ATA, Association of Translation Agencies


After the takeover by freelancers in 1980, once successful passage of a translation test became a requirement for the privilege of voting in association elections or running for office, the ATA de facto became the American Translators Association. Suffrage was also offered to translators of extremely rare languages for which no tests were available, on recommendation of two active members. The primary upshot was that actual translators of verified competence were put in charge of making ATA policy after earning the accreditation of their peers. The disadvantage was that owners of translation agencies could no longer make policy unless they first passed a translation test. Thus began the Golden Age of the American Translators Association, thanks to Ben Teague and Patricia Newman.(link)

Unhorsed translation agency owners made it clear they were discontented, and wanted their unquestioned authority restored. Individuals not competent to pass a written translation test were just as unhappy as people who drop out of college, and for the same reason. These two disgruntled classes were soon exploited by the American Society of Association Executives, which proceeded to retask the bylaws, install its own well-paid Executive to supervise ATA board meetings and make sure that our “elected” officers never receive so much as a penny for their efforts. Regular mail-in ballots used by similar associations were abolished by repeating unsubstantiated assertions, and a “proxy” system was installed so ALL votes are basically handed over to boardmembers. The ASAE also made sure that its own attorneys and soi disant “experts” were consulted on all policy matters. The new order’s big project sought to undermine our translator testing program and burden the ATA with its salaried hirelings. The ASAE itself advertises a staff of 47, not including attorneys–whose particulars are not easy to find.(link)

People unable to pass a simple translation test and too stuck-up to admit the fact, pestered the board members until “peer review” opened a loophole through which passed a flood of people unwilling to sit for a test–including some translation company owners. Agencies were thereby able to regain voting control over the Association as the ASAE tightened its own control over the the board of directors, orchestrating a series of single-candidate “elections.” Members who had earned the right to vote by passing a written test were shocked to discover that it suddenly cost over $350 a year to keep credentials they maintained for $50 during the 1980s. Younger members were pressured to buy tickets to conventions, etc., “or else” lose their credentials through added continuing “education” requirements which, to some of us, were not unlike extortion.

A so-called ASAE expert was paid 55 cents a word to produce an essay recommending that non-members be allowed to take the test. They could then qualify for exploitation by translation companies as certified translators. Almost nobody able to actually translate and vote thought this was a good idea and the motion failed. The extent of decay is such that of ATA members claiming the ability to translate Portuguese, only 1% have passed the tests from and into that language. Wannabees and beginners lacking ability yet inveigled into joining are clearly numerous enough to outvote actual translators who have clearly-demonstrated ability. A board appointed via single-candidate elections and run by a representative of a “Society” that staffs it with multiplying staffers it selects and puts on salary–is anything but a representative democracy.

The ASAE and the translation agencies it represents never let go of the idea of making translation tests serve their own purposes rather than those of translators. Instead of financing their own separate association with an independent testing program, they cling like brood parasites to the existing pool of tested-and-true translators. ASAE/agency plans to debauch the renamed certification testing program into a rubber-stamp handmaid service for agencies backed by an Orwellian managerial corporation is still at the top of a single-minded agenda that does NOT benefit professional translators.

Now they are back. As before, they are selling yet another ill-dissembled attempt to attain that purpose, papered over with insincere assurances and undisclosed “criteria” for packing the membership by adding pliable voters. And no wonder! The current germ lab viral epidemic has crippled the ASAE Executive’s ability to draw income by mandating attendance at conferences. It therefore comes as no surprise that a story was packaged-up with yet another attempt to “restructure” to favor volume and quantity at the expense of ability and quality. If you haven’t seen their pitch paper, write me.

If you believe colleges should hand diplomas to students who flunk exams, then put them on the Board of Regents, you’re what they want. If you believe that discrimination on the grounds of ability is baaad and that a goood rabble in ignorance is what the ASAE and translation companies need to help keep translators in their place, they have found their minion. **

But if you perceive that the ASAE resembles a vampire herding a large mob of potential translators into empowering a minority of middlemen to exert control over the tiny core of actual certified translators that make the association worth having, then reject the puppet board’s latest rewrite of the usual gambit. I will gladly sign a petition to be rid of ASAE control and management and hire and to pay actual tested translators suitable remuneration for their valuable service on the board–once they win a real election with at least two candidates in the running.
–J Henry Phillips, thrice-certified Life member, now in my 33rd year with what was, when I joined it, a genuine translators association worth keeping alive.

Footnote ** “All historical changes finally boil down to the replacement of one ruling class by another. All talk about democracy, liberty, equality, fraternity, all revolutionary movements, all visions of Utopia, or ‘the classless society’, or ‘the Kingdom of Heaven on earth’, are humbug (not necessarily conscious humbug) covering the ambitions of some new class which is elbowing its way into power. The English Puritans, the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks, were in each case simply power seekers using the hopes of the masses in order to win a privileged position for themselves. Power can sometimes be won or maintained without violence, but never without fraud, because it is necessary to make use of the masses, and the masses would not co-operate if they knew that they were simply serving the purposes of a minority. In each great revolutionary struggle the masses are led on by vague dreams of human brotherhood, and then, when the new ruling class is well established in power, they are thrust back into servitude. This is practically the whole of political history, as Burnham sees it.” —George Orwell, Second Thoughts on James Burnham (link)

Words you can dance to
Clarity isn’t oversimplification

Find out the juicy details behind the mother of all economic collapses. Prohibition and The Crash–Cause and Effect in 1929 is available in two languages on Amazon Kindle, each at the cost of a pint of craft beer.

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Brazilian Sci-fi from 1926 featuring the usual beautiful daughter of a scientist touting prohibition and racial collectivism in America’s Black President 2228 by Monteiro Lobato, translated by J Henry Phillips (link)

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