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Beignet Done That! #ATA59 NOLA a Success for Team Tone

Monsoon rain, a morning Uber, and breakfast at Café Du Monde.
The Mississippi, Jackson Square, Bourbon Street at night; le jazz in the air.
Machine translation, project management, and language diversity.
Early morning flights, business cards packed tight, #ATA59NOLA you were alright.

A poetic reflection of memories from four days spent at the American Translators Association 59th Annual Conference (#ATA59) in New Orleans, Louisiana (aka NOLA) from October 24-27 written by Translation Manager, Shana Pughe Dean (@pughdean)

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Did Team Tone ‘try nearly everything NOLA?’ Not exactly, this was a work event after all, but we did ‘participate in nearly everything’. Being true to our name, nearly everything means we did unfortunately miss the
Buddies Welcome Newbies, Job Fair, Brainstorm Networking, division dinners, and the After Hours Café events. Am I speaking a different language? If you are wondering what any of these events are check out the #ATA59 website, but remember, we did not attend those….so on to what we did do!

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  • Advanced Skills & Training Day - NMT and Me: Securing Your Future as a Language Professional in the Age of Artificial Intelligence and Neural Machine Translation presented by @JayMarciano
  • Opening Session
  • Zumba
  • Mindful Movement
  • Breakfast (Obviously)
  • Language Company Division Meeting
  • 18 different sessions (see below)
  • Presented - Preserving Tone: Translating Cultural Context in Eastern and South East Asian Languages
  • Networked on the Expo Floor
  • Made roughly 40 new connections (as determined by business cards, resumes etc.)
  • Closing Session

The conference was attended by Translation Manager Shana Pughe Dean and Translation Coordinator Kyi Kyi Min. Derek Nekritz, Translation Administrative Coordinator, made a voice cameo for our presentation. Whether in person or in spirit, all of our team attended.

Sessions Team Tone attended:

  • Collaborating to Design a Competency Based Translator Training Program
  • How to Conduct a Quality Assessment
  • Introduction to Medical Translation
  • Publishing Literature in Translation: How Translators Help AmazonCrossing Bring stories to New Readers
  • Assorting Understanding and Translating Contract Clauses
  • Control Files before they control You : An Advanced Guide to Proper File Type Handling
  • How to Use a Free Project Management Tool to Plan Manage and Grow Your Profession
  • Don't trust the Machine: How the Persuasive Power of Neural Machine Translation Can Mislead Post-Editors
  • Mix & Match: Differences and Similarities Between Latin American and U.S. Education Systems
  • Translating and Editing Academic Articles into English
  • Championing Translation to Incite Change Around the World, Part I & II (Government Language Division key speaker Amy Firestone
  • Boning Up on Phrasal Verbs
  • Promoting and Preserving Linguistic Diversity Online, Part 1
  • 10 Tips for Literary Translation
  • Toward the Standardization of Professional Project Management Training
  • Just a Freelancer? What other Industries Can Teach Us
  • Examining Cross Cultural Communication Styles

A full list of all sessions can be found here. If you would like to know more about any of the sessions we attended or the topics they covered, please contact us at

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We came, we saw, we ATE!
Last year, at #ATA58 in Washington, D.C. Shana was able to convince Kyi Kyi to try Ethiopian food for the first time. NOLA offered alot to chew on. Team tone indulged, trying Beignets (fritters), jambalaya, fried chicken, dirty rice, pralines, blackened crawfish, gumbo, red beans & rice, greens, etouffee, andouille sausage, alligator sausage, muffuletta and more. In NOLA it’s Bon Appetit, Bon Jour, Bon MORE.

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What We Contributed & Learned
The use of French and allusions to French culture are purposeful. We were in New Orleans after all; originally La Nouvelle-Orléans, named for the Duke of Orleans, who reigned as Regent for Louis XV. Founded in 1718 this area was ceded to the Spanish and then bought by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

The French colonial history of the location for ATA59 proved to be one of the most interesting aspects of the conference. In the State of Louisiana there are roughly 10,000 people who speak Louisiana or French Creole. There are bilingual schools in the State, but they teach standardized French from France, not the mother tongue of the colonial ancestors. At a presentation by Daniel Bogre Udell about promoting and preserving language diversity, a shared online platform for preserving language heritage, wikitongues, was introduced to the audience. A great video of Louisiana French Creole speakers preservation efforts can be found here

Shana surprised an entire audience during a session about project management when she confidently and assuredly yelled out “Khmer” in response to the speakers question of, “Can anyone identify this language?” Another South East Asia shout out! What can we say, we know and LOVE this region! In addition to managing tone, Shana also provides Cultural Competency Training for the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees. The last presentation of the conference gave her knew material and cultural models to explore such as the Lewis Model and this cool TedTalk from Keith Chen about the way language influences our spending habits.

Kyi Kyi walked away from the conference as a proud owner of a new “Phrasal Verbs” dictionary. (Yay language nerds!) On the expo floor she connected with a language service company based out of Singapore and made plans to meet up with them when she visits Singapore this winter. Kyi Kyi was also reminded of her rarity, being the only Burmese speaker that we are aware of who attended this year’s conference.

Presentation Success - We Preserved our Culture while Translating our Thoughts into a Prezi & Speech
When we submitted a presentation proposal for the #ATA59 we were excited about our topic title “Preserving Tone: Translating Cultural Context in Eastern and South East Asian Languages”. (Of course!) When our proposal was accepted the reality set-in. We would need to figure out how to present this with Japanese examples without a Japanese speaker actually being present at the conference. Our solution was to have Derek record portions of the presentation that Kyi Kyi and Shana were uncomfortable presenting.

The main points of our workshop discussed the geographic, cultural, and linguistic aspects of East and South East Asian Languages with a focus on:

  • Grammar Features
    • Flexible Word Order
    • Sentence Structure
    • Formality Based Variants
  • Communication Styles
    • High Context vs Low Context
  • Cultural Themes
    • Gendered Speaking Styles
    • Avoidance of Pronouns
    • Honorifics
  • Regional Variance

The presentation included examples in Japanese and Burmese. You can view the presentation here. Enjoy the recorded bits!

Upon arriving at the session location we received a warm greeting from the Japanese Language Division who hosted us and included us in their “track” for the conference. There were well over 30 attendees! The audience was engaged, laughed at our humor, added their knowledge and comments and expressed interest in our Burmese examples. We spoke with several attendees following the presentation and look forward to developing these connections. Tone would like to thank the American Translators Association conference organizing committee and the Japanese Language Division for this opportunity.

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Team tone attends the ATA conference for our professional development and to know the trends in the language industry. We also attend this conference for YOU, our partners in creating understanding and opportunity in a multicultural world on the move. We need to be informed, engaged, and active to be partners in your success. We look forward to attending ATA#60 in Palm Springs, California next year!



  • Mourine Breiner 14/11/2018 5:17pm (5 years ago)

    Great article on ATA59 and NOLA!

  • Becky 09/11/2018 2:16pm (5 years ago)

    This sounds like such a wonderful event where you all were able to expand your knowledge and impart your own as well! What a great opportunity! Proud to work with you all at TONE!

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