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My review of the 9th Portsmouth Translation Conference

Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower, courtesy of

Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower, courtesy of

Last month I spent a Saturday down in Portsmouth at the university’s Ninth Translation Conference, entitled ‘The Translator as Writer’. It’s incredible that I’ve never made it to the event before now, as I’ve always noticed the high calibre of speakers every year (a combination of practitioners and academics), and I’m pleased to say that having finally made it this year, the event lived up to my expectations.

It seemed to me that the event had a very similar theme to other translation conferences I’ve attended in the past 12 months: the translator beginning to take a more strategic and proactive role in the text (aka the product) production process and to bring other skills they offer to table in their role as intermediaries between cultures and as professional writers.

Here are some of my takeaways from the event:

Jody Byrne’s plenary lecture on technical translation:

* The traditional distinctions between the work of translators and writers are rapidly fading

* Technical translators have traditionally not been viewed as needing or possessing excellent writing skills in the same way as translators of more ‘creative’ types of text have been, but this is changing

* Customer expectations of technical translators are changing: technical expertise is often needed as well, with the translator assuming a greater role in the overall usability of a document.

Practical workshop by Fiona Harris on localising and editing press releases for the EU:

* EU press releases translated into English often need to be extensively edited and localised to ensure they are relevant to the everyday life of the people in the target country

* In the case of the UK, the press releases need to appeal to a British audience. For example, they are often adapted for a Eurosceptic press, in order to get the best coverage.

Luc van Doorslaer‘s lecture on translation and journalism:

* Globalisation tends to emerase /emquestions of translation in the news media

* Fast communication needs do not pay attention to translation and will rather tend to make it invisible.

* Through this reduction in multilingual diversity, the world is often falsely conceived as being monolingual.

* National image-building in the media: do the media express or create cultural proximity? Reconstruction of a constructed reality?

Neil Bartlett‘s inspirational keynote address on ‘Inspiration’:

* How can a translator facilitate the ‘breathing’ of a sentence?

Denise Merkle‘s lecture on translating and expert writing in translator training:

* There are misconceptions among some translation students about what translation actually involves

* Many translation students have poor reading and writing skills, and tend to read less in general (I am still not convinced of this myself – is this measurable?)

* How do we define quality?:  a lot of LSPs focus mainly on their quality procedures in their promotional material. For example many make a lot of their Quality Assurance (QA) procedures and turnaround times, competitive rates etc., rather than selling the quality of the writing they are offering.

On the last point, I have since wondered how much of this was a sign of the times, where businesses in just about every line of work seem to be placing great emphasis on procedural aspects such as safety and reliability, sometimes over and above their actual product offering. I’m curious about why this might be. Do we live in such a complaint-fearing world that we feel we must set out these types of parameters to armour us against any risk of grievance? Are we not confident enough to place a bigger emphasis on selling the quality of the product we are offering, and to be able to defend it?

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User Responses

3 Responses and Counting...

  1. Milatova

    December 02, 2009

    Thank you for your interesting post. Can I conclude that the next DVD player I might buy will actually have a user’s manual that i could possibily understand ? :-)

  2. Translation Agency

    December 02, 2009

    Nice Article! Conferences will always give us an idea about the latest inventions in translation industry.

  3. Korean translator

    December 02, 2009

    Haven’t participated in any translation conference yet, your description about the event made regretful about not being there. Thank you for the linking the speakers with their websites.

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