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UMTIA: Upper Midwest Translators & Interpreters Association, A Chapter of the ATA

My Experience at the ATA62 Conference

21 Apr 2022 3:40 PM | Mary Barrera Cobos (Administrator)

By: Guest Author Elena Stuart – CoreCHI™

November, 2021

I have always had an interest in language and began studying English in fifth grade.  Later, I completed a Diploma on Translation at Moscow State Linguistic University in English and French.  I began working as a Russian medical interpreter in 2018 after spending my career to that point as a librarian where I also frequently used my language training.  Though I have had the opportunity to attend other professional conferences, this was the first time I had attended an ATA Conference.  After registering, UMTIA awarded two scholarships for the conference, and I was fortunate to win one of them.


Since this was my first ATA conference, I started my preparation by searching the conference website. I was pleased to see that the information was well organized, easy to find with the chat tool allowing communication with any attendee, the scheduling of a meeting, or raising a question. ATA had established special seminars and mentoring for Newbies.  These were helpful.  I learned that each attendee would wear a colored dot to indicate their language – yellow for Russian.  As a result, I was able to identify and meet with other Russian interpreters and translators.  ATA also provides information about the attendees and a means to contact them in advance or during the conference.  I was able to use this online feature to make contact and to meet others.  Prior to attending, it is important to fully review the seminar offerings to select those that are most applicable to one’s professional goals.  There were 119 seminars offered and I attended fourteen of them.  Due to the pace of the conference this prior planning is critical. Later, I learned that all attendees would be able to access other sessions within a 6-month period after the conference which is great.


The most intriguing seminar was (081) The Translation School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  This was a seminar on the process and results of a Biblical text's translation into several thousand languages which involves many cultural and linguistic considerations and nuances.  The presenter

showed examples of languages that have particular and sometimes unique capacities to communicate certain biblical messages in exceptionally enriching ways that other languages cannot.  The tool can be seen at Jost Zetzsche was a very enthusiastic presenter and if you have the opportunity to hear him, I would strongly recommend it.

The second seminar that I particularly enjoyed was (011) Vegetative-Vascular What? Navigating Unusual Conditions and Treatments in Eastern European Medical Records (presenters – Maria Guzenko and Anna Steingart).  I lived in Russia most of my life and had many experiences with the Russian healthcare system and then came to the US where there were obvious differences in the diagnoses, treatments, and attitudes compared to those in Eastern Europe.  Because of the differences in healthcare systems there is a lack of correlation between Russian diagnosis and American diagnosis, procedures, and treatment.  The presenter was able to provide on-point interpretation examples to show how accurate interpretation should be handled.  This seminar helped to highlight how a native-born individual through their own experience can provide cultural context and interpretation to ensure that patients and their American doctors will receive accurate medical interpretation and clear understanding.

The third intriguing seminar was (029) Interpreting for Spiritual Care in Health Care (presenter – Tatiana Cestari). To provide good service in the role of an interpreter literal interpretation is not enough. Cultural awareness and capability to interpret content are particularly important. Some diagnoses are traumatic, and an interpreter can provide culturally sensitive empathy in working with the doctor and the patient. Interpreters must manage these encounters in a compassionate yet professional manner as health care interpreters play a key role in the patient’s experience during such emotional moments. Russia is a multireligious country with a variety of beliefs (secular, Orthodox, Muslim and Buddhist). Thus, understanding how an individual with say an Orthodox background should handle religious issues when dealing with someone of another faith is a critical aspect of culturally sensitive interpretation. Consequently, it was helpful to understand the implications of interpreting prayers, rites, and spiritual readings in hospital settings, including their importance to the well-being of patients and taboo status in the profession. Being an excellent speaker Tatiana Cestari showed her knowledge and expertise dealing with spiritual care.

Other Highlights

Besides these specific seminars, the conference was insightful in highlighting the variety of areas where language skills can be used (localization, subtitling, translation using a particular expertise (pharmacology), and conference interpreting.  Other seminars provided an overview of useful tools for a medical interpreter (online tools such as codes for diseases, codes for billing) and resources to expand medical knowledge (FOAM – Free Open Access Medical Education).


Finally, I found attending the ATA conference to be a valuable personal and professional experience that delivered a good boost for my professional development, interest and motivation. I hope to attend the next conference in Los Angeles.


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