The Tree of Diplomatic Terminology: The Weeds, Roots, and Branches
Presented by US State Department Chief Translator, Joseph Mazza
Translating and interpreting in the foreign affairs arena both require mastery of an extensive lexicon of diplomatic terms.
In this talk, the U.S. Department of State's chief translator Joseph Mazza will discuss some of the key terms in diplomacy across a variety of languages. We will get down into weeds, find the roots, and climb the branches. The session will explore such word pairs as boundary/border, embassy/mission, and treaty/agreement. What are the nuances, and when are they important? The speaker will also discuss the official titles and document types encountered in diplomacy. Finally, attendees will hear about the unofficial jargon used in diplomatic contexts. Dazzle your friends with sentences such as 'The chargé demarched the signatory with a non-paper.'
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Raised in suburban Philadelphia, Joe Mazza began his language training at the knees of
family members from Italy and Poland who had passed through Ellis Island in the early
He earned a BA in International Relations from George Washington University (1984), completing studies in French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese. He joined the US Navy’s Translation Unit (1984), working in Slavic and Romance languages, including Italian and Portuguese.
Mr. Mazza joined the State Department’s Office of Language Services (LS) in 1989 as a translator of Romance languages. During the 1990s, he studied Arabic at night school.
First appointed Chief of LS’s Romance Branch, in 2006 he became the Chief of LS’s Translating Division, where he has worked to build a team of top-notch linguists and translation project managers. While he supervises a global portfolio including responsibility for most State Department translations, he also specifically handles work in non-staff languages Including languages of limited diffusion.
A very popular speaker who combines learning with humor, he has worked with the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) to develop the ASTM Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation and the ILR Skill Level Descriptions for Translation Performance. He has spoken at every ATA annual conference since 2006, and published articles in the ATA Chronicle, the ATA’s Savvy Newcomer blog, and the ATA’s SlavFile.
In 2015, Mr. Mazza joined the faculty of the GSIT School at the University of Maryland, where he teaches Spanish/English translation.
From 2016-2020, Mr. Mazza served as Administrator of the ATA’s Government Division. In December 2017, he was one the keynote speakers for TAALS 60th Anniversary where he delivered a lecture on “A History of Diplomatic Translation.”
He is an incurable amateur historian and genealogist.