI because I wanted to meet other local linguistic professionals and to continue my professional growth in the field. I have enjoyed attending MATI events and reading the organizational newsletter. I was also interested in finding additional information about translating as a freelance career, as well as learning more about translation theories and practice.


    Why do you think it’s important to belong to professional organizations like MATI?

    I think that being a part of professional organizations demonstrates that one is serious about their field and serious about learning and developing their professional skillset.


    Would you like feedback from your MATI colleagues on any challenges you have faced in the field?

    I am always curious to hear how others differentiate themselves when reaching out to potential clients or translation agencies, and finding ways to stand out in the crowd of other translators.


    What do you do in your free time?

    I enjoy spending time outdoors with my family and getting to the yoga studio.



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Midwest Association of Translators & Interpreters
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