ATA, Conferences

We’ve Come a Long Way: The SLD’s 10th Anniversary

By Sylvia Korwek

Ten years ago in San Francisco, during ATA’s 38th Annual Conference, the Spanish Language Division was born. A Happy Birthday is in order.

This year’s reunion and reception was marked by the usual exuberance, music, dancing, foodstuffs, and raffle prizes brought by members from lands near and far. There were flag labels to wear on our name badges and warm embraces for virtual friends—those unseen colleagues who keep in touch through the listserv and who are always ready to solve a translation dilemma and offer congrats or condolences. The listserv, Espalista, has proved an incredible translators’ home companion: a virtual community where you find friendship, support, and information—and woe befall you if you commit a mistranslation! You’ll be the object of funny but well-aimed criticism in the form of a virtual tomato. (One woman once received so many tomatoes she made virtual gazpacho.)

But it wasn’t always so. In the mid-nineties, and for several years in a row, the Board of Directors of ATA kept turning down the request for a Spanish Language Division. The reason they offered was that ATA  already had too many divisions, and that they did not want to see the Association “fragmented.” It was a very hard excuse to accept, especially when your language group is the most numerous in ATA, and languages of much more limited diffusion, particularly those spoken in far fewer countries, had their own divisions to promote their interests and influence the quality of the offerings at ATA conferences.

At the conferences, the Spanish contingent—despite being the largest present, and the one that most heavily contributed to the financial well-being of the Association—saw its presentations suffer from a lack of appropriately sized rooms. Chairs were insufficient and we often spilled out into the hallways. Without an elected governing body and a mechanism, it was impossible to make the needs of the group heard and met. We refused to give up, however, feeling we were being consigned to second-class status. The solution, of course, was to vote new blood into the ATA Board.

The winds of change really blew in fresh, fast, and innovative when Anne MacFarlane became president. Attitudes turned 180 degrees, and all at once multiple divisions-in-the-making were started, nurtured for a year, and launched. Today every member is urged to “find his or her home within the association” by joining a special-interest division—or to join many or even all divisions. Furthermore, the $15 fee has been waived. And no mass defections or fragmentation have taken place.

Today, with ATA membership having reached the ten-thousand mark, room assignments for large contingents at the conferences have improved noticeably!