By Jacki Noh
It was almost 20 years ago when I attended my first ATA conference, held in Washington, D.C.; it was also my first trip to the nation’s capital. What a treat it was to see the unforgettable colors of autumn with its changing leaves. It had been nearly a decade since I had left Korea and last tasted an autumn such as that.
Although I started working as a part time translator and interpreter three-and-a-half years prior to this conference, financial and time commitments—more financial than time, for sure—made it difficult for me to attend. But after finding a place to stay with an ex-coworker and securing a cheap airfare, I eventually found myself at a welcome reception for first-time attendees on the conference’s first day. I felt nervous, and engaged in awkward small talk with other translators who looked equally lost and bewildered. It didn’t take very long to realize that I was not just the only Korean translator/interpreter at the welcoming reception, but also the only Korean translator/interpreter at the entire three-day conference!
Obviously, it was difficult to find any educational sessions during the conference that were directed towards Korean interpretation and translation. I envied translators going to sessions specifically designed for their language combinations. So instead I started making friends from all over the United States, England, France, Japan, and Germany, to name just a few of the countries represented; friends who would become future roommates and friends at the numerous subsequent ATA conferences I would attend.
As very little interest in my work was expressed among potential users and translation company representatives, I honestly didn’t think my trip to Washington was successful in terms of my business, despite the fact that I had made many new friends. However, those friends turned out to mean more than I would have ever thought, as—upon my return to San Francisco on what turned out to be the day of the Loma Prieta earthquake—they immediately tried to contact me, expressing concern for my safety. I was immensely touched and moved.
Not only did my professional career get a boost but more importantly, precious friendships developed during the conference. If I, the sole Korean translator, experienced those unexpected benefits, just imagine all the more numerous educational and networking opportunities you will have if your working language happens to be French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, or Arabic. Now I am a strong believer that there’s something for everyone at the ATA conference. Please come and experience it!