Slavic Languages Diversity and the SLD by Jennifer Guernsey

As far as language divisions go, the Slavic Languages Division is by far the most linguistically diverse. Most language divisions are monolingual. The only other division that comes close to the SLD is the Nordic Division, which encompasses five languages. Slavic languages, on the other hand, number more than a dozen. Not only that, but our division also welcomes members speaking any language of the former USSR. We are a diverse lot, indeed.

The Slavic Languages Division was originally founded as the Russian Language Division, and though the name was changed a few years later, in 1996, the Division’s origins and its preponderance of Russian speakers meant that it initially offered little to the speakers of other (i.e., non-Russian) Slavic languages. Fortunately, during my decade as an active member of the SLD, I have seen the other Slavic languages become much more active and better represented in all aspects of the Division’s activities. This has been the result of two major shifts: a more encouraging and welcoming attitude on the part of the Russian speakers, and more speakers of other Slavic languages willing to step up and become active in the Division. Both of these are key to ensuring that all Division members are able to reap the benefits of Division membership.

What opportunities exist in the Division for the speakers of other Slavic languages, and how can the Russian speakers continue to foster their continued inclusion and involvement? As the Leadership Council member responsible for outreach to non-Russian-speaking SLD members, I’d like to provide some suggestions:

  • Conference presentations: Last year we had one Polish session and one Serbian/Croatian session; the year before we had a Polish session and a Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian Greiss lecturer. These sessions would not have taken place if not for the presenters’ initiative and effort. If you want to see presentations in your language, make it happen. Propose your own presentation, recruit a colleague to present, or suggest suitable Greiss lecturers. For further information, contact Lucy Gunderson ( and Fred Grasso (
  • Blog postings: Write your own post. Blog postings are short- to medium-length articles on any topic of interest to the Division. Posting is a great way to get name recognition within the Division and particularly among your same-language colleagues, and to ensure that the Division blog contains material relevant to your specific language. For more information, contact our blog administrator, Sam Pinson (
  • SlavFile: Write an article – it doesn’t have to be long, just relevant. You can also suggest topics for future articles or recommend articles from other publications for reprint (with appropriate permission, of course). If you’re interested in taking it to the next level, serve as a SlavFile Language Editor, recruiting people to write articles related to your language. As with blog postings, writing for the SlavFile is great for name recognition, networking, and ensuring that the SlavFile contains articles relevant to your language. For more information, contact our SlavFile editor, Lydia Stone (
  • LinkedIn Group: Post a comment relevant to your language to the SLD’s LinkedIn group. For more information, contact Todd Jackson (
  • Listserv: Aside from the Russian listserv, there is a Yahoo-based listserv for only South Slavic languages. To join that listserv, go to If you are interested in starting a listserv for your language, contact Lucy Gunderson ( and Fred Grasso (
  • Twitter feed: Just launched! Subscribe and/or tweet something relevant to your language @ATA_SLD.
  • Certification: Among the non-Russian Slavic languages, certification is available for Croatian<>English, English>Polish, and English>Ukrainian. For more information or to register for an exam, go to It is possible to establish certification in additional languages, but it requires a certain critical mass of participants and considerable time and effort. For further information, see
  • Web page: Your language group can create its own web page, which can be linked to the SLD web page provided it undergoes the normal review required of all ATA-associated web pages. For further information, contact webmistress Zhenya Tumanova (
  • Leadership Council: Serving on the Leadership Council is a great way to get involved, learn more about the Division, forge closer connections with other Division members, and ensure that your language is represented. For more information, contact Lucy Gunderson ( and Fred Grasso (

For the Russian speakers:

  • Remember that the lingua franca of our division must of necessity be English.
  • When possible, make your contribution – whether a blog post, a SlavFile article, or a conference presentation – useful to all SLD members. Obviously, some topics do not lend themselves to this: a discussion of idioms or legal terms, for instance. But some topics are of interest to the entire division, while others can be expanded to encompass multiple languages. When John Riedl and I did a presentation on pharmaceutical translation a few years ago, we decided to “pan-Slavicize” our presentation. It took a bit of effort and coordination, but our non-Russian language colleagues readily responded to our request for aid, so we were able to include multiple Slavic languages in the exercises we used, and we offered participants a multilingual glossary.

For questions or suggestions related to this blog post, contact Jen Guernsey (


lgunderson's picture

We've also asked ATA for this information, but unfortunately they don't track it. However, if you visit the membership directory at , you can search by language pair and get an idea of the general numbers.