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ITI Conference mini round-up

ITI’s 25th anniversary conference was held in Birmingham on 7-8 May, and the theme was ‘Expanding our horizons’.

On a personal level, a great thing about the event was the huge Twitter buzz surrounding the event. This hadn’t happened on quite the same scale before, and it was particularly nice to see after my social media presentation with Sarah Dillon at the 2009 ITI conference. The hashtag #iticonf was being used throughout the weekend, and the Twitter feed was displayed in the conference foyer all weekend. There was even a tweetup on Saturday afternoon (which to my embarrassment I managed to miss, as I was engrossed in another conversation!).

You can see a twitter feed captured by @valivonica here.

I think that one of the main highlights for many people was a chance to hear Chris Durban give her ‘mystery shopper’ talk, a very interesting experiment where she posed as a client who required a translation. After a sending her request to a number of language service providers (translation companies in this instance), her conclusion was that ‘It’s hard being the client’. With such a wide range of quality and pricing, who can they rely on, if not the language service providers? And that includes the freelance translators providing the translation via the companies.

Like many of the other speakers, the overall message was to always strive for quality, and with this in mind Chris repeated her call to translators to sign their translations. Fly-by-night operations are playing on a different field to those of us who are in this business for the long haul, and whose reputations are at stake. We have more to lose.

Interestingly, Nicolas Ostler, the keynote speaker, pointed to a possible emergence of a two-tier industry: information-only (possibly processed using machine translation) vs. top-end, very high quality writing.

On the Saturday I chaired Janet Fraser and Michael Gold’s session on their 2010 recession survey. Their findings were extremely revealing – they found a rather large gap in the 40-50 age bracket. Meanwhile, many respondents were under 34, and lots were over 55. This is fascinating because to me, 40-50 is a key age bracket. It is usually the stage in a career where you at the top of your game and are leading the way for others. What does this mean for the translation industry?

Respondents’ perceptions of themselves as entrepreneurs differed wildly according to age bracket, too, which I would have expected. Most of those under 34 saw themselves as ‘natural’ entrepreneurs – i.e. that they hadn’t necessarily set out to be business people but were happy to be business people. In the discussion that followed, we explored reasons for this, including how the dramatic change in the cost of going to university in the UK since 1999 might influence how people approach their careers. It will be interesting to see how the under 34s’ responses change as they age and progress through their careers.

Jonathan Downie’s talk ‘Oan the telly’ was another highlight for me, and he retold his 15 minutes of fame in a highly entertaining talk. But there was a wider message to be learned from his experience: when someone asks you about what you do for a living, find a way to condense that down into a punchy message that would fit onto a t-shirt. I’m calling this Jonathan’s personal rebranding of the ‘elevator pitch’.

I don’t know if anyone else felt this way, but the overall tone of the conference felt a bit like regrouping and taking another look at how our industry presents itself. Should we re-align our approach to professionalism? When we talk about the vague term ‘quality’, what do we really mean? Do we have the confidence to promote ourselves more ‘actively’ to the outside world, including putting our name to our work?

As always, the conference was a chance to meet old and new faces, learn new things, and confirm and challenge existing knowledge. I came away with plenty of food for thought.икони

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  1. Really a heart touchy article! You are absolutely right Philippa we really don’t know the actual meaning of quality or professionalism either. What we really know is getting paid against all our work. If we really have thought of representing our planet in front of the outside world then probably we would not be standing here.

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May 20, 2011

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