ATA Southeast Asian Division

Southeast Asian Language Division Proposed for ATA

“Which language is this?”, the presenter asked. After a few failed attempts by other participants I raised my hand, “Khmer”, I confidently said, correctly identifying the language. Some fellow participants around me were surprised. Despite the diversity in attendees and the breadth of subject matter covered, individuals working in European languages still heavily dominate the American Translators Association membership and conference attendees.

In general, exposure to African, Indigenous, or Southeast Asian languages is limited. As an agency that has been working in South East Asian language pairs since we began, tone has always championed the need for this language group to receive more recognition, conversation, and support. (Think- Burmese, Karen, Khmer, Lao, Thai, Vietnamese...)

In years past, tone has expressed the need to create a “Lesser Spoken Languages” division at the ATA, bringing together translators or interpreters with few linguistic colleagues. Such a division would create a professional support network for linguistic pairs that lack formal certification and limited credentialing. We of course never made a formal proposal to the ATA regarding this concept. Being an agency, we always felt it should come from the membership, the individual translators themselves, especially those members who are of the lesser represented linguistic communities.

And now the moment has arrived! A big congratulations to Tram Bui, who has proposed the 23rd ATA Division - Southeast Asian Language Division. Read the full ATA announcement below. This includes information to sign the petition and support the creation of this division. All petitions are due TOMORROW, March 13th! (only members can sign). 

23rd ATA Division Proposed: Southeast Asian Language Division

Southeast Asia is one of the most linguistically diverse areas of the world. There are over 1,000 languages in daily use in the 11 countries (please see proposal below) that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. With centuries of trade and common experience, there are also strong cultural similarities that transcend language.

Incentive to Create an ATA Southeast Asian Language Division

While a small number of languages are used widely, many of the language pairs do not have the numbers or means to establish their own language-specific divisions. There is strong commercial and government demand, but a surprisingly small number of ATA members work in these languages.

Our plan is to attract these linguists to join ATA and to make learning opportunities widely available. Our hope is to create a community where members have similar communication styles, can share insights, and jointly learn to better represent our profession. Our dream, much like that of other ATA divisions, is to have a place at the table, to achieve recognition and credibility, and to gain respect from the community we serve, other professionals, and in general society. 

Call for Petitions

The proposed Division’s organizing committee is now calling for signed petitions to support the establishment of the Southeast Asian Language Division (SEALD).

To find out more about the proposed Southeast Asian Language Division, click:

Please submit your petition by March 13, 2019.

And remember, because division memberships are included in your ATA dues, you have the opportunity to join any or all divisions without paying additional fees.

If you need additional information or wish to become one of the Southeast Asian Language Division volunteers, please contact Ms. Tram Bui at


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