By Michael Schubert
As good translators, let us first clarify the terminology: newsgroup, message board, bulletin board, listserv, or mailing list? All of these terms are commonly used interchangeably, despite distinctions of interface and transmission protocol. What the NCTA maintains are properly called mailing lists. To the uninitiated, a mailing list may suggest a one-way conduit for announcements, reminders, or advertising. The reality of our mailing lists, however, is that they are open, email-based exchanges of professional questions and answers, commentaries, and insights. For this reason, I prefer to call them online forums.
The NCTA hosts three online forums:
- NCTA-Members Information exchange for all members of the NCTA, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ncta-members 
- Cibertertulia Spanish-language forum for NCTA members, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cibertertulia 
- EntreNous French-language forum for NCTA members, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/entrenous 
In addition, NCTA Board member, Publications Director (the force behind Translorial) and all-around dynamo Yves Avérous has created TransMUG (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/transmug ), a private mailing list for translators using the Macintosh platform.
Now that we’ve established what the NCTA online forums are, the next question is, What are they good for?
A great deal! A successful online forum is inclusive enough to be beneficial, yet exclusive enough to be pertinent. NCTA-Members brings together people who represent a great diversity but share a common profession and ties to a common locality. Cibertertulia, EntreNous, and TransMUG further refine this community based on language combination or computer operating system. Topics naturally include terminology queries, linguistic discussions, agency referrals, and computer advice on issues specific to multilingual users, but the scope is much broader than that. I have personally benefited from online discussions covering everything from international currency exchange to pricing models for various file formats and where to find quality home office furniture in the Bay Area.
While I believe the most important function of our online forums is to establish and sustain a sense of community among local translators and interpreters, remember that the lofty does not obscure the worldly: jobs are frequently posted to our forums, and I’m certainly not alone in tracing more than one lucrative client relationship to a posting on the NCTA online forum.
Our online forums are open to all NCTA members. You can choose to receive individual mails as they are posted, daily digests or no mail whatsoever—settings you can adjust as often as you like to suit your schedule and preferences. Currently, only about 40 percent of NCTA members take advantage of this member benefit, and so our message to the “silent majority” is: join the conversation!
To preview recent subject threads and see monthly statistics on volume, refer to the links provided above. To join, contact me at email@example.com . See you online!
“For those of us who don’t have the time to network in person, [the online forum] is the lifeline of an organization – we can ask questions, contribute thought, and read what’s going on in the professional lives of the other members. As an agency owner, I find it to be a great tool to find the right resources.”
-Dagmar Dolatschko, founder and president of NCTA corporate member Peritus Precision Translations, Inc. (San Carlos)