Monday, November 16, 2009

ATA Conference + Translation Industry Study

As a child I had always admired the hotel concierges in old movies who dispensed advice and critical information along with mail and phone messages. At the recent American Translators Association conference here in New York I got to be something of a concierge. I, along with a number of other members, volunteered at the hospitality desk set up by ATA's New York chapter, the New York Circle of Translators. We could even use a "real" receptionist's area, complete with chest-high countertop and little cubicles behind the countertop. We volunteers not only helped out-of-towners find their way around New York City, but in the process we met conference attendees from a number of different places. This being a conference of language professionals, the information could even be offered in a number of different languages (although the printed materials - some of which came from the New York City tourist office - were only in English).

The most valuable part of the conference for me were the contacts I made with both other translators and purchasers of translation services, such as translation agencies and organizations with translation departments. I am heading for Vienna in the end of the month and will meet with some of these contacts there. ProZ, one of the larger translation websites, is holding a regional conference in Vienna, which I will be attending before visiting family and meeting with some business contacts in early December.

The ATA conference also included a number of interesting presentations. One of these was a study from Common Sense Advisory suggesting that the translation industry in the U.S. is poised for significant growth, particularly in the national security, international affairs, public work and public safety sectors. That's great news for translators working in Middle Eastern, Eastern European or Southeast Asian languages who are willing to work for the U.S. government. Not so great news, though, for those of us who work with Western European languages and won't work for the U.S. military or "homeland security". According to this study, the next-biggest industry in terms of translation and localization potential is IT. That would be great for me, since I specialize in IT documents, but the language most needed in that sector is Chinese. Since I don't speak Chinese, that doesn't really help so much ...

How have you translators of Western European languages who do not work for the U.S. government fared in terms of assignments received during the last 6-9 months? Has the volume decreased, increased or stayed the same? Have any of your regular clients cut back or stopped assigning translations altogether?

Either post a comment here or write to me at

Until next time,

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