By Leeza Etzenhouser,
MSU student and recipient of a 2019 CTA Student Sponsorship
December 14, 2019
When I was presented with the opportunity to attend the 60th annual ATA Conference in Palm Springs I knew I had to take it. Translating is something that I’ve wanted to do for years and although, as an undergraduate student with no professional experience, I was worried I would be out of place, it was an opportunity too good to pass up. I applied for and received funding from both the CTA student sponsorship program and the MSU Denver student travel program to help finance my conference registration and the trip to Palm Springs, for which I am eternally grateful because it afforded me a great deal of professional development, openings for networking, and inspiration.
As with most conferences the days were filled with various speakers. I attended presentations on a wide range of topics important to anyone hoping to make a career out of translation. I saw language specific demonstrations that provided me strategies for coping with translation issues that may arise in the future as well as seminars promoting physical and mental health in a solitary work environment. I was surprised to find that I even learned a lot about my native language and the importance of maintaining my English skills along with those of my second language. The presentations that I found the most valuable were not specific to translation but aimed to teach beginners how to run their business (e.g. negotiating rates, preparing for taxes, communicating with clients) and to acclimate them to the idea and practice of networking.
Networking is a necessary component of just about any profession, especially one that is almost entirely freelance based. It is also something that I have struggled with greatly. I arrived at the conference terrified that the entire experience would be wasted on me because I would be too shy to have a conversation with anybody. This fear was alleviated upon learning that several of the presentations were geared towards helping people who shared these fears. The presenters had great advice about authentic networking and one even had us practicing our conversational skills during the session, which was helpful though aside from that the ATA provided numerous opportunities to practice our newly learned networking skills. Every morning the attendees gathered for breakfast, this was a great time to engage in casual conversations and become acquainted with people. There were also coffee breaks in the exhibit hall, parties, and scheduled happy hours. I was fortunate enough to attend the annual Wordfast party which was a great event for networking because everyone was there for fun and socializing which made starting conversations much more comfortable for me.
Overall the most important thing that I gained from attending the conference was inspiration. I saw many presenters and spoke with many new people, and every one of them seemed to genuinely love doing what they do. They all had their own way of looking at translation as a career and their own story about how they made it happen. This experience made me recognize the multitude of possibilities that exist in this vocation and inspired me to begin pursuing it myself. I am now actively looking for ways to gain translation experience and putting a résumé together in hopes that I might attend next years conference as a professional rather than as a student.
I would strongly encourage any student interested in translating or interpreting to attend the annual ATA Conference. Even if they were undecided about it as a career, they stand to gain insight that will surely prove useful in any line of work. My advice to them would be to attend an array of presentations, even if the subject matter is intimidating. I learned so much from presentations that I was worried might be too advanced for me. Also, meet new people and spend time getting to know those around you, especially members of your local community. Becoming a familiar face will really make you feel like an insider and networking will be much easier.
I’d like to thank the CTA and MSU Denver for sponsoring my trip. It was a fantastic experience and I look forward to many more in the future.
Leeza Etzenhouser is an undergraduate student in Modern Languages at Metropolitan State University of Denver.