ITA 2016, or a few glorious days in Yerushalayim

12729009_10208720165305790_2309746514960039857_nOf about ten words I know of Hebrew, Yerushalayim shel zahav (Jerusalem of Gold) are most probably the three I’ve known the longest, all thanks to an old song of the same name. Given that, it’s surprising it has taken me so long to finally make it to the city itself. And I’m extremely happy I went, as the weather and the timing were nothing but perfect, and I was able to explore the city, enjoy the weather and the food (an important subject in all translators’ small talk, as I’m sure you all can confirm), and, last but not least, had an amazing time at the ITA Conference, meeting new colleagues, reconnecting with old ones, and learning so, so much.

Here’s some background info in case you haven’t heard about the ITA Conference before. It is organised annually in Jerusalem by the Israel Translators Association, and this year’s conference was the first one for me. Let me tell you right away – I am most certainly going back next year, no doubts about that.

This year’s conference was held from February 15 to February 17, and I would like to thank all of you who followed my Twitter feed during the conference and commented and contributed to the discussion. It made the experience much more lively. I would now like to take this opportunity to share some of my impressions with you (and I do apologise for taking a week to publish this).

In two words: very positive.

In two more words: must go.

And now in a bit more detail.

This year the conference was organised to have four parallel tracks – Business, Technical, Specialized and Academic & Other, – as well as several workshops on translation and translation technology. The diversity of sessions meant that there was enough time and ample opportunity to discuss issues varying from specific translation theory questions to use of social media to machine translation and how that will affect the future of the profession.

Monday was devoted to workshops and sighseeing, as well as a Gala event in the evening, and a presentation on how language could be used as propaganda or to incite terror. Nothing new, but definitely relevant. And for me personally it was interesting to see examples from different countries and a different conflict than what we are used to seeing as examples in Russia and Europe.

And then the ‘main conference’ started on Tuesday with a beautiful sunrise and delicious coffee and pineapple juice (the best I’ve ever tasted).

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Then came the grand opening by the ITA Chair, Danit Ben-Kiki, and keynote speeches by  André Lindemann, President of the German Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators, Stefan Gentz, also from Germany, and Andrew Morris, presenting his amazing innovative Facebook community, Standing Out.

I joined the Standing Out community some time last year, and I noticed right away that there was something that made this group different from any other group or forum for translators and interpreters. However, I only fully realised what was it that made the community so different while listening to Andrew last Tuesday. He explained how his first experience with the way social media was used and treated by the translation community online might not have been the most positive one, as he was surprised by the sheer volume of ranting and anger out there. So he decided the new way forward was to ‘Change the game and Stand out’, which led to the creation of the now thriving almost three-thousand-strong community. Andew wisely acknowledges that

There is no ONE reality we ALL have to subscribe to.

But as Freelancers we have a unique gift, a gift of freedom. We are free to write our own rules, to play our own game,

To go out there and create the world we want to live in.

Because it’s all right to be different. We all are. It’s all about accepting and embracing the fact, and Standing Out. And I am extremely happy I heard Andrew explaing the idea, as it gave an interesting and helpful percpective on quite a few things.

Another keynote speaker, Stefan Gentz, talked at length about the future of the profession and whether or not the wider use of Machine Translation meant the doom of translation as we know it. About a year ago he asked his Facebook community what they thought about it, and, quite predictably, opinions varied.

This is probably my favourite response:

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And one more thing. With so much information that is translated these days, and so many translators and tools for translation available (apparently, Google translates more in 1 minute than all human translators in a year), it is easy to forget that the primary reason for and purpose of translation is to help people communicate and to help the spread of information and knowledge. So, as Stefan so wisely put it,

Let’s help the world to communicate… Let’s be curious, let’s be creative.. Let’s be brave and Let’s be bold. Let’s be disruptive. Let’s be change.

André  Lindemann was among the very few speakers who focused not only on the world of translation, but also on that of interpreting. Igor Vesler, giving his presentation How I Became A Warlord: Online Research Pitfalls also talked about challenges faced by translators and interpreters alike, particularly when translating/ interpreting proper names. And since I’ve had to deal with a few particularly difficult cases over the course of the past several months I found the talk to be exceedingly useful.

I would also like to mention the presentation on Worst Translation Practices by Keith Brooks, and another one, What About Your “About” Page? by Alessandra Martelli. The first one because I always find it useful to hear the opinion ‘from the other side’, be it clients or project managers, and the latter because this is something I myself had to spend quite some time thinking about. And I might have to rethink it yet again. In a nutshell, Alessandra’s advice is to remember that your “About” page can’t be a monologue, but always a dialogue, a live conversation with one’s audience.

So as you probably can see already, the topics were quite varied and diverse.

Other subjects covered included CPD and Professional Training, for example, a presentation of the Alexandria Library by Delphine Guérou, as well as several presentations on the use of social media and online platforms.

As someone who works to and from Russian, I couldn’t possibly continue without mentioning  the CPD for Russian Speakers presentation by Tatiana Struk, Elena Chudnovskaya and Joseph Kovalov. In their presentation they very helpfully focused not only on various social media networks and online resources, but also on offline resources and CPD programmes available.

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I am sorry I missed several presentations, but I am looking forward to returning to Jerusalem, and the ITA Conference next year, and I am sure this will mean meeting new colleagues and hearing new ideas.

The city itself will be definitely worth another visit, and I am incredibly grateful to our wonderful guide, Eran, who took us on an amazing tour of the little village of Ein Karem, now part of Jerusalem, the birthplace of John the Baptist, and then on a long walk through the old city.

The highlight of the tour for me? Herbs and spices. I’m a food person, and I simply couldn’t ignore these riches:

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I brought home about half a suitcase of spices, and herbs, and different kinds of teas, and as I’ve said, I am definitely going back next year, and not just for the spices. The views weren’t that bad either.

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If you went to the ITA Conference as well, please stay in touch, and share your experience and memories, and I look forward to seeing you all in the beautiful city of Jerusalem next February.

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