The Portuguese Language Division:
A Success Story

By Edna Ditaranto

It was for selfish reasons that, in 1985, I began to think about creating a group of translators of Portuguese. I was just starting out in the freelance world and needed help with almost everything, but in particular with terminology. I never knew how wonderful this idea would turn out to be.

In 1985, during a workshop conducted by the New York Circle of Translators, I met Mário Ferreira, at the time a translation manager at RCA and a translator of Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish. Mário was one of the best technical translators I have ever known, and I proudly consider him my mentor, since I could always (and did) count on him. At the time, he was the only Portuguese translator I knew, although I was aware that there were many around and thought that perhaps some of them were in the same situation as myself and would benefit from knowing one another. Unfortunately, Mário died in 1993. A real loss to our world of translation, but his contributions will always be a part of our Division. (You can read a piece of his work, “The Portuguese Languages: Oh, What’s the Difference?!,” in the June 1995 issue of the ATA Chronicle). And on behalf of the Portuguese Language Division, I would like to dedicate this month’s Chronicle in his memory.)

When I became more actively involved in the New York Circle of Translators, I published a note in its newsletter seeking anyone interested in participating in a discussion group for Portuguese translators. I then heard from Susana Greiss, who was also thinking about getting a group together for Portuguese as well as one for Spanish, and Jean Longland. After that, I learned about Clifford Landers, Alzinete Platts, and Marísia Lauré. Finally, one Saturday afternoon in June 1987, we met at a Brazilian restaurant (of course!) in New York City and established the Portuguese Translators Group.

Everyone was very enthusiastically and responsive, and from this meeting friendships originated that are still going strong. After that initial meeting, we kept in touch with each other, shared knowledge, expertise, experience, and even work. We held monthly meetings, and ideas began pouring in.

Later that year upon receiving the package for the ATA Annual Conference (held in Albuquerque, New Mexico), I was saddened to notice that there were no sessions that focused on Portuguese. At that point I realized that maybe the Portuguese Translators Group could do something for the next conference. And so we did. The following year at the Annual Conference (held in Seattle, Washington), we presented our first panel exclusively on Portuguese translation, with Mário Ferreira, Susana Greiss, and Cliff Landers as speakers. Since this presentation, Portuguese has been featured at all the conferences. Due to this exposure, we started gaining members throughout the U.S. and from around the world.

At the Seattle Conference, John Bukacek, the founder and then Administrator of the Japanese Language Division, suggested that we apply for ATA Division status. At the ATA Board of Directors meeting in March 1990, the Portuguese Translators Group was unanimously accepted as the Portuguese Language Division of ATA. At that time, we had 46 members. Today, we have 160, including 13 corporate members, mostly from the U.S., but also from Brazil, Portugal, England, and South Africa.

The Division’s most recent activity resulted from there being so much to see and do at the ATA Annual Conference that the Division members wanted to find a way to get together more often. At the suggestion of Division member Lourdes Verás Norton, the Portuguese Language Division held its first independent meeting March 31-April 2 in Orlando, Florida.

And what happens when 26 Portuguese translators are put together in a room for 11 hours straight, two days in a row?

An explosion! An explosion of wonderful ideas, solidarity, information sharing, and new and renewed friendships. The Winter Meeting of the Portuguese Language Division was a phenomenal success. In addition to the variety of interesting panels, we had the pleasure of having Regina Helena Alfarano, Vice-President of our Brazilian counterpart, Sindicato dos Tradutores (SINTRA), participate in the meeting in an effort to strengthen our ties with translators in Brazil. This was a very positive experience for the Division and promises to become an annual event.

So there you have, in a nutshell (a big one!), the success story of the ATA Portuguese Language Division. And the future looks even brighter.

(Originally published in the June 1995 issue of The ATA Chronicle)