(Photo above – Another LUNA sighting in Washington D.C.!)

contributed by Neminoo Sakuthay

I am glad I had the opportunity to attend the American Translators Association (ATA) conference in October with my colleague Anthony Beesley. Initially, I was hesitant because I thought there may not be much relevant content for the lesser diffusion languages, especially Karen, one of the ethnic minority languages from Myanmar (Burma). To the contrary, the ATA conference encouraged me to continue my current work. To sum it up in one word, the conference was supportive.

Often times, I question why I bother spending time and energy in lesser diffusion languages or dialects that might even be disappearing. The market demand is neither sufficient nor sustainable. I always feel my native languages, Karen and Burmese, are too small or unimportant to build a career for, especially in the U.S. However, attending the ATA conference gave me new and positive perspectives.

I gained particular encouragement from the session “Honoring Diversity: Working in Minority Languages” by Steve Lank. I appreciate the idea discussed of calling “minority languages,” “America’s languages.” Seeing others embracing and investing in diversity as a response to changes in domestic consumption in the translation and interpretation industry, gave me hope.

The second type of sessions I attended discussed techniques to become a better interpreter and translator. “Becoming a Super-Fast Freelance Translator and Coping with Technology in a Constantly Evolving World!” by Sameh Ragab provided ideas on utilizing readily available technology and customizing it to my own specific translation needs.

In terms of interpreting, “Working Successfully with Written Texts in the Simultaneous Mode,” by Leire Carbonell-Agüero and Cas Shulman-Mora was very helpful as it provided hands-on experience in interpreting strategies. Furthermore, “On/Off the Record: Anatomy of a Deposition and How to Master This Niche,” by Elena Langdon was particularly helpful in preparing for court-related interpreting.

The third, and most personally interesting, session was “Nothing Lost in Translation: How Coaching Can Serve the Wordsmith,” by Alison Carrol. This was empowering to me as the session touched on identifying our inner thoughts that may hinder us from moving forward and achieving happiness, or fulfillment, at work, and directing our emotions toward positive paths. This is good for bringing out why I do what I do, and to carry on.

While my colleague focused on project management, my main goal for participating in the conference was to identify any strategies to improve my translation and interpreting skills and to see if I could connect with any fellow Burmese or Karen translators/interpreters. I got what I wanted and will continue what I do with a renewed sense of purpose and passion.

I’ll continue this line of work because I see the beauty in languages and cultures. I’ll do it for those with limited voices as well as limited access to language services. Overall, I’ll do it for human rights.