This month, the APS recognizes members who contribute with their finances, talents or time. In that spirit, I wanted to take a closer look at the APS Translation Committee, which is a great service provided entirely by fellow APS members volunteering their time and talents.
APS Life Member Bobby Liao (right) and APS President Robert Zeigler at AmeriStamp Expo 2019 in Mesa, Arizona, where Liao received his pin as a 25-year APS member.
Almost every month, at least one APS member writes to share their experience with the Translation Committee and their gratitude for the service. In 2019, APS Life Member Bobby Liao, Chair of the APS Translation Committee, celebrated his 25th year as a member of the APS. I recently got the chance to congratulate him on this achievement at AmeriStamp Expo in Mesa, Arizona, and pose some questions about the Service and how it works.
Although Bobby is the Chair of the Committee, he gives its members credit for its success. It’s not only an amazing member service, but also the spirit of giving that makes it work serves as a great reminder that our hobby’s strength is in its people.
Even though the service can translate in more than 30 languages — Afrikaans, Arabic, Belarusian, Bosnian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Ukrainian, Yiddish — it welcomes volunteers willing to serve their fellow members. Thanks to Bobby and all the members of the APS Translation Committee for all they do for the APS and the hobby!
Scott English: How long have you been collecting and what do you collect?
Bobby Liao: I have been collecting stamps since before I started first grade. I enjoy identifying foreign stamps and learning to read the different scripts. I suppose I got interested in languages from stamp collecting. More recently, I have been collecting advertising covers especially Coca-Cola bottling company covers from different countries.
How did you get started in collecting?
I got started when my family received letters and postcards from relatives overseas and I wanted to save the stamps. My older brother had collected stamps before me and gave me an album to start my own collection.
How long have you served as Chairman of the APS Translation Committee?
I have been serving as Chairman for 11 years. I began volunteering on the Translation Committee in 2003 helping with Chinese and Japanese translations, and I was appointed as the Chair in 2008.
How many members serve on the Translation Committee and how many languages can be translated?
We currently have 50 members including myself serving on the Translation Committee and we translate philatelic materials from 32 languages.
How many requests does the Committee fulfill each year?
We receive about 100 requests each year to translate approximately 300 items ranging from postmarks and inscriptions to letters and articles, even cachets from first-day covers. The number of words translated averages about 40,000 per year — about as many as a 145-page book. Fewer than five percent of the requests are not fulfilled because we do not have committee members who could translate materials for languages such as Mongolian or Ge’ez.
Stamp collector since first grade, today Bobby Liao helps with Chinese and Japanese translations, chairs the APS Translation Committee, and collects advertising covers from Coca-Cola bottlers around the world, including this 1954 airmail cover from Puebla, Mexico, to Maine.
Are there languages that need additional volunteers?
Yes, we need more volunteers for French, German, Italian and Japanese. In fact, we encourage and welcome volunteers for any language.
How does an APS member volunteer to serve on the Committee?
Please contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or write: APS Translation Committee, 100 Match Factory Place, Bellefonte, PA 16823 USA
What should every member know about the APS Translation Committee?
APS Translation Committee is staffed by fellow collectors who are APS members to provide the membership with translations of philatelic materials. Items such as letters, cancellations, inscriptions on stamps and cachets may be translated. Most requests (short translations under 250 words) can be done without charge. Longer translations may be available for a nominal fee as determined by the volunteer translator.
Additional information about the service is available at stamps.org/Services/Translations.
Editor's Note: The “Our Story” column was originally published in the April 2019 issue of The American Philatelist. We are bringing the archives of The American Philatelist to the Newsroom - to read back issues of The American Philatelist, click here and scroll down to the Back Issues section.