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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.
  • 02/03/2017 12:06 PM | Meghan Konkol

    Happy New Year from MATI

    MATI would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our members a very happy 2017. Thank you for being part of our association!

    2016 was another great year for MATI. We enjoyed seeing our members at several social events throughout the year. We held our board elections in the spring, and the association welcomed new directors Marina Ilari, Kristy Brown Lust, Thaís Passos and Ghada Shakir to the board.

    We hosted our annual conference in September at the University Center in Chicago, drawing a number of attendees for a day of educational sessions and networking. MATI also had strong attendance at the ATA conference in San Francisco in November, with several members presenting sessions. Throughout the year, we also offered benefits such as our quarterly newsletter and a wide range of webinars open to both members and non-members.

    In 2017, we look forward to continuing to offer you educational, networking and social events and resources. Plans are underway for our annual conference, and we are finalizing our webinar lineup for the year.

    This spring we will hold our annual board elections. If you have been looking for an opportunity to get more involved with MATI, consider running for a position on our board!

    Please stay tuned for announcements about upcoming events, webinars and elections. And if you haven’t done so already, please take the time to renew your membership for the year and make sure your directory listing at is up to date.

    We wish you a very happy and healthy 2017.

    Best regards,

    The MATI Board of Directors

  • 02/03/2017 11:58 AM | Meghan Konkol

    Every Little Word Matters

    By Kristy Brown Lust, MATI Director

    As professional translators and interpreters, we know that one word can have many shades of meaning, depending on its context. We also know that even small errors can add up to big changes in meaning. However, when we’re facing the time crunch common in our industries, we sometimes forget the impact translation and interpretation errors can have. Let’s look at a couple examples.

    Case 1: Japanese Red Army member trial

    In October 2016, Tsutomu Shirosaki was on trial in Tokyo for alleged participation in a Japanese Embassy attack that occurred in 1968. Two interpreters were selected to interpret testimony from 11 Indonesians. After a review of the interpretations by the court found that one of the interpreters made more than 200 errors in interpreting testimony, the interpreter was removed from the case.

    According to The Japan Times, “The court found that the interpreter skipped some words without translating them and made mistakes in translating some others. In one instance, the interpreter translated ‘forensic identification officer’ as simply ‘officer.’” Other reported errors: “the year 1983 mentioned by an Indonesian police officer was found to have been translated as 1985. Another statement by the officer, that ‘I did not give heed to it,’ was found to have been changed into ‘I do not remember it.’” An editorial in the paper said the outcome of this particular trial was not impacted by the errors, but urged the courts to establish standardized examinations to ensure interpreters are qualified to provide legal [interpretation] services. The editorial concluded, “If a false conviction occurs as a result of an incorrect translation, the damage will be irreparable.”

    Case 2: Greek Subminimum Wage

    In a recent recommendation to the Greek labor ministry, a group of experts issued recommendations, written in English, for implementing a “youth subminimum wage.” The group suggested that a young person’s pay should be based on how much experience they have in the workforce. S. Papapetros writes, “Specifically, a passage on page 41 of the report envisions a ‘subminimum’ wage at 90 percent of the current level, gross pay, for the first year of employment; 95 percent for the second year of employment.”

    When the report was translated into Greek, subminimum was translated as minimum, which could lead to a debate on what rate the youth wages should be calculated on.

    Even the best translators and interpreters make mistakes. That’s why good proofreading and editing are important, along with certification credentials. And that’s also why it’s dangerous to place unrealistic demands and time pressure on translators and interpreters. Mistakes may complicate already challenging political, business, and personal relationships and cause serious harm to governments, businesses and individuals.

  • 02/03/2017 11:51 AM | Meghan Konkol

    ATA Certification Exam Undergoes Changes

    By Thaís Passos, MATI Director

    Becoming ATA certified requires passing a translation exam consisting of two passages of roughly 250 words each. The ATA Certification Program is going through some changes intended to improve accessibility and enhance the value of the ATA Certification Exam. Four major changes went into effect on January 1, 2017:

    1. There are no longer any education or experience requirements. The only requirements are ATA membership and agreement to the ATA Code of Ethics and Professional Practice.
    2. There are only general passages. Candidates are presented with three general passages and must choose two to translate. These are typically commentaries or essay-type articles. The exam will no longer include any medical, technical, or scientific texts or texts on legal, commercial, or financial subjects.
    3. More computerized exam sittings will be offered. Several computerized sittings have already been scheduled for 2017. On computerized exams, candidates can use their own laptops and non-interactive Internet resources, such as electronic dictionaries and glossaries. Candidates may not use CAT tools, translation memories, email, chat rooms, forums, or machine translation tools such as Google Translate. Candidates will save their translations on an ATA-supplied USB drive with grammar and spell check utilities disabled. Candidates may still bring and use their own print resources, and can also opt to handwrite their exam.
    4. Candidates will have more opportunities and accessibility for preparation and practice. In the near future, the ATA Certification Program will make the practice tests available for downloading (practice tests cost $80 per passage for ATA members and $120 per passage for non-members). In addition, the ATA Certification Committee is working to increase the availability of Candidate Preparation Workshops as both live sessions and webinars.

    For an up-to-date list of upcoming exam sittings, please visit


  • 02/02/2017 2:41 PM | Meghan Konkol

    Hello and Happy New Year!

    As you may have noticed, MATI’s Board of Directors underwent some changes early this year. Until the installment this summer of officers elected this spring, I will be serving as the MATI President and Meghan McCallum will be serving as the MATI Vice President.

    Together, Meghan and I, in conjunction with your MATI board, will work hard to continue serving you, the members. Exciting plans are in the works for MATI this year, including quarterly social hours for us to get out and talk with you, as well as a great webinar lineup. And, of course, we will host our annual conference this autumn.

    If you have not done so already, please be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook so you’re in the loop when we announce our upcoming social gatherings near you.

    If you have any questions or suggestions for MATI activities, please feel free to contact me at

    Wishing you a prosperous and happy new year,

    Joseph Wojowski
    MATI President

  • 11/23/2016 5:24 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    Call for Proposals: 2017 Webinar Series

    MATI is pleased to announce the Research & Practice in Translation and Interpreting webinar series upcoming in 2017.

    Webinars in this series will explore how academic research and professional practices support working translators and interpreters.

    Interested presenters can submit abstracts until Wednesday, November 30, 2016.

    Please note that presenters can be researchers, graduate students, professionals, and administrators from anywhere in the U.S. or other countries.

    No travel is required to present. All web support will be provided.

    Collaborative presentations are also welcome.

    More information can be found on the MATI website.

    Questions regarding submissions should be addressed to MATI at

  • 11/23/2016 5:21 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca
    Going Back to School through ATA’s School Outreach Program

    By Meghan McCallum, MATI Director


    When was the last time you stepped inside a school? For some of us, it may have been a while. If you teach or have kids, perhaps you’re a regular at a local school. No matter how long it’s been, it’s time to get out those school supplies and take on a new assignment: School Outreach!


    ATA’s School Outreach Program encourages translators and interpreters to visit their local schools and talk to students about their exciting careers. With over ten years under its belt, the program has helped countless language professionals around the world make the trip back to school by providing presentation materials, speaking tips and information about how to schedule school visits. Ready-to-use presentations and activities can be downloaded directly from the ATA website and adapted for each specific visit.


    During School Outreach visits, translators and interpreters speak to students at all levels, emphasizing the benefits of foreign language study and outlining the specialized skills needed to become a translator or interpreter. Activities can be catered to all age levels and interests, from young children just starting a second language to students in specialized translation graduate programs.


    In recent years, School Outreach has even gone virtual thanks to modern technology. With videoconferencing programs such as Skype, translators and interpreters can virtually visit with students across the globe. All it takes is simple software skills and coordination with time zone differences—familiar territory for all of us!


    As an added incentive, the ATA School Outreach Program also holds an annual contest based on photo submissions from translators and interpreters who have made school visits. By submitting a winning shot of him/herself in the classroom, one person each year is awarded the grand prize of free registration to the ATA conference. Now that’s a big payoff! The winner also receives recognition at the awards presentation during the ATA conference and in the ATA Chronicle.


    To learn more about the School Outreach Program, access resource materials, read stories from previous school visits, and get details about the School Outreach Contest, visit


    Have you made a school visit recently to talk to students about translation and interpreting? Tell us about it! Send a message to School Outreach Program Coordinator Meghan McCallum at


  • 11/23/2016 5:09 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    Translation Events in Madison, WI

    By Thaís Passos, MATI Director and Erin Woodard, MATI Member

    Translator and interpreter Margie Franzen recently coordinated two days of events celebrating translation in Madison, WI.

    On September 17, “Superheroic? Feats of Translation!” featured re-writing graphic novels, comic captions in different languages, and a translation slam. The day started with a workshop where kids learned how to write comic book captions in languages that use different writing systems like Hindi, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, and Russian, facilitated by language teachers from Madison-area high schools and language schools. The evening included a translation slam event, in which translators shared excerpts of Michael Chabon’s book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (originally written in English) translated from other languages back into English. Afterward, translators Daniel Youd (from Mandarin Chinese), Ben Kearney (from Dutch), and Fred Svensson (from Swedish) discussed how they conducted their translations and the impact that the translated texts had on the overall context of the book. An interesting discussion ensued, involving the entire audience.

    On September 29, the second T&T Open Mic event of this year was held in Madison. This fun get-together is meant for people to share readings in English translation. In the words of organizer Margie Franzen, it is “a friendly space for language-interested folks to gather and get ideas about what the great big world of translations has to offer.” The event is open to the public, and anyone may read or simply enjoy listening to the readings and discussing the topic of translation with the group. Readers choose whatever they want to read, so long as it’s a translation (into English). People are also encouraged to read anything they have translated themselves, published or unpublished. The next T&T Open Mic will likely be in February 2017. Stay tuned!

    Erin Woodard is a French into English translator with specialization in International Development, Life Sciences, and Sustainable Development.

    Thaís Passos is a English and Spanish into Portuguese translator with specialization in Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine, Environment, and Sustainability.



  • 11/23/2016 5:06 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    Beginner Linguists Find Useful Resources at UW-Madison Language Institute

    By Thaís Passos, MATI Director


    For those getting started or considering a career in translation or interpreting, the Language Institute ( and the College of Letters and Science of the University of Wisconsin-Madison can be a great resource. This fall, the Language Institute hosted a workshop series to help people learn how to gain experience, build expertise, and find work in these fields.


    The series of three workshops, called “Use Your Words: Careers in Translation and Interpreting”, was presented by UW-Madison alumni working as translators or interpreters. The first workshop, presented by MATI board member Amanda Bickel, focused on freelance translation. The second, led by Anne Plesh, manager of interpreter services for the Wisconsin region of SSM Health and Laura Puls, a medical interpreter at SSM Heath, addressed medical interpreting. Lynn Leazer, who has been working as a court interpreter for nearly 15 years, led a third workshop on legal interpreting.


    Another event fostering students’ exploration of their future language careers was the “International Career Connections: Alumni Mentoring”. On November 17, UW-Madison alumni with international experiences talked about their careers to inspire students planning their own. By networking with alumni in a broad range of career areas, students learned about their paths and glean advice for their own next steps. For more information, visit:

  • 11/23/2016 4:59 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    Marian Greenfield on “Ramping up Your Freelance Business”

    By Thaís Passos, MATI Director

    In her presentation “Ramping up Your Freelance Business” at the 13th Annual MATI Conference, Marian Greenfield emphasized freelancers are business owners and must think like business owners.

    She talked about the importance of having a business plan to set earning goals, forecast required purchases, choose targeted specializations (or “verticals”), develop marketing strategies, set work hours, and, of course, to set prices.

    According to Marian, some differentiating factors that should help your potential clients decide to hire you instead of another translator/interpreter are: specialization in your language pairs and subject matter, keeping your language skills up-to-date by staying in close contact with all your languages, making use of top-notch research skills and resources, solving your clients’ problems by doing whatever it takes to get the job done well (including referring colleagues if you are not best qualified to do the job), using top-of-the-line hardware and software, and leveraging CAT tools to increase the quality of your translations.

    Greenfield reminded us to be more efficient by knowing our strengths and weaknesses and outsourcing tasks that others can do better, cheaper or faster than us, such as: accounting, bookkeeping, technology support, project management, sales, editing, formatting, and marketing.

    One of the highlights of the presentation was the importance of marketing effectively. Greenfield said that making use of virtual networking is crucial, but “having a face makes a huge difference”. Good examples of how to put our face out there are: networking in online communities, participating in professional associations, presenting seminars and webinars, attending trade shows, reaching out to chambers of commerce, having a good website, and volunteering in general.

    Greenfield’s final message was for us to focus on service and good client relations by maintaining a positive attitude and cultivating a healthy business atmosphere.


    Thaís Passos translates from English and Spanish into Brazilian Portuguese. She holds a Master of Arts in Latin American, Caribbean & Iberian Studies with a focus in Translation and a Master of Science in Agroecology, both from the University of Wisconsin. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Medicine from the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil.

  • 11/23/2016 4:55 PM | Thais Passos Fonseca

    Anthony Perez, “Humanizing Machine Translation”

    By Abigail Wright


    Anthony Perez, Vice President of Global Sales at, gave a presentation at MATI 13 titled “Humanizing Machine Translation,” dedicated to clearing up misconceptions concerning Machine Translation (MT) and shedding light on how we human translators can make it work for us. Perez affirmed that while MT is here to stay, clients still want a human face, because “people buy from people.” While some translation jobs have been lost to MT, on the whole, demand for human translation has actually increased with the winds of rapid technological change.


    Perez dubbed 2016 the “Era of Mass Translation,” explaining that in any given minute, millions of posts appear online and billions of messages are sent across the globe. The majority of users of such top Internet properties such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo! are international. Smartphone use in Asia has skyrocketed. This has all come together to create a global “on-demand economy.” In a world of Snapchat, GrubHub, and Uber, people want translations instantly—just like everything else.


    In accordance with this demand, Perez explained, MT has evolved from a rules-based approach that generated translations based only on word-to-word matches and naturally required heavy human correction to its present statistics-based model. Current MT works with phrases instead of words, taking its cue from bilingual glossaries, translation memories, and feedback from its users. The future of MT, however, lies in a deep-learning, neural model based on the human brain itself. This model, which is still in development, relies on a main engine which processes an entire sentence, paragraph, or document, while a subnetwork processes source sentences, keywords, grammar, and word meaning.


    The goal, of course, is to create the best possible raw MT output. Post-editors use their knowledge base for everything from correcting minor punctuation and capitalization errors to retranslating whole words and expressions. The Translation Automation User Society (TAUS) advises post-editors to use all the raw MT they can while aiming for a semantically correct text, never adding or omitting anything, editing offensive or inappropriate content, and leaving their clients with no stylistic worries. Human translation is still necessary, Perez acknowledged, particularly for advertising, legal texts, contracts, marketing materials, and human resources documents.


    Perez closed out his presentation with a Wizard of Oz analogy and several pieces of advice for human translators in the age of MT. We can choose, he explained, to be the Scarecrow, carrying on as usual; the Cowardly Lion, skeptically (and hopelessly) wishing for MT to die; or Dorothy, pursuing opportunities and learning from the journey. To help make Dorothys out of us, Perez advised the following courses of action: move fast, create new business models around MT, be open to learning new platforms, and give feedback on MT quality to language service providers to help improve MT engines. We should also invest in networking, find new ways to make money, and above all, laugh, because “life is short.”


    Abigail Wright is a freelance Spanish-to-English translator. She is a 2016 graduate of the Master of Arts in Translation and Interpreting program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and recently started her own company, Wright Translations, LLC. She has been a MATI member since 2015.


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