NOTIS Conference Report: Shedding Light on an Invisible Profession

This conference report was written by Nika Allahverdi.

The Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society (NOTIS) Annual Conference brings translators, interpreters, and language professionals under one roof to discuss the topics, trends, and challenges of working in the T&I industry. The thirty-year-old association attracted a motivated crowd to Washington’s Museum of Flight in Seattle for the two-day conference. The event offered sessions in a multi-track program – one for translators and one for interpreters. And it allowed participants to choose their own sessions in either. The conference is fitting for anyone looking to break into translation and interpretation work, to learn from those who have been in the field for decades, to network with translation and interpretation colleagues, and to look for new opportunities.

Missed the conference or just curious about what went on? NOTIS-sponsor Nimdzi has got you covered.

Image source: Nimdzi Insights

Translation, in a positive light

Setting the tone with her keynote speech, Dr. Karen McMillan Tkaczyk, trained chemist, technical translator, editor, and American Translators Association Secretary, presented an insightful talk titled, “Translation Bloopers are Deaf: Long Live Abundant New Ways of Showcasing Yourself and our Profession.”

You have probably heard the phrase, “The best translators and interpreters are those who are invisible.”

If this rings a bell, you know that the best translations sound natural and not like translations at all. The line of work takes mastery of working languages and a life-long dedication to learning.  And yet, those working behind the scenes are often not seen, unless, of course, something goes direly wrong.

In her talk, Dr. Tkaczyk goes off a keen observation: we often hear about translation when a disaster occurs. The photos and memes of “translation fails” are, unfortunately, the content that gets the most engagement on social media platforms in the industry. Why is that, and how can we showcase the work in a more positive light? Dr. Tkaczyk’s opening speech brings our attention to this question.

Dr. Karen McMillan Tkaczyk presenting her keynote speech. Image source: Nimdzi Insights

There are a number of actions linguists can take to show the work more positively. Here are some takeaways from the talk:

  1.     Promote your colleagues

Show some love for the people you work with. Perhaps you have a talented editor, or a project manager who is on top of his or her work. Your reviews and recommendations on their sites and on LinkedIn profiles are a simple way you can promote their work.  And it brings visibility to an “invisible” profession.

  1.     Refer your colleagues

There will be times where translators are overloaded and cannot take on more work. When you cannot take a job, refer a colleague. There are plenty of newcomers and graduate students starting out in their careers, and a referral gives them a leg-up. If you have never worked with a particular person, mention it and let the client consider whether or not to hire. Referrals are another simple way you can add value to others and the translation community at large.

Image source: Nimdzi Insights

  1.     Promoting yourself

Professional linguists have updated websites, which gain them trust and provide a place to showcase skills. Why not upload a video of yourself, adding a personal touch to your site? Portfolios are a great marketing tool. In Europe, it is common for translators to bring their portfolios to events and lay them out on tables. While language service provider NDAs make it challenging to get permission and sample your work, there is no harm in asking. If not, you may find published work online and leverage it in your portfolio. Dr. Tkaczyk shared several options for creating online portfolios:

Mercedes Guhl‘s presentation on “Enduring the Long Run: Translating Long Projects.” Image source: Nimdzi Insights

  1.     Ask for testimonials

Asking for reviews and testimonials showcases your professionalism. Make a space for them on your site. They can work in your favor for a rate increase. Ask clients if you can use their LinkedIn profile photo. Clients can also generate new leads for you. Some linguists even add a message to the bottom of their email signatures saying that referrals are the highest compliments.  

  1.     Be proactive

Activism can take on many forms. Voice your opinions with constructive criticism by writing to editors of magazines. There is much talk on the profession, machine translation, mistranslations and so on. Activism can also include political activism. For T&I Advocacy Day in 2017, nearly 50 translators with the ATA made their way to Capitol Hill and met with Congressional offices and Executive Branch agencies to advocate for the profession with topics including inaccuracies in prevailing wages rate determinations for translators and interpreters, language services procurement, and machine translation versus human translation. By being proactive, you’d be shedding more light on the industry and on your work.

Nimdzi’s very own Nika Allahverdi & Nicole Arrington. Nimdzi is a proud sponsor of the NOTIS Conference. Image source: Nimdzi Insights

While Dr. Tkaczyk’s speech presented participants with much practical advice, the conference had more to offer for translators and interpreters, especially for those looking to learn about the T&I industry. Other sessions  included: “Breaking into New Fields in Translation,” “Breaking into New Fields in Interpreting,” “Interpreting for Forensic Drug Analysis,” “Translating Long Projects,” “Interpreting for Immigration Court,” “Introduction to Practical Subtitling,” “Interpreting for Special Education,” “Editing and Proofreading,” and “Common Pitfalls in EN<>ES Translation.”

Deborah Wexler‘s presentation on “Introduction to Practical Subtitling.” Image source: Nimdzi Insights

The NOTIS Conference also holds a job fair, provides continuing education credits, and reserves a space for sponsors and exhibitors. Most importantly, it builds community and provides a space for professionals to share, learn, and grow in their careers.


This conference report was researched and written by Nika Allahverdi. If you wish to find out more about the NOTIS Annual Conference in Seattle, please reach out to Nika at [email protected].


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