On April 6, 2022, the ATA presented an online seminar about how translators can improve their chances of passing translation tests.  The presenter was Marina Ilari, an ATA certified English>Spanish translator with over 16 years of experience. She is the chief executive officer of Terra Translations and co-host of En Pantuflas, a podcast about translation. She also has had experience drafting translation tests.

According to Marina, translation tests are a kind of audition to see if the translator and the company are a good match for each other. The test evaluates  not only language proficiency but also other qualities such as the ability to follow directions or to communicate effectively.

Marina discussed some of the myths surrounding translation tests. One common myth is that they are used to get translations done without paying for them. While it is impossible to say this never happens, Marina believes that most serious companies would not engage in such behavior since it is unethical and against industry standards. Another myth is that the reviewers who evaluate the tests have a vested interest in seeing prospective translators fail so as to reduce competition for work.  Marina does not ascribe to this belief since most reviewers are usually in-house linguists, quality assurance professionals or freelancers with a long-standing relationship with the company. Creating translation tests  is an investment that the company makes in itself and it is to the company’s advantage if the prospective translator passes the test.

Translation tests may be general in nature but often contain short segments of texts that test for specific subject matter expertise. As regards tests for specific subject matter expertise, Marina thought doing  two or three of them would be sufficient since most companies do not pay vendors for taking tests. Generally tests should not exceed 500 words and are usually 300 words or less. If you are requested to do more, a conversation with the client may be in order. Timelines vary from test to test; some may give you 48 hours and others as much as two weeks. Occasionally you may be asked to book a two-hour window within which time you have to complete the test.

Some of Marina’s tips for successful test-taking include the following:

  • Make sure to read and follow instructions and check for any specific requirements for formatting, timeline, character restrictions, etc. Be careful with Excel files because sometimes the instructions are at the bottom of the page.
  • Research the client thoroughly. Try to determine who their target client is and if you fit into those parameters. Also research the company’s payment practices on sites such as and
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example, does the client provide glossaries or style guides? What level of formality does the client require? Does the client have a preferred terminology? By asking questions like these, you show that you are proactive and care about overall quality.  Be careful not to ask questions that are already answered in the email containing the test.
  • Be attentive to detail: if there are segments in the translation that can’t be translated exactly or are ambiguous, leave a sentence or two about your word choices and how you addressed these issues. If more context is required to translate certain phrases, leave a comment to that effect. Do not put your comments in parentheses in the text. Do not use track changes or highlight the text in question.  For word documents, the comment can be inserted into the file or may be put into the body of the email that you send to return the test. For excel spreadsheet, comments can be inserted into a separate column.
  • If you find what you think are mistakes in the test, bring this to the attention of the company but do so in the form of a question with a phrase such as “Could this be a typo?“ Be very sure that it’s a mistake before citing it as such.
  • Proofreading: there should be at least two rounds of proofreading. Stepping aside from the project for a short time is useful in that you come back to it with fresh eyes.
  • Punctuality: keeping to the deadline is as important as the quality of the text. For a translation of 500 words or less, a turnround time of three to five days would be normal.
  • Feedback: always ask for feedback on your test. If you pass the test, find out if the reviewer made any comments on your test. If you do not pass the test, ask if you can re-take it or take a different test. Two weeks is usually enough time to wait if you have not already received any feedback. Remember that the managers don’t know you and may be hesitant to work with you so you need to be proactive.

The presentation was interesting in that it pointed out how translation tests can be an opportunity as opposed to just an unpleasant chore. ATA member who may want to view a video of the presentation can do so at no charge by logging into the ATA database.

Patricia Stumpp





Readers of the Gotham Translator have been offered complimentary tickets to the Opening Night event of PEN World Voices, a  a literary festival bringing more than 80 writers from 25 countries to New York, May 11-14, 2022. The event features this year’s Nobel Prize winner — Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak GurnahThe event is scheduled for Wednesday, May 11 (7 pm) at NYU Skirball Center. The details of the event are below:


Join us for Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah’s first U.S. appearance since his momentous Nobel Prize win last October, when the Swedish academy lauded him for “his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.” An author of 10 critically acclaimed novels, including Paradise(1994), Gravel Heart (2017), and Afterlives (2020), Gurnah has been amplifying, rewriting, and centering subjugated histories for the entirety of his career. His vital writing chronicles an Africa on the brink of change while drawing light on the legacies and consequences of European colonialism. This very special opening night event celebrating Gurnah’s body of work and its place within a vibrant and rich canon of African literature, features readings, performances, and conversation with Booker Prize shortlisted novelist Nadifa Mohamed and others. ASL interpretation provided by Pro Bono ASL.


For more information, click here.




The Circle’s annual business meeting occurred virtually on January 26, 2022. Twenty-five members were in attendance. This was an opportunity to look back at the achievements of the prior year, discuss the Board’s plans for 2022 and to take questions and suggestions from our members.

Milena Savova, in her final year as Circle President, opened the meeting with an introduction of the current Board: Marcel Votlucka, Vice President; Matt Goldstein, Secretary; Alexia Klein, the incoming Program Director; and Sepideh Moussavi, Treasurer. Natalia Postrigan, our administrator, was also acknowledged for her pivotal role in the running of the organization, particularly as regards membership.

Looking back on 2021, Milena mentioned the Circle’s success in maintaining regular monthly meetings with extraordinary speakers in the midst of the pandemic. Two in-person meetings were also held at our new meeting venue at Hunter College. While in 2020 the annual central park summer picnic did not occur, in 2021 it took place with the Circle covering the expenses of the event. The December in person holiday event also was held successfully in December 2021 with over 30 people in attendance. Other important events included the redevelopment of the website and the increase in corporate memberships during the year.

Serene Su, the outgoing Program Director, reported on her two-year tenure in the position. Some of her outstanding achievements include her ability to attract prominent speakers from around the globe for our monthly meetings. The on-line nature of most of the meetings also helped to attract attendees from outside the tri-state area, many of whom then became members. The fact that Serene was able to achieve all this in the face of some serious personal challenges that she faced during the year was indeed remarkable. Milena acknowledged how Serene’s significant contributions to the Circle during her tenure had gone far beyond the call of duty.

Matt reported on his work to redevelop the website which now has much improved functionality for meeting announcements and payment of membership dues. He also reminded both new and old members to update their profiles on the site so as to increase their searchability. Matt also assisted Serene in the planning of the summer picnic which made use of his background in event planning.

Sepideh Moussavi then reported on the Circle’s financial condition. During 2021 progress was made on cutting expenses, including the cancellation of QuickBooks which had not been used for some time. The Circle has a substantial balance in its checking and savings accounts as well as a healthy amount in the CD that represents the proceeds of the Charles Stern bequest. Under the terms of the bequest, those funds are  earmarked to help to fund the professional development expenses of emerging translators. Due to the lack of onsite translation conferences during the pandemic, the funds have not been recently utilized but as Covid recedes it is expected that appropriate expenditures will be made from the fund.

Marcel spoke of the Circle’s initiative in January and February 2021 to contact U.S. senators about proposed legislation that would impact the status of language professionals as employees rather than sole proprietors and individual providers. The ATA has been active in that effort as well. He also reminded members that there is a social media page on the website. The Circle would like to find a member willing to take responsibility for increasing the organization’s visibility on social media outlets such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

Alexia Klein-Goldberg, the incoming Program Director and former Secretary of the Circle, spoke of her ideas for monthly meetings in 2022 which included tax planning, marketing, localization, technology and preparation for ATA certification exams. Member Jeffrey Tao also suggested copyright rules as a potential topic for a meeting. Happy hour events outside of the monthly meeting schedule could be reinstituted once the pandemic subsides. The possibility of combined online/in person meetings was also discussed but it appears that there are technology challenges at our Hunter venue that need to be addressed in order to proceed in that direction.

Members who belong both to the Circle and to the ATA were encouraged to check the box pertaining to rebates to local chapters when renewing their ATA memberships as that increases the flow of funds into the Circle’s coffers.

I, your Gotham editor, would like to remind members that I am always looking for original articles on translation and interpretation written by you for eventual publication in the Gotham. Even rough drafts of some special experience that you might have had in the course of your professional life would be welcome. I am happy to work with authors on the editing of rough drafts to get them ready for publication. Aside from providing interesting reading for our membership, such  articles increase the author’s visibility within the profession, potentially leading to increased business opportunities.

Members are always encouraged to submit any suggestions they might have to any member of the Board for their consideration.


Patricia Stumpp





On January 22, 2022, I attended an online seminar organized by the literary division of the ATA. Two seasoned literary translators, Shelley Fairweather-Vega and Mercedes Guhl, offered the attendees a primer on how to find material for translation, how to get it published and how to get hired as a literary translator. The discussion addressed the following topics:

Public domain texts: The definition of what texts are in the public domain varies from country to country, although a commonly used benchmark is 100 years after the death of the author. These texts present attractive possibilities for translation since the translator doesn’t have to deal with copyright issues or translation rights. However, over the years language and points of view change, which may present a challenge to today’s  translators. Lesser-known works by well-known authors could also be attractive targets for new translations. Digital libraries such as Project Gutenberg may help the translator to unearth hidden gems not yet translated.

New works by contemporary authors: Translators should read extensively in both source and target languages and follow online journals and book reviews which can help identify hot trends in source language literature. Social media platforms like Facebook can be used to contact authors, many of whom are flattered and happy to be contacted by translators for an eventual translation of their works.

Invitation by the author to translate a non-published work: While an offer from the author to translate a non-published work can be a good experience, there is always the possibility that the author will not like the translation. A good course of action may be to translate a sample chapter to see if your styles are compatible. You can ask the author to pay for your sample chapter.

Working with publishing houses: it is not easy to pitch to publishers with a translation project because they generally work only with vetted translators. However, there are possibilities for other kinds of work within publishing houses, such as proofreading, copyediting and writing reports for books. Since these opportunities generally come through agents or personal connections, the best way to uncover them is to make contact with publishers and agents at translation or publishing conferences.  It was also suggested to consider joining a freelance editor’s group in one’s local area.

Self-publishing: in this arena the translator will have to deal with securing the translation rights which are usually held by the author or the publisher. The point was made that book publishing is a team exercise with first drafts subject to corrections by editors and copyeditors. Many translators view editors antagonistically but editing can also improve a translation before it is published. The self-publishing translator could hire an editor or copywriter to review the work before publication.

Other possible venues for publication:

  • Calls for submissions by journals: some will pay, some will not.
  • Non-literary magazines which publish articles by distinguished scholars. The site was mentioned in this context.
  • Small independent publishers are sometimes open to hearing pitches from translators. The best way to have your pitch looked at is if you have developed a personal connection with the press.
  • University presses: could be a good opportunity if the targeted university has a center for cultural studies in the source language. However,  university presses often do not pay.
  • University professors who may have large translation projects and may be looking for translators
  • State-sponsored cultural institutes and embassies in the source language, if they exist in your locale.

The seminar was useful in spotlighting some overlooked areas of potential business but it was obvious from the discussion that the best road to translation publication is by fostering personal relationships with authors, agents and publishers.

Patricia Stumpp


2021 Election Ballot

December 16, 2021

Please familiarize yourself with the candidate statements and select one candidate per position. Print ballot and mail to the Circle at the address shown below. You may also print the ballot, fill it out, scan it and send it as an email to

All ballots must be postmarked or received via e-mail by December 23, 2021. Ballot received after that date will not be valid. Only one vote per member.


SECRETARY (Select One):

_____   Matt Goldstein, Secretary


_____   Catherine Lewi, Program Director

_____   Alexia Klein, Program Director

TREASURER (Select One):

_____   Sepideh Moussavi, Treasurer


Mail completed ballot by December 23, 2021 to:

New York Circle of Translators

PO Box 4051

Grand Central Station

New York, NY 10163-4051



It’s that time of year again when we vote for our new leadership. Please read over the candidate statements for the Board positions mentioned below and make your voice heard by mailing in your ballot. The New York Circle thrives because of the efforts of you, our members, and our dedicated Board of directors.

Matt is currently serving as the Secretary on the NYCT Board. During his term he took on a leading role in redesigning the new website, helping to make it a more user-friendly experience for our membership. He has been a freelance French to English translator and editor for the past ten years, and prior to working in translation, worked as a writer and editor in the non-profit and pharmaceutical sectors. Matt loves the arts, particularly the theater, exploring NYC, travel, and learning languages. He is a 14 year resident of Washington Heights. Matt is running for re-election to continue his work to expand the Circle’s relationships and communications with the greater language services community in order to further support and develop our members’ careers in our constantly changing field.



When I joined the New York Circle of Translators years ago, I had just finished my formal training as a translator, and the NYCT took on a crucial role in my professional development – it allowed me to form relationships, understand the intricacies of the profession, and learn a path to become the professional I wanted to be.
A few years ago, I was invited to run for the role of Secretary for the 2018-2019 term, a period when I had the privilege to contribute with the other dedicated board members on many activities that span beyond the attributions of the Secretary role. I can say that this experience has made me more appreciative of the organization and has given me a good grasp of the challenges the Circle faces.
I also understand that given the current and unprecedented events that have swept the world recently, the challenges we face at the Circle will be more significant than they were before. Still, I believe this is another reason to keep this organization afloat and strong, serving its vital role as a place of support and encouragement. That is why as Project Director, I will do my best to keep the NYCT tradition of providing consistently good lectures and opportunities for New York-based translators to come together, form meaningful relations, feel inspired and uplifted, and feel that they belong to a community.


I would be honored to be named NYCT’s Program Director and follow in Serene Su’s footsteps to organize and promote virtual and onsite monthly events, in collaboration with fellow members of the NYCT board. I will welcome any opportunities proposed by our members.
After this pandemic period where most encounters could happen mostly online, we all need to reconnect even more in-person, whenever possible, and to deepen our connections with other language professionals and organizations. We all thrive to learn from each other and from experts in their field, to broaden our views and to constantly keep the collaboration and the creativity alive.

I was born and raised in France where I worked as an export manager in international trade before starting my expatriate life. I have lived and worked in Germany, Geneva and Israel and since 1996 in the USA. After 20 years in California, I have been enjoying my life in New York City for the last five years.

I completed my Masters in Translation (English, German, French) in France and became an ATA-certified English into French translator in 1997. Upon completion of an intensive course at UCSD Extension, I became an ABA-Approved Paralegal though I did not have the opportunity to work in a law office. As a freelance translator, I specialize in legal, technical, business, software localization and tourism. I have worked in-house at LSPs and on the client side for many years as project manager, software localizer, CAT-tool trainer and now fully employed as senior account manager in New York. I have enjoyed several ATA conferences and attended some NYCT events.
In my free time, I enjoy movies, performing arts, museums, dancing, music of all kinds, singing in a choir, and traveling.

I would like to thank the board for considering my application and assure you of my commitment to serve the NYCT members and get more involved and proactive in our language community.


My name is Sepideh Moussavi and I am a Farsi translator and interpreter. I began my linguistic
career 33 years ago with translation and interpretation of Farsi to and from French and English
for companies in Iran, my native country. I moved to the US in 1992, to continue my studies. At
the same time I worked as a translator and interpreter at schools, healthcare facilities and
Universities. I moved to New York City about 12 years ago and founded my own translation
practice where I interpreted for TV news channels such as MSNBC, the Asia Society, and the
Federal and New York State courts systems, among others. I have translated memoirs, articles,
and publishing materials for individuals, museums, and universities. In 2016, in addition to my
translation and interpretation work, I began providing language coaching, subject matter
expertise and consulting services.

I am a member of the American Translators Association (ATA) and the former Chairperson and
founder of the ATA’s Farsi Workgroup that continues working to create the Association’s very
first Farsi certification program by establishing the Farsi to English language pair. I joined the
New York Circle of Translators because I appreciate everything the Circle has to offer and in
particular its support for the translators in the City. I am currently serving as the treasurer on
the Board of Directors of the Circle. I am honored to be able to run for the Treasurer’s second

My finance and accounting experience began while I was studying at California State
University, Northridge (CSUN) to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. After graduation I
continued studies and obtained a Master’s degree in Health Administration. In the early 2000’s,
I worked in financial management at Mission Community Hospital in Los Angles County and
one of UCLA’s free clinics, Venice Family Clinic. Hence I have extensive experience in not-for profit
financial management and accounting. If elected, I hope to collaborate with the President and the Board
of NYCT to make sure the organization’s financial management and oversight are done properly,
its financial records are maintained and that the Circle’s financial goals are reached



To vote for your candidates, please print out and mail the NYCT 2021 Election Ballot contained in this edition of the Gotham. You may also print the ballot, fill it out, scan it and send it as an email to






Greetings, fellow Circle members,

This issue of the Gotham focuses on translation prizes and prize winners.

In June 2021, I attended a ceremony at Goethe-Institut New York at which Jackie Smith and Jennifer Jenson were honored for their translations from the German. Ms. Smith translated Judith Schalansky’s An Inventory of Losses and Ms. Jenson Elsa Koester’s novel Couscous mit Zimt (Couscous with  Cinnamon). Jennifer Jenson and the publisher Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt GmbH have graciously allowed us to print an excerpt of her prize-winning translation which speaks so eloquently of a life touched by multi-culturalism. At the same ceremony, the noted writer Alexander Wolff shared some illuminating thoughts on the art of translation which he has also given us permission to publish here. Many thanks to Mr. Wolff and to Ms. Jenson for sharing their words with the Gotham.

I am also including a write-up of a recent online event sponsored by Words Without Borders which featured the work of Lauri García Dueñas and Conceição Lima, two prize winning poets writing in Spanish and Portuguese, and their English language translators Olivia Lott and Shook.

If any of our member translators have received any similar honors, please let me know. We would be delighted to acknowledge your achievements in the Gotham.

With best regards,

Patricia Stumpp, Editor