Translation Certification2018-12-13T21:05:00+00:00

English <> Spanish Translation Certification by Teleconference

The ATA English <> Spanish Certification exams have a pass rate of approximately 12%. Helen Eby has found that with adequate preparation, having met certain prerequisites, participants can have a much higher rate of success. This course is designed not to simply pass the ATA exam, but also covers review translation best practices, techniques to review a translation, a focus on issues that challenge translators, useful reference materials, experience in teamwork, and ultimately a well-rounded preparation for professional work after passing the ATA certification exam. This is not a lecture series. It is an interactive, homework-based training with weekly teleconferences to discuss progress and provide input based on translation theory. Attendance and homework are critical to getting the most learning from this course. Participants who have spent several sessions participating by listening to recordings have found that it is not  effective. Helen Eby and Daniela Guanipa co-teach this course and are available for one-on-one consultation at their discretion.

Who is this class for?

This is the final step for preparation for the ATA Certification exam. Therefore, participants are expected to have a background in translation or interpreting and demonstrate good writing and language transfer skills before admission. There is an admission test before acceptance to the class. Many participants are certified interpreters, have studied translation as a certificate program or a graduate program, and most have experience in the field. Many have already taken the ATA exam or the practice test and come for further guidance. Some are interpreters who want to improve their translation skills and in turn improve their interpreting skills. Interpreters often provide transcription-translation services, so translation skills are important.

The instructors will be available for occasional one-on-one sessions with participants at their discretion.

Thursdays from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM, Pacific Time from January 10 to May 23, 2019.

Registration for 2019 open

To sign up, please email

CE Credits awarded for 2019

  • 10 language-specific CE credits granted by Court Language Access Services (Oregon) for Oregon Court Interpreters.
  • CEU for WA DSHS pending
  • CEU for WA AOC for Washington state credentialed interpreters pending

The 2014 ATA compensation survey shows that certified translators earn an average of $10,000 more per year than non-certified translators. The ATA exam has a pass rate of under 20%. According to the article referenced, for Spanish into English, it is 10.64%, and for English into Spanish it is 11.61%. In this training, we will provide resources to help translators understand how to approach the ATA exam and become better translators in the process.

This is a Gaucha Translations program, not an ATA program. Helen Eby is not an ATA Certification Exam Grader. The text written on this website, the blog posts are written by the instructors and other materials reflect the opinion of the instructors, not the view of ATA unless otherwise expressed explicitly. Gaucha Translations and the instructors make no guarantees of participants passing any particular exam because passing an exam depends on many variables. As a matter of fact, no instructor ever guarantees that all his students will pass his own final exam!

Technical requirements

  • Computer with good internet connection (participants will be entering answers on their computers on a regular basis)
  • Headset (using speakers for audio creates echoes for the other listeners)
  • Microphone (all participants will be interacting live on their microphones)

How does the program work?

This program meets online. See the Syllabus for a detailed schedule. Login details will be sent to registered participants.

The program involves a combination of homework assignments, class participation, and guest speakers. Class participation is key. Four of the fifteen sessions will be led by highly respected guest speakers. Their bios can be found in the link above, and the dates are listed in the Syllabus. The other eleven sessions will be led by Helen Eby.

On the sessions led by the main instructor, participants will be assigned a translation. Participants will draft it and send it to their peer reviewer for that week. The texts will be sent to the participants through the listserv. In order to learn from different colleagues, reviewers will be reassigned regularly.

Sharing reviewed translations is one of the key components of this program since it is critical to learn how to look at our own work as an exam grader would. It is often easier to start this process by looking at a colleague’s work, and then transferring those concepts by looking at our own work more objectively. In 2016, the participants embraced the value of translation as teamwork through this process.

Time commitment

  • 2-hour weekly class (teleconference) as listed on the syllabus
  • 1 hour 15 minutes doing the translation on WordPad (this replicates ATA exam conditions)
  • 45 minutes reviewing partner’s work, preferably after doing one’s own translation, following the ATA list of mistakes and points
  • Discussion on listserv  created for the group: optional but helpful
  • Total: minimum 4 hours/week.

Books used in this course

Other useful references:

Through this study program, we expect participants to accomplish the following

  • Understand the ATA grading scale in greater depth, and internalize it so they can “think like a grader.”
  • Transfer the skills they acquire to their daily work.
  • Identify their own strengths and weaknesses in translation, and evaluate which language pair is stronger.
  • Make a plan of future steps for improvement in translation.
  • Understand the results of the ATA Practice test when they receive them so they can take steps for improvement before taking an ATA certification exam.

On the other hand, the program does not provide:

  • A guarantee that participants will pass the ATA or WA DSHS Certification exam. No program can ever make that promise! See this article for pass rates for the ATA exam.
  • A series of lectures with no participant involvement.

A promise that the instructor will review all translations in thorough detail. Helen will review translations submitted to her on time for class after they have been seen by the peer reviewer and will offer up to four helpful comments. Based on her teaching experience, Helen believes that participants generally do not benefit from more than three helpful comments in a review. Her comments will be a combination of “This was excellent” and “I think you could improve on this by doing…”

Changes in the 2017 ATA Exam:

Until 2016, ATA had two specialized texts to choose from: B (technical, scientific or medical) and C (financial, business or legal in the broadest sense). We will continue to use these texts, though ATA does not test for them anymore. Why study them?

  • These topics often appear in general texts, and we need to have an orientation in problem-solving for these issues. These topics will be introduced by specialists: One who specializes in L2 to L1, and one who specializes in L1 to L2.
  • Participants who are taking the exam to be certified as a DSHS Certified Document Translator in WA State (36% pass rate), still have to meet the following requirements: “The translator test covers such subject matter areas as social services, legal services, and medical services. Categories of texts included in the test range from general to semi-technical.” (See this article.)

The changes in the ATA certification exam are summarized below.

Handwritten. Keyboarded exams available at sites where it is feasible.
Text A (general) is mandatory.
Testee must also choose to translate either text B or text C (specialized topics).
Testee translates two general texts (A, in previous years), which they select from three given to them.
Prerequisites must be met to take the exam. No prerequisites to take the exam.

Guidelines for the ATA computerized exam

Online resource list

Instructors: All instructors have been carefully chosen to provide excellent input for translators. See their bios here.

Input from the instructors: They will look at the reviewed translations briefly, before the session, if they receive them by the Friday morning before the session, and provide input to the translation team. They will not mark all errors or all points in which the translation excelled, but just the highlights of how the team can improve in the future.

Prerequisites to join the program: Participants will have to provide a short sample translation assigned by the instructor and answer two questions briefly, one in each language, before being accepted into the program. This is simply to ensure that the participants have the writing and language transfer skills to participate in this program productively and give their colleagues helpful feedback.


There is a discount for members of professional associations such as the American Translators Association or other professional associations for interpreters, translators or copy editors.

Price per month (4 payments) $225 $200
Total for 4 months $900 $800
Discounted price for payment in full $800 $720

Other costs involved in taking the ATA certification exam:


Washington State DSHS Document Translator Certification Exam and ATA Certification exam compared

Register For Translation Training

Registration for 2019 open.

To sign up, please email