n effort is underway within the Slavic Languages Division (SLD) of the American Translators Association (ATA) to establish separate translation certifications for Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian into and from English.* A volunteer committee (the Volunteer Committee for Establishing New South Slavic Language Pairsherein "the Committee") has been formed through announcements in ATA publications and outreach efforts. Committee members are from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and the USA, and currently reside in these countries as well as Australia, Austria, British Columbia, Canada and Slovenia. (Committee members do not have to be members of ATA or the SLD, and most are not.) The initiative was started in March 2002, and our optimistic time frame calls for at least one pair to be established by fall 2004.
The most important issue addressed by the Committee so far concerns the use of the designation "Serbo-Croatian" as a language of the countries of the region. The Committee recognized that our answer to this question would dictate our overall approach to establishing the new language pairs, and very likely our success or failure in this effort, as well as the long-term relevance of the pairs established.
Although many still refer to the language they speak (or grew up with, or learned in school, or translate from) as Serbo-Croatian, the Committee is approaching the issue less from a personal standpoint than from the perspective of today's working translator and interpreter and his or her clients.
While recognizing similarities among the languages and the ability of most translators to work from any of the threeBosnian, Croatian or Serbiancommittee members also acknowledge that few translators would nowadays accept an assignment into one of the three if it weren't their dominant one. It is thus better if the client specifies the target language not as "Serbo-Croatian"giving rise to the question of which variant, or which country, or what population is being targetedbut immediately as "Bosnian," "Croatian" or "Serbian." In addition, the trend seems to be toward ongoing development and standardization, that is, further differentiation of these languages, making the designation "Serbo-Croatian" an increasingly obsolete and inaccurate term for the current and future linguistic situation.
The Committee also acknowledges the fact that each country of the former Yugoslavia has determined its official language(s) within its constitution and that Serbo-Croatian is not an official language of any of these three successor states. Furthermore, the language designations of the International Standards Organization (ISO) and The U.S. Library of Congress Network Development and MARC Standards Office (Joint Advisory Committee), revised in February 2000, list Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, but no longer include Serbo-Croatian. (The full list of language designations and codes appears at http://lcweb.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/englangn.html.)
Based on these arguments, the Committee unanimously decided to approach the initiative as three separate languages and not to consider Serbo-Croatian as a language option. Since taking this decision in December 2002, the Committee has grown to 30 members and all accept this approach.
Once we established this fundamental principle, we were able to begin the actual work: publicizing the effort, determining interest and forming language workgroups. The Committee created a questionnaire intended to promote our initiative, gather information from accreditation candidates and recruit more volunteers.
Two rounds of surveys have already been undertaken, and the results indicate broad interest in establishing accreditation in one or more of these pairs. However, ATA strongly weighs the number of potential test-takers when considering the approval of any new language pair, so we are continuing our efforts in order to reach ATA's required 50 (yes 50!) documented candidates. In fact, we are very close.
Each language will proceed at its own pace, moving to the next stage in the ATA procedure as soon as it fulfills each requirement. As we move forward, the Committee is breaking out into separate language workgroups, which will be responsible for determining testing criteria, selecting test passages and recruiting and training graders under the supervision of ATA.
On behalf of the Committee, I encourage all translators and interpreters working between English and Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian to consider filling out our questionnaire. Returning a completed questionnaire is also the first step in joining the Committee and participating in the initiative. (Please note: One need not be an ATA member to fill out this questionnaire, and questionnaire responses are not binding. Although ATA currently offers certification to its members only, this policy is under review and there is a possibility that within a few years certification will be available to non-ATA members as well.)
The questionnaire is available online at http://hometown.aol.com/planbusa/questionnaire.html.
To request that a copy be sent to you, or for more information, please contact Paula Gordon at dbaPlanB@aol.com. Committee members will meet at the 44th ATA Annual Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, in November 2003we have proposed a formal presentationand we encourage all who plan to attend to contact us.
* ATA is in the process of changing the name of its credential program from "accreditation" to "certification"see "From the Executive Director," p. 8, The ATA Chronicle, May 2003.