Posted by: patenttranslator | May 26, 2014

ITI Bulletin in UK v. ATA Chronicle in US, Which One of Them Do You Find More Interesting?


Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”
George Orwell

A reader of my blog sent me two issues of the ITI Bulletin, The Journal of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting in United Kingdom, probably because after reading a post in which I criticized an article in the American Translators Association’s magazine The ATA Chronicle, he wanted to induce (provoke?) me into comparing these two publications for translators.

So here it goes.

Although both magazines have about the same number of pages (40 in the ATA Chronicle, 44 in the ITI Bulletin), compared to the ATA Chronicle, the ITI Bulletin contains more than twice as many articles. This is partly because that the layout of the ATA Chronicle seems to be designed to fill up the number of available pages with large graphics (they may be cute, but they sure are huge), and many even larger advertisements. In the May 2014 issue I found the regular ad from the National Security Agency (a whole page), United States Department of State Office of Language Services, FM Transmitters-Receivers for Simultaneous Interpretation Equipment (both of these ads together take up a third of a page), and even one ad in Japanese aimed at Japanese speakers who want to learn English from something called BABEL UNIVERSITY Professional School of Translation (a quarter page), and from the ATA Professional Liability Insurance program (again, a whole page), among several other advertisements, many of them really large.

There were only two small advertisements in the January-February 2014 issue of the ITI Bulletin, one from a translation agency called ATLAS TRANSLATIONS offering training in Trados, and one from SHAW, WALKER, LEES, Chartered Certified Accountants, offering advice for businesses and taxpayers.

Since the advertisements in the ATA Chronicle thus take up more than ten times as much space, while a lot of space is also filled by large, cute graphics (typically one third of a page is taken up by a graphic introducing an article), one gets the distinct feeling that the ads and graphics are the main components of the magazine and the articles are just something that is put in there to fill up the remaining empty space.

Incidentally, this is the same feeling that I have when I watch for a few minutes what passes for news these days on one of the alphabet news channels on American TV: that the commercials are the main reason for the programming, and the news is just fluff designed to fill up the time until the next long series of commercials.

I usually find most interesting articles describing the daily life of actual translators. With the exception of the article that I criticized in my post, I did not find much of interest in the May 2014 issue of the ATA Chronicle (prominently listed on the cover of the ATA Chronicle were articles titled “Helping Researchers Get Published”, “Bilingual Writing for Big Business”, and “Biofeedback for Booth Jesters”, neither of which I read, I just very quickly scanned them), but I did find several interesting articles in both issues of the ITI Bulletin that I read (January-February 2014 and March-April 2014).

Two of these articles were describing the experience and incredible tenaciousness of blind interpreters, one was an article by Judy A. Jenner, who I think lives here in US and who also writes for the ATA Chronicle, and one article was written in first person by Jessica Luke, who is a translator who is registered blind. I found both of these articles really fascinating.

Another article in the ITI Bulletin that I personally found interesting was titled “Believe in change” (which made me cringe as I started thinking about Obama’s hopey-changey pre-election promises, every single one of them broken in due course), was written by Valeria Aliperte, an Italian translator living in London who talked in it about the importance of a healthy diet (Mediterranean in this case), and things like regular exercising and the sleep routine.

I always read with great interest every word of articles about the healthy lifestyle of translators, (which are sometime published even in the ATA Chronicle when they have enough space in there between full-page advertisements from NSA, Trados and other best friends of every translator).

I’m not sure why I read these things because I generally completely ignore all of the helpful advice.

Well, except for the advice to hit the gym at least four times a week. I have been doing that for quite some time, although I have to pace myself now, in an ultimately futile attempt to postpone the effects of unhealthy diet combined with unhealthy (sedentary) lifestyle of this veteran translator.

Unlike in the ITI Bulletin, there was not much in the last issue of the ATA Chronicle that I personally found worth reading.

Some of the columns in it are probably read by very few people. Take the example of the New Queries in the regular Translation Inquirer column in the ATA Chronicle by John Decker:

“New Queries – “Breather roof membranes,” as in “vapor barriers and breather roof membranes for sloping roofs as underlay for clay,” posed a problem for one of our colleagues going into Lithuanian. Please assist.”

Let’s say that the readership of the ATA Chronicle consists of about 10,000 people. How many of them will be interested in this particular thorny translation issue? Half a dozen? Possibly less. There was a need to have this column on a printed page before translators started using Internet about two decades ago, but at this point, I see the continuing presence of it as more evidence of the need to fill the space between the advertisements.

The only regular column that I still usually read in the ATA Chronicle is the Dictionary Review, mostly out of nostalgia because I have not bought a dictionary in at least 10 years now.

I realize that translators cannot expect journalism of the kind that was so succinctly defined by George Orwell from magazines that are published by organizations in which large translation agencies wield enormous power due to the financial advantage they have over mere translators. I personally think that neither the ATA nor the ITI should allow translation agencies to be “corporate members” of an organization of translators.

Only individual translators should be members of an organization of translators. Otherwise, it is an organization of translation agencies. The American Bar Association does not allow mega law firms to be members, the American Medical Association does not have among its members huge health insurance companies and big hospitals, etc., for obvious reasons.

The corporate infiltration of what are officially organizations of translators is evident also in the paucity of articles about important issues that would be really of interest to translators on both sides of the pond.

From what I have seen, the ATA Chronicle prints a lot of what is simply just PR for translation agencies. Even when the articles are about important issues, issues that are often discussed by translators on their blogs and on social media, such as CATs or MT, these issues are always presented from the viewpoint of a large translation agency. To paraphrase George Orwell, this is the way how these issues are presented in the ATA Chronicle (when they are mentioned there at all):“MT and CATs gooood, pointing out that MT is crude and doesn’t work or resisting demands for discounts for “fuzzy matches” baaaad“, talking disparagingly about the wisdom of processing of the MT detritus baaaad – all translators shall become MT post-processors one day soon, all resistance is futile and anyway, it will be goood for all of us!”

Fortunately, we have our blogs and our social media where we can try to address issues that are never critically addressed in the printed publications (I am speaking mostly about the ATA Chronicle in this case because I only read two issues of the ITI Bulletin).

But would it be too much to expect fewer articles written by agency representatives who talk down to translators as if they were morons, fewer full- and half-page advertisements, and at least a few more personal interest stories about translators and interpreters in a magazine that bills itself as “The Voice of Interpreters and Translators”, which is the motto of the ATA Chronicle?

I also don’t understand why neither the ATA Chronicle nor the ITI Bulletin is available online. Could somebody explain it to me? Does it have to do with money? If they were online and anybody could access them, people would not be willing to pay the yearly membership fee? Wouldn’t that mean that there are really no other benefits to being a member other than the fact that all members receive a newsletter?

Or are there also other reasons for this?

More than 30 years ago, before there was Internet, a Japanese technical translator by the name of Donald Philippi, who was not an ATA member, but who did read the ATA Chronicle at least occasionally and went to at least one ATA conference before his untimely death, published almost single-handedly in San Francisco a magazine for translators called “Technical Japanese Translation”. The magazine, which was mailed to far-flung paying members and contributors on several continents back then, is now available thanks to Waseda University online here to anybody who would like to compare the issues that translators were facing three decades ago to those that we are dealing with now.

The only thing available online to non-members who would like to read the ATA Chronicle or the ITI Bulletin is a subscription form to be filled out and mailed with payment to an address in US or UK by those who would like to receive paper copies of these magazines.

I wonder, will archived copies of these publications be available online 30 years from now?


  1. The ITI magazine always has interesting articles to read of the personal experience kind. The ATA Chronicle seems to be more and more going down the road of stating the bleedin’ obvious. From the latest issue: ‘Please make sure the invoice number is not a duplicate’. Mmm, OK, I’ll try that, thanks! ‘It is usually OK to check with your project manager if you have any doubts […] related to an assignment’. Once more, thanks! I actually do love the dictionary review and translation problems pages though – in fact, these are sometimes the only pages in either magazine that actually talk about the mechanics of translation rather than translation as an abstract concept.

    The ITI magazine is an engaging and appealing read. I always find at least two or three articles of direct relevance and use to my translating. The ATA Chronicle is more a quick browse through rather than a cover-to-cover read.


    • So one vote so far for ITI.


    • Sure it’s a quick browse (for a lot of us who already know most of what it prints). Nearly everything I see on or off the Internet these days is a quick browse as far as I’m concerned, because I am constantly flooded with stuff to read and only have time to quickly browse 95% of it.


  2. Good morning Steve,
    The Chronicle is available online now, to paying members. You can opt out of the print version to help ATA save money and perhaps put it in to its media department.
    Thank you for your posts about the ATA Chronicle. The ads are quite large, and they do seem to act as filler; they are also always the same. At this point I would like to see some different ads as I’ve memorized the ones that are always in there. I would love to see an article by you in the Chronicle! It would be nice to have a couple more hard hitting articles with real meat in them instead of somewhat dull articles that take some effort to get all the way through.


  3. “The Chronicle is available online now, to paying members.”

    Oh, yes, you are right, I forgot about that. That’s a good thing.

    If they also made old issues accessible for free online, that would be an even better thing.


  4. I believe contributors to the ITI Bulletin are paid for their efforts whereas ATA does not pay. Another important factor. I could be mistaken on that point though.


    • I was mistaken – contributors to the ITI Bulletin are not paid – see Nelia’s comment below. Bang goes that theory.


      • Unless things have changed, some contributors to the Bulletin are paid: those who write whole articles. If you contribute to a piece or write a news update for a regional group, that’s not paid. ATA is not paid. I just submitted one for the July issue.


      • I look forward to reading it.


  5. ‘It is usually OK to check with your project manager if you have any doubts”

    That the ATA Chronicle publishes condescending statements like this in its articles says volumes about who runs the ATA.


    • It might also say a little bit (maybe not volumes) about the interest “who[ever] runs the ATA” has in helping beginners to the industry orient themselves.

      Of course, those of us who are old vets have a great interest in not encouraging people trying to enter the industry. More competition.


      • Well, it’s more like the entire newsletter is useful only if you are a total beginner.

        But what about the rest of us?

        Should we even bother with and pay for the membership if the entire organization is geared towards newbies to prepare deliciously tender meat for hungry agencies?


      • I take it you are not an ATA member. Over the years, I have noticed that many translators, especially very experienced ones, don’t see the importance of belonging to such organizations; they prefer to go it alone. And they are probably right in their instances; they can do fine on their own with no organizational ties. But most ATA members (and many are long-standing ones, like me) can enumerate a number of reasons for continuing their membership.

        Selfishly considered, having a certified membership and being listed as a certified translator of your language pair/pairs does bring in some work. (Yes, there are a lot of valid questions about the ATA certification method, and about whether it really means anything, but it does mean something to potential clients, and that’s the important thing. It’s like those signs on business establishments saying “In business doing X since 1985.” Who knows what that really means, but it brings in some customers.) But if you’re doing fine with your present situation, great!

        Also, there are benefits to translators who like to network with other translators. I have observed that a lot of freelancers hate to network; they prefer to beaver away 12 hours a day, 365 days a year, or whatever, paying no attention to any colleagues. But more sociable folks do like to network.

        And less selfishly, supporting translation organizations even though one is not directly benefiting very much oneself from them has some altruistic value. Whether a particular organization such as the ATA has enough value to the industry as a whole that it is worth it to an individual to shell out an annual membership fee is a valid question, of course, which would lead to a very long discussion, the result of which would probably be that “lone-wolf” type translators would still not be persuaded to sacrifice some of their hard-earned cash for that purpose.


  6. Perhaps the names of the organisations hide a clue in that the ATA implies that it is an (industry) ASSOCIATION, whereas the ITI suggests that it is a (professional) INSTITUTE. If this is the case, I, like you Steve, am at a complete loss to understand why the latter has ‘corporate’ members, other than for the wrong reasons.

    Or is it that everybody has accepted the ridiculous notion suggested by a US court that corporate entities are persons now (which makes me wonder why they are not allowed to vote – oh, that’s right, they don’t need a vote, they buy their political influence with money and lobbyists :-). That wouldn’t happen within an industry association or a professional institute, of course!


    • As they say in Texas when it comes to the question of whether corporations are people: “I’ll believe it when they execute one”.


  7. I have never read the ATA Chronicle (not a member), so I could not compare; however, I can confirm that the ITI Bulletin is a great read. There are articles for everyone, reports on regional groups and networks, announcements of events, etc.
    I think the editor is paid, but I don’t think this is the case of the contributors themselves: I contributed to an article on diversification for the latest issue, and it wasn’t paid (I was not expecting it to be).


  8. OK, so it’s 2 votes for the ITI Bulletin and no votes for the ATA Chronicle so far.


  9. @Translation with Chemistry

    I wrote for about half a dozen publications for translators over the years, including the ATA Chronicle, never got paid.

    It’s a noble tradition not to pay for contribution.


  10. @Zenner

    “I take it you are not an ATA member.”

    I am an ATA member, have been since 1987, mostly because we don’t have anything else in this country.

    It would make no difference to my business if I decided to drop the membership because most of my income is from direct customers and since none of them asked me in more than 20 years whether I was an ATA member, they probably don’t even know it exists.

    And as I get plenty of networking and gossiping urges out of my system from this blog alone, that would not be a valid reason for me to be an ATA member either.

    But as long as I am a member and pay them money every year, I have every right to criticize things that I don’t like about the ATA, such as a really stupid article in the Chronicle.

    So far I did it 4 times in 4 years on this blog (I try not to overdo it).

    But trust me, a lot of experienced translators are really angry at ATA, and that is why they are not members, see a comment of one such member in the link below. ATA should try at least to have a few articles of interest to real translators rather than just printing the same old tired crap that only clueless newbies will read, otherwise, what will become of the newsletter and the entire ATA?


  11. I’d say the density point takes the Bulletin over the top if you have to pick a winner, but that I find things to read in the Chronicle too. Articles by Tony Beckwith are worth reading.
    One difference I note is that the Bulletin has news and updates about regional group activity in every issue. The Chronicle has none of that.
    On a general point, it’s much harder to write for experts, isn’t it. Easy to write for newbies. I hadn’t submitted anything to The Chronicle for ages but floated an idea recently with another author and the editor jumped at it. I hope you won’t think it’s of interest only to newbies once you see it!


  12. Yes, I like Tony Beckwidth’s articles too.

    There are so many translators who happen to be talented writers, I wonder why the Chronicle has so few contributions from people like that.

    So it’s 2 votes for ITI Bulletin and 1 for ATA Chronicle at this point.

    (And I am sure that your article will be of interest to translators who are not severely mentally challenged, which seemed to be the target audience of the article I criticized my post).


  13. […] ITI Bulletin in UK v. ATA Chronicle in US, Which One of Them Do You Find More Interesting? 15 FREE Tools for Translators (and Not Only) that You Might Not Know You Need Smaller, More Frequent Transactions Will Drive Translation Market Growth Love what you do and do it with love! – Interview with Caroline Alberoni Terminology: Talking with the Pros: Interview with Rodolfo Maslias Urgency surcharges – an anachronism in today’s fast-paced world? How to use SMART goals for your freelance translation business Translator training: Olga Arakelyan on the power of social media Books on My Shelves – The Bright Side of Freelance Translation What’s segmentation and does it go with selling translation? Tweet TraduCV and let the world know you’re a translator! Food for thought: what if agencies were more transparent? Google+ for translators – Interview with Olga Arakelyan Improving the MT Technology to Translator Dialogue Canada’s Languages: English, French and…Inuktitut? Working for Translation Agencies – And Loving It? How big data is changing how we study languages SDL Trados Studio 2014: shortcuts and the ribbon When someone invites you to a networking event Customer satisfaction surveys—are they worth it? An Alarm Over the Incursion of Foreign Words Submitting to a Translation Contest and Rights 7 social media tips to help the busy translator Xbench plug-in for SDL Trados Studio 2014 Tina and Mouse: The translation’s finished ITI Scottish Network Newsletter May 2014 Choosing the right localization conference Let’s talk about the free translation test Translation Cartoons: Tina and Mouse Direct clients… the freelancer’s dream 9 Made-Up Languages from Books How Many Calls Should I Make? Translation Terms for Beginners Improving Human Translator PR Working with Studio Alignment Tongue twister extraordinaire! Do you ever feel like a fraud? Translation and Copywriting Around the web – May 2014 Love your Language Lovers Overwhelming Cheapness […]


  14. I’m afraid I find the ITI’s Bulletin a parochial trade mag.

    Steve, please allow me to introduce you to the CIOL’s The Linguist:

    Admittedly, not just an institute for translators but one with no corporate members, and the mag is available to all online. Hope you enjoy it.


  15. Thanks for the link. Now all I have to do is figure out how to read this thing ….


  16. Just click on the arrow on the side of the page to turn it and click on the page itself to zoom in.

    I also like their use of decent professional photos.


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