Georgia Peaches & Interpreting Conferences

Last week found me in Atlanta, Georgia for a whirlwind weekend with the Atlanta Association of Interpreters and Translators (AAIT). Local organizations are vital to keeping our profession alive, and it was an honor to be able to attend and present at this one. I wanted to share my experience with those of you who weren’t lucky enough to be there. (And okay, so I don’t think peaches were in season, but the rest of the food in Atlanta was so good that I may find an excuse to start interpreting there!)

The wealth of information presented just on day 1 of the conference was truly staggering.

From 9:30 am to 5:30 pm we attended no fewer than six presentations in a big auditorium.  The theme was T & I, Gig or Profession? Loana Denis presented on Understanding the Landscape of Industry Standards. Romina Marazzato Sparano spoke on machine translation and the day ended with a panel consisting of four veteran interpreters and translators: John Botero, Maria Ceballos-Wallis, Glynis Mitchell and Eva de Vallescar. Day 2 consisted of workshops on interpreting and translation. Yours truly was proud to present Skills-Building for Seasoned Interpreters!

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Here were my highlights of the conference:

  • Katharine Allen, our keynote speaker, opened the conference with an eloquent history of our field, all focused on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going. She gave us a lot of food for thought when it came to machine translation and remote interpreting. She walked us through a demonstration of how our industry is booming and only expected to get bigger as the global market increases. At the same time, the threat of artificial intelligence looms large. In order to succeed, she insisted, we must diversify and make technology work with us instead of against us.
  • Amanda Williams (the “adorkable” translator) presented Contracts: Friends or Foes? In just 45 minutes, she gave an incredibly thorough and informative lecture on how to protect yourself as a translator through contracts (disclaimer: always have a lawyer review it first!). I know that when I was just starting out as an interpreter, I did not give contracts the detailed review that I should have, and I wasn’t aware of my rights to negotiate or simply not sign a contract. I won’t be forgetting Ms. William’s advice anytime soon.
  • Glynis Ramos-Mitchell and her colleagues from Cobb County school district gave a fascinating overview of their lives as education interpreters. Their school district is incredibly diverse, with families needing services in everything from Spanish to Vietnamese and Nepali. Their system of dispatching interpreters to every corner of their school district, which is the biggest employer in the county, was extremely impressive. Their presentation also highlighted education interpreting, which is an aspect of our profession that tends to be ignored. Indeed, I have been guilty of overlooking their impact and status as a domain that is just as noteworthy as court and medical. I plan to correct this immediately!

The conference, organized by Rose M. Tello, Carola Lehmacher and Celina Gonzalez Posse was extremely well put together, both in content and distribution. This was also reflected in the short lunch lines; the food had been pre-packaged for our convenience and pleasure! (You may laugh, but well-fed, stress-free interpreters are happy interpreters!) There were lots of chances to network and get to know other professionals in the field. Going to events like this makes us all realize we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves, and I hope you get a chance to go to one soon. Such as NAJIT’s conference in June, for example, where (warning: Shameless Advertising Ahead!) I will be giving a pre-conference workshop for advanced interpreters hoping to increase their skills and possibly take the Federal Interpreting Exam. The title is Federal Interpreters or Bust, and you should definitely register (hint, hint). Sign up now and I’ll see you in San Francisco!

Feature photo via Good Free Photos


Portrait of Athena MatilskyAthena Matilsky fell in love with Spanish the year she turned 16. She chose it as her major at Rutgers University and selected a focus in translation and interpreting. After graduation, she taught elementary school in Honduras and then returned home to begin freelancing as a medical and court interpreter. She has since achieved certifications as a Healthcare Interpreter and a Federal Court Interpreter. She was the recent editor-in-chief of Proteus. Currently, she works as a freelance interpreter/translator and trains candidates privately for the state and federal interpreting exams. When she is not writing or interpreting, you may find her practicing acroyoga or studying French. Website: https://athenaskyinterpreting.wordpress.com/

Click here to access Athena’s other posts.

5 Comments
  • MARIA CEBALLOS
    Posted at 14:01h, 04 May Reply

    Athena, we loved having you here in ATL. Thank you for the recap of the AAIT Conference. The AAIT Board and Volunteers put a lot of effort in planning the conference ensuring that there was both breadth and depth in the agenda. I’m also looking forward to the NAJIT Conference where we will be able to continue discussions on topics of importance to interpreters raised here.

    • Athena Matilsky
      Posted at 23:43h, 04 May Reply

      Thanks Maria! It was great seeing you, if only from afar. Hasta NAJIT!

  • CLARENCE E. WILLIAMSON
    Posted at 16:11h, 04 May Reply

    Thank you for the interesting and stimulating account of the conference, peaches or not. The last NAJIT conference I attended was held in Pittsburgh, PA some years ago, and your account of the AAIT Conference evoked pleasant memories I have of that conference. In a way, I admire the Spanish interpreters for their great numbers and cohesiveness within the field, at least at the national level and here in Maryland. Being a Korean Interpreter/Translator, I find such cohesiveness among us lacking to some degree; but I am confident things will get better.

    • Athena Matilsky
      Posted at 23:42h, 04 May Reply

      I agree. I added French to my repertoire last fall and I have an even better understanding now of what LOTS (Languages Other Than Spanish) interpreters are up against. I’ll be presenting on that at NAJIT, and I do try to make my presentations more language-inclusive. I find that people across the country who interpret LOTS, and they are all reinventing the wheel. Networking on Facebook to share resources is extremely helpful. When I was studying for the exam I met with someone in Minnesota online while I was in Montreal! Conferences, though, are the best way to connect, in my opinion.

  • Alcira Salguero
    Posted at 19:25h, 07 May Reply

    Hello Athena,

    Thank yout for your continuous desire to share and contribute your skills in our challenging industry.

    My name is Alcira Salguero. I am a Spanish Interpreter. I am looking forward to meeting you in person when you are in “my” backyard, in the Bay Area in June .

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