By Ms. Tram Bui, SEAL Division Administrator nominee

The typical role of a professional association is to enable individual practitioners to collaborate, learn from each other, and speak with a (hopefully) unified, collective voice. For 60 years, the American Translators Association (ATA) has been the voice of translators, and more recently, interpreters practicing in the US. Over the years, divisions were formed to make collaborations easier among linguists who speak particular languages or who have a common topical interest.

I lead a group that has petitioned the ATA to form a South East Asian Language Division, and our request has been accepted. Most professional linguists who work in these languages have learned their trade with limited access to formal skills training and have not had the opportunity to collaborate with their linguistic and cultural peers. Many, if not most, have earned a post-secondary degree, either at the bachelor or graduate level, but have struggled as they sought to provide services professionally. Most have been troubled when observing other linguists, who were providing services for a fee, fall short of industry standards. Both clients and the profession suffer when this happens.

Our Goal: Our vision is to promote professional practice standards that are consistent with the ATA’s stated norms and values. We want to do this in a forum, and in an adapted way that encourages learning with a culturally relevant approach.

Our Challenge: In the US, despite a large number of immigrants from this region who are monolingual and who often have a common experience of refugee status, there are relatively few members of the ATA who use these languages professionally. Most linguists who practice in these languages do so independently, without a connection to, or awareness of, a larger collective. There are several reasons for this, and in end, professionalism and job prospects suffer.

Our Request: If you work in a South East Asian Language, please join us! Whether you want to learn or share your experience with others, you have a place in our division. If you are an ATA member, regardless of your working languages, please consider supporting our new division by voting for its formation.  We hope to attract more linguists to the ATA, particularly those practicing a language used in any of the ASEAN countries.  The major languages in these SE Asian countries are Burmese, Hmong, Lao, Indonesian, Khmer, Malay, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese. Finally, if you have ideas for content that can be shared or be adapted, we would love that too. Please send me an email.

We RISE when we UPLIFT each other.  Thank you.

Tram Bui

Tram Bui is a translator and NBCMI Certified Medical Interpreter with over 15 years of experience. She was born in Saigon and emigrated in 1975 as a political refugee. She now lives in Arizona. She is a voting member of the American Translators Association (ATA), an active member of the Arizona Translators and Interpreters Association (ATI), Interpreters Guild of America (IGA), and the National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare (NCIHC). She can be reached by email at: teechedu@gmail.com