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ITI Sustainability in Translation Conference – my experience: day 2

Explaining the finer points of Twitter in London. on Twitpic

After a delightful evening meal at the library of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (the main conference venue), we reconvened early the next morning for another day of presentations, chat and lots of coffee. I felt that there was a perceptible shift on the second day towards the more practical, day-to-day aspects of translation and interpreting, with the emphasis on technology, work-life balance and professional development.

The day started with yours truly – co-presenting with Sarah Dillon. We’d done a lot (and I mean A LOT – see Sarah’s write-up) of preparation and research for our presentation, and it was both terrifying and exhilarating to finally be able to share it with our professional community in this way. We basically offered a whistlestop tour of the concepts behind social media and web 2.0, the type of online tools available, and how language professionals might best use them. Sarah did a demo of some novel uses of LinkedIn and Tweetdeck which appeared to be new to many delegates.

We had a small technological hitch along the way, with our remote presentation tool throwing a wobbly halfway through. Although it had worked fine in our tests, we had foreseen this happening, so managed to remain calm and carry on thanks to  our backup plan (a PowerPoint file containing screenshots). However, I think that our key messages still came through – that these tools are not scary or difficult to use, that they allow YOU to be in control of how much information you receive, that not every one of these tools will be right for you, and that’s OK, but that the online world is changing – big time. It’s almost a case of ‘find a manageable way to keep up, or get left behind’. I think these messages were fairly well received, and Sarah and I have been really, really excited to see more ITI members venturing onto Twitter, for example.

Watch this space for more news on our presentation, as we already have plans to make a recorded version of our presentation available at Slideshare and perhaps even to publish our research, thoughts and findings as an ebook via  Lulu. The ITI Conference website will also be uploading copies of every presentation early next week – go to

Our session was followed by a panel discussion entitled ‘Where to draw the line?’ with Nick Rosenthal, Iwan Davies, Patricia Sommer and Paul Appleyard.  A few questions had already been sent to the panel in advance, focusing on the usual suspects such as how to chase late payment. We were reminded that it is important to operate a rigorous policy when dealing with late payments – don’t take any prisoners, and operate a zero tolerance policy, but remember to remain professional and courteous in all dealings with clients.

Next up was Dr. Steve Vincent from Leeds University Business School, on the subject of work-life balance for knowledge workers. Steve challenged the phrase ‘work-life balance’, suggesting that it was more an issue of ‘work-life conflict’ – this is a description that I also personally feel is more appropriate. Siobhan Soraghan, a business coach, ran the next session, again on work-life balance. Siobhan has personal experience of ‘burn-out’, and proposed that we check in with ourselves and our working/non-work habits and rationally analyse them.  We are all busy people, we all wonder how we’ll get everything done with just 24 hours in the day, so Siobhan suggested that in order to avoid burnout, in our daily tasks we should prioritise our endless lists of things we ‘need’ to do, by asking ourselves which of them are both important and urgent. The most important asset in each of our businesses is our health, and this needs investment through ‘self-sustainability’ activities. To read more about Siobhan’s work, visit:

A truly original and inspirational presentation came next, by Phil Goddard on ‘Finding a work-life balance crossing America’. Some readers may already know about Phil’s 3000 mile walk across the USA for charity, but for those who don’t I urge you to visit and Impressively, Phil found that he was still able to work on translation jobs while he was away, and often found himself delivering jobs from his laptop at random hours of the day or in unusual places – this really showed us just how ‘mobile’ it is possible to be these days if you really want to be.

Reinhard Schaler, founding editor of the Journal of Specialist Translation (JosTrans), and founder and director of the  Localisation Research Centre at the University of Limerick, presented a session entitled ‘Where is translation technology going?’. Reinhard started by stating a problem: there is more material out there online than translators can translate. Some examples: 40% of Facebook users are not using English, but Facebook’s mission statement is to make their product available in ALL languages. Their way of tackling this has been to crowdsource volunteer translators from within their existing user base – collaborative translation where users can comment on and update translations in order achieve a final version. This is a controversial practice among translators, and rightly so in some cases, but I am minded to agree that it is the most effective method for a product such as Facebook – after all, none of the language used on it is highly complex, and wouldn’t its users be best placed to understand the terms in context? The fact of allowing users to update other entries, Wikipedia style, would also go some way to resolving translation errors and stumbling blocks.

I attended the translation technology parallel session run by Ana Luiz Iaria. Ana is well known to be very knowledgeable on this subject, and took us through a run-down of productivity tools, back-up, tag verifiers etc. Look out for Ana’s presentation on the ITI Conference website to see the links to the tools she introduced us to.

And so the conference drew to a close, and there were a lot of tired but happy faces in the audience. To finish up, we discussed ways that the ITI is supporting the profession, with training courses and several new initiatives in the pipeline for the coming 12 months. Despite the feeling of tiredness I could sense we were all experiencing, I could also feel the unmistakable sense of renewed enthusiasm, new ideas and new contacts we so often come away with from conferences. At their best, conferences and any indeed any gathering of freelance professionals remind us why we’re in this profession, and help spur us on to develop ourselves and our businesses. I can safely say that this was one such event.

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  1. LaurentG

    May 29, 2009

    Thanks for this interesting report.

    Just a quick remark : ITI Conference (beautiful) website is
    (with a – between iti and conference).

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May 29, 2009

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