THAT WAS THEN, CONT.

We continue our look back at some of the defining moments of the early NCTA. From child organization to a model local translators association—an early member takes us down memory lane… BY RAMIRO ALONGO, NCTA CLASS OF 1980

Belonging …

It’s not exactly easy to remember (correctly and in good detail) things that happened some 30 years ago, no matter how healthy one’s memory still seems to be. But it’s not exactly easy either to ignore Steve Goldstein’s kind and honorable invitation to try. Then again, it’s not exactly easy to forget the general feeling of goodwill associated with NCTA. I know—a good feeling towards an association? Well, I don’t have to think about it twice: the answer is certainly yes.

Despite NCTA being basically the organization that propelled me to the little fame I may enjoy today among translators in the U.S. (at least by the now old-guard), I keep finding that whenever I think back on it, it’s people—not organizational issues—that come first to mind: from the time in 1980 when I went high up in the Wells Fargo Bank building to visit the President (wow!) of the translators association, who turned out to be none other than the cheerful and joke-telling Tom Bauman, all the way through the farewell lunch—complete with presents!—bestowed on me by a very nice group of members in 1986, it was definitely a winning situation for me. There are several names that keep going through my mind, but I’m hesitant to name them lest I forget as many …

But another thing that I can’t forget is the emotion I felt in belonging for the first time to an association of my brethren in my very first year in the U.S. as an adult (I had been born in the United States, but moved away with my family when I was five). As with every other newcomer from Latin America, I was working as a waiter in a café, although also studying at San Francisco State College (now SFSU); all that, plus the fact that at the time I was just an into-Spanish-only translator made it all the more exciting in my head (I can now gloat of into-English translation—with native-language editing—and two-way interpretation between English, Spanish, and Portuguese). What with all that organizing, Translorial editing, interesting meetings, and lovely reunions at members’ houses, it was a most defining part of my life—unbeknownst to me at the time, of course …

To jog my memories of those times, I’ve just dusted off a folder with a few old Translorials I’ve kept ever since, and surely there we are: Fred Schodt in all the glory of his cartoons; Edith Fried with her precise, to-the-point articles on language and translation; Ilse Sternberger showing her erudition; Inés Swaney, always a leader on matters interpreting; Hélène Riddle, María Boden, Alcides Rodríguez-Nieto, Lesley Salas (with whom I translated a very interesting and enduring series of musings about translation by world-famous authors), and my very own name splattered all over them (maybe that’s why I kept those few copies) as Vice President, a position that kept me engaged and involved. I keep thinking I could boast more of having been nominated for President just as I was leaving California, but them’s the breaks; I had to go East, young man, to New York, and then back to Colombia, and then to Brazil, and now back to the chain gang, as it were, my Colombia. And even though I said I wouldn’t mention names because there were too many to remember, well, there are some I just can’t leave out: Lucy Wait (whom I still correspond with), Grace Mendoza, Alexander Shkolnik, Deolinda Adao … Later on I made the acquaintance of Tony Roder, who was very active in FLEFO, that legendary, model translators forum on CompuServe.

But for all of the people, there were seemingly as many translators’ issues worth mentioning, because we lived through all of them: the merger with ATA, the mingling with agencies’ representatives, the Directory and the Telephone Referral Service, the concerted outreach effort, and the constant connections with other associations such as PEN, the California Court Interpreters Association, the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and others. And, of course, our many activities, which always included having worthwhile speakers and topics at our meetings: from how to sell oneself, manage our taxes, and write contracts, to the intricacies of literary translation, court interpreting, and more.

Of course, the way ATA conducts these kinds of activities nowadays, and the way these events have grown ever since, may seem to dwarf our early efforts in our eyes. But for NCTA at the time—a child organization managed by beginner officials—it was quite a building effort in the days when translators associations in the U.S. were scarce and inexperienced.

On this, the 30th anniversary of NCTA, I want to congratulate you for having kept alive the spirit of those days through all these years, and for further building on that projection of a model local translators association that you are perceived to be. And, with it, my wish to give back a little of all I received from you. Thank you!a

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