NCTA in the USA

By Catherine Theilen-Burke, with database assistance from Brigitte Reich

We often try to define ourselves as an organization: Who are we? What is our mission? What are our individual interests and passions? In this two-part series, prompted by a recent flurry of emails in our online discussion group, we’ll tackle something far simpler: Where do we live? And why, for those of us who no longer reside in Northern California, do we choose to keep up our NCTA membership? In September, we’ll look at our overseas contingent. To start us off, though, Catherine Theilen-Burke examines our all-American diaspora.

A somewhat surprising one out of four NCTA members lives outside of Northern California. Here’s how we break down: of our nearly 500 individual members, 459 live in the United States and 28 overseas. Of our domestic membership, 416 live in California, and 43 out of state.Within California, 363 live in Northern California, and 53 live in Central and Southern California. Within Northern California, 337 live in the Bay Area and 26 in the Sacramento region. And finally, within the Bay Area, 98 live in San Francisco, 94 in the East Bay, 21 in Marin, 40 in the South Bay, 60 on the Peninsula, and 24 in Sonoma.

Long-time Northern California resident Maren Mentor, who recently moved to rural Pennsylvania, provided an insight into NCTA membership. “I consider NCTA the most active ATA chapter, have made many personal and professional friends over the years, and appreciate member benefits such as the email list and Translorial,” she says. Maren has maintained her ties with her NCTA friends and says that the more inclusive and active the email list, the better. Her work for translation companies does not reflect the economic situation in her current region, which is “rural, economically depressed, and monocultural.” Maren’s situation demonstrates that translators are expanding their possibilities of where they can live, even taking advantage of places where a good standard of living need not depend solely on the performance of the local economy.

Chantal Wilford, a resident of Colorado, has kept ties for similar reasons. “I’ve kept my membership because the association is active, and appears to be known and respected by other translators in the U.S. I’ve come to know, recognize, and respect many of our members and I continue to get work from people who find me via NCTA’s online referral database.” For Chantal, the concept of an online community is attractive; getting to know members over a period of time is rewarding and the business contacts useful. The Entre Nous French online discussion group is particularly active, with members putting out queries and generating responses on a regular basis. The brainstorming initiated by these queries offers lessons in approaching material that is often difficult to decipher.

Steve Vitek is another NCTA member who no longer lives in Northern California, having moved to Virginia a few years back. He wrote about his experience in an earlier Translorial article entitled “Home is Where You Hook up your Modem.” Steve’s reasons for moving involved quality-of-life issues for himself and his family, who are now thriving in a seaside area that he says is not so different from Northern California—except in terms of the cost of living. Fortunately, he has kept virtually all of the clients he had here in Northern California; another indication that in our electronically connected age, location doesn’t really matter if you can consistently deliver quality work on time and have a good relationship with your clients.

NCTA is represented in the Great Northwest by several members, including, among others, George Fowler and the recently relocated Tony and Sylvie Roder. George resides in Spokane, Washington, where he is currently on the board of directors of fellow-ATA chapter Northwest Translators and Interpreters Association. After living in the Asia Pacific region for more than three decades and working for most of that period in the commercial banking sector, George comes to translation with related experience in four Asian langugages. George joined NCTA when he first started translating in view of the correlation between his language specialties and the translation needs of the large ethnic Asian population of the Northern California area covered by NCTA. As with others, George cites a diverse membership as being a powerful benefit of belonging to organizations such as NCTA.

To paraphrase one of our most inventive linguists, Dr. Seuss, “From here to there, from there to here, NCTA translators are everywhere!”