The ATA Chronicle - July/August 2018 - 29
BY DAVID STEPHENSON
Highlights from the Annual Language Chairs Meeting
pril is always a busy time for ATA's Certification Program.
This is when the Certification Committee holds its
meeting to coincide with the Annual Language Chairs
meeting. (Each exam language combination has a language chair
administering passage selection and grading. ATA currently offers
testing in 30 language combinations.) This year, the Certification
Committee and more than 50 graders convened in Alexandria,
Virginia, on April 13-15. Here are some highlights of what was
discussed and decided:
Automation: On the heels of the successful introduction of the
computerized exam, ATA is looking at various options for further
automating certification processes, both in terms of workflows
at ATA Headquarters and grading activities. Savings on overhead
costs could significantly narrow the gap between the costs
associated with the Certification Program and revenues.
FBI Guest Speakers: The assembled language chairs and other
graders were treated to a fascinating and stimulating presentation
by Maria Manfre and Mahonri Manjarrez from the FBI's Division
of Language Testing and Assessment. Their talk focused on the
criteria for the FBI's translation testing, specifically the skill level
descriptors employed for language assessment. Participants had
plenty of opportunities to consider differences and similarities
between that system and ATA's approach. We hope that further
cross-fertilization between ATA and other organizations will take
place in the future.
Heller, Rudy, and Diego Mansilla. "ATA's Certification Exam
Preparation Workshop in Boston," The ATA Chronicle
(May/June, 2018), 9, http://bit.ly/ATA-exam-prep.
Feedback Matrix: One of the most frequent complaints about
the certification exam is that candidates who fail have no way of
knowing "what they did wrong." (Those who take the practice
test before the exam-something that is strongly recommended-
do receive such feedback.) To address this issue, the Certification
Program is considering giving candidates who fail a feedback
chart showing the broad areas in which they did well, or not so
well. During the language chairs meeting, graders applied the
proposed model to actual former exams to see how well it served
the intended purpose. Discussion was lively and further work on
this option lies ahead.
Look for more updates from ATA's Certification Program in
future issues of The ATA Chronicle!
You can find ATA's YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/ChannelATA.
David Stephenson is the chair of ATA's Certification
Committee. An ATA-certified German>English,
Dutch>English, and Croatian>English translator, he
has been an independent translator for over 30 years,
specializing in civil litigation and creative nonfiction.
Regional Candidate Preparation Sessions: Building on the
success of the Certification Preparation Workshop held in
Boston in January,1 ATA hopes to replicate the concept, which
is to coach candidates on exam strategies using past passages,
showing examples of errors, and analyzing them as a group.
Additional sessions might be offered in Texas and in the Chicago
area later this year, and possibly in North Carolina in early
2019. The Certification Committee is very attuned to the strong
demand for more resources to help candidates prepare for the
exam in various formats.
YouTube Videos: Be on the lookout for new offerings on ATA's
YouTube2 channel relating to certification. The plan is to produce
a suite of short videos (5-10 minutes each) highlighting various
aspects of the Certification Program.
Continuing Education Points: The continuing education (CE)
requirement for maintaining certification has existed for over
10 years. While the system has been tweaked occasionally, the
Certification Committee has concluded that an in-depth analysis of
the CE system is overdue. A task force has been formed specifically
to consider whether the current opportunities for earning CE
points are reasonable and equitable, and whether other activities
should be added to the approved list for earning CE points.
American Translators Association