Uplifting and inspiring

Uplifting and inspiring.

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Back home

It’s now been 5 days since I arrived home from San Francisco, and I’ve been busy the past few days with all the usual kinds of stuff that you have to deal with when you’ve been away from the office for three weeks. But tonight (9 August) I’m back on the road (or the tracks – on the sleeper down to London) for an ITI meeting, so I have a spare hour or so now to look back at the past week and work out what I and ITI can learn from my trip across to the USA.

The Open Congress was an eye-opener for me, as I’ve not experienced a US-style translation conference before. Apart from the sheer number of delegates (630) and the size of the venue (not to mention the size of everything else around me, which seemed to dwarf any European equivalent I had seen before), the lack of opportunity to meet in plenary apart from the keynote sessions each morning and the lack of a coherent lunch break was disconcerting to say the least. I understand the difficulties of holding plenaries with that number of delegates, and it’s probably a challenge that we in ITI will not have to face anytime soon, given our conferences are generally attended by between 120 and 200 delegates. However, the idea of having to arrange lunch at breakfast or face the prospect of eating alone was challenging to come to terms with first thing in the morning! As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m very grateful to Karen Tkaczyk for arranging my lunch on the first day.

The Open Congress seemed to be very well organised, under the overall management of ATA’s Jiri Stejskal. It was disappointing to see quite so many cancelled sessions, though I was perhaps fortunate that either the cancellations did not affect me directly or the replacement presentations were excellent (for example, the first cancellation of the conference gave me the opportunity to attend Nick Hartmann’s excellent improvised talk on terminology and customer relationships). However, the size of the venue and the lack of plenary sessions meant that sometimes you could wander the corridors and see only 30 or 40 people, which, when you were aware that there were in fact 630 people attending, gave the impression that you were possibly missing something.

During the conference I took the opportunity to learn about a couple of projects that are new to me. The first was the EULITA project, which culminated in the creation of an association of legal interpreters and translators in Europe in 2009. EULITA is active on a number of issues, including the reaction in the UK to the Ministry of Justice’s decision to award a framework contract for the provision of translation and interpreting services to a single agency and to do away with the previous National Agreement, which had been developed and consulted on by all of the stakeholders, including ITI.

The second new project is Linport – a new portability standard for translation packages. The idea is simple – each translation tool vendor, such as SDL, Kilgray, Atril, etc., has its own proprietary package format, and none of them are interchangeable. Linport aims to fill this gap, giving vendors an open standard that they can support to allow translators and customers to work in the tool of their choice, whatever that may be. Of course, there are still interoperability issues with different tools supporting different levels of the individual translation memory, terminology and segmentation interchange standards, but Linport is an exciting intiative that deserves the support of the entire industry. It seems to me to be a win-win-win-win-win solution!

And now I’m back down to Milton Keynes, for the second time in as many months, which isn’t really what I was hoping for when I put myself forward for Council. However, this Council meeting promises to be extremely exciting, for reasons I can’t yet go into, and I hope that soon we will be in a position where we can get into a more regular rhythm of meetings, both physical and virtual.

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At the diner

It’s always nice to see a friendly face when you’re far from home, and one of the first faces I saw this morning was that of fellow ITI Scottish Network member, Karen Tkaczyk. Karen now lives in the USA, but presented very successfully at the ITI Conference in Birmingham (UK) this May, which I chaired.

One of the first sessions this morning had unfortunately been cancelled, but ATA Past President, Nick Hartmann stepped in and gave a paper of his own on customer relationships and terminology. After the session Karen kindly introduced us, and the three of us had a very enjoyable lunch in a nearby diner, exploring the issues that confronted both ITI and the ATA. Nick has a wealth of experience and is a thoroughly nice chap. It was wonderful to be able to eat and chat with such a clearly popular, in-demand lunch companion.

Despite being separated by the Atlantic and a range of cultural and economic differences, ITI and ATA obviously share a great deal in common. I hope to take some of Nick’s comments back to Milton Keynes with me.

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Elections and the conference

Yesterday, Sunday, saw a continuation of the FIT Statutory Congress. As I mentioned in my previous post, this meant a whole raft of changes to bylaws, though most were simply editorial in nature, aligning the two languages in which the documents are written, and making sure terminology is used consistently. Some were more involved, however, and it was clear that the room was not always of one mind. Still, guided by the hand of FIT President Marion Boers, we came to a conclusion.

The election of Council members was dignified, and the whole process does FIT a great service. I’m pleased to report that ITI’s nomination, Andrew Evans FITI, was elected back to FIT Council for what will be his final term. Andy really is a very reliable and safe pair of hands on the Council, so his re-election should not have been a surprise.

The Council election was followed by a vote on the location of the next FIT World Congress, to be held in 2014. The two candidate associations, Colegio de Traductores Publicos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires and BDU, representing Buenos Aires and Berlin, respectively, had put together very impressive presentations. The German bid was successful, and the Congress will be organised by the same experienced team who organised the 2009 Interpreting the Future conference. Interpreting the Future will be held again in 2012, and the call for papers has just been released – http://www.interpreting-the-future.com.

Today saw the start of the Open Congress – the conference part of this event. There are many different tracks, covering all sorts of topics, and it has been difficult to decide which to attend. The day started with the keynote speakers, however, Olga Cosmidou of the Directorate General for Interpretation and Conferences, and Jost Zetzsche, a well-known translation tools expert.

Olga gave a very interesting presentation of why multilingualism is at the very heart of the European Institutions, and especially the European Parliament. She pointed out that the much debated “cost” of multilingualism in Europe was just EUR 2.50 per EU citizen per annum. As she said, some people refer to that as the cost of a cup of coffe; she prefers to refer to it as the cost of democracy, since it enables any monoglot citizen of any of the 27 Member States of the European Union to stand for and be elected to the European Parliament and to participate fully in the democratic process.

If you have ever read anything that Jost has written, or heard him speak, you will know that his main thrust is always that technology will not overtake us, but that translators who embrace the technology will overtake those who avoid it. A typically entertaining presentation, featuring Jeromobot (of course), Jost’s message is that what we translate today as professional translators is just the tip of the iceberg. Below the waterline there is a whole mountain of translatable material that is currently just ignored. Technology will help us translate the masses of information for which there is currently neither the capacity nor the resource. It will give us access to more work, not less.

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FIT Statutory Congress – part 1

FIT Statutory Congress

Saturday saw the first day of the Statutory Congress, FIT’s version of a General Meeting.

Once the meeting had been opened, and the formalities dealt with, we set about the first item on the agenda, which was to ratify the admission already proposed by FIT Council of new members to the Federation. This was particularly interesting to me, since one of the proxy votes I am holding belongs to the Association of Police and Court Interpreters – a candidate for admission. APCI was admitted without opposition, just like a number of other organistions, and it was nice to formally welcome them to the Federation, even though circumstances dictated that they were unable to attend in person.

With the formalities of ratification over, we proceeded with the next agenda items, namely the FIT Council Report, and a special report on the new FIT website. The new website is a content management system that allows all parts of FIT, including member associations, regional centres and committees, to update their own specific pages with news. It is hoped that member associations in particular will be able to use this facility to inform the wider FIT membership of events and happenings in their local area. The website certainly looks very easy to use, and is well structured. I’d like to do something similar with the ITI website soon.

The next items dealt largely with money. As can be imagined, this sparked much greater debate and a lot of back and forth. It became clear that one proposal in particular (I’m not sure about the level of detail I am permitted to give here, so I won’t go further than that) was not acceptable in its current form to a couple of the larger member associations. With the debate in danger of escalating, and in conjunction with the Swiss delegation and with support from others on the floor, ITI put forward a motion from the floor asking the Council to reconsider the package and to publicise it further in advance of the next statutory congress. The basic reasoning behind the proposal from Council was that it should make it easier for smaller associations to send candidates to Council, and as a basic democratic principle that must be supported. However, it is also clear that at the moment there are insufficient details on the table, and time will be needed to work them out.

Finally a word about language – today’s debates were conducted in French and English, with some speakers switching between the two regularly! It is important, I feel, that an organisation like FIT should have the confidence to carry this basic principle of bilingualism forward, and the applause from the floor when a French speaker, who had started in English but then realised she was able to express herself in French and did so with much gusto confirmed to me that many others feel the same way. Of course, this would not be possible without the simultaneous interpreters sitting in their booth at the back of the room, and I would like to echo the thanks issued from the platform to them yesterday.

Today, Sunday, we carry on with the agenda, and again the debate promises to be lively. With money concerns (largely) behind us, we are now looking at some of the Bylaws and Rules of Procedure that govern how FIT is run, and we also have to discuss proposals for a new action plan. And of course, the elections to Council, which, I am reliably informed, is where the real fun starts!

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Round the Council Table

Round the Council Table

Regular readers of ITI’s Bulletin (the Institute’s excellent bimonthly journal) will know that Round the Council Table is a slot in which members of ITI Council take turns to give readers a flavour of life as a Council member. It’s not an official record of Council proceedings – the minutes are available for members to read on the ITI website – but it reflects each individual writer’s opinions and feelings of the Council meeting.

Today, I was fortunate to be invited to sit in on the final meeting (for the present three-year mandate) of FIT Council as an observer. I am extremely grateful to FIT Council for extending this invitation to me and to others who will be attending the Statutory Congress tomorrow. Here are my reflections in an RTCT, FIT-style.

Initially, I was struck by the amount of work the Council had to get through. The agenda was packed full, and FIT Council normally meets for two consecutive days, so it is physically and mentally demanding.

One of the items up for discussion was the FIT Identity Card – an instrument that some translators and interpreters working in the world’s troublespots find particularly useful as a means of providing accreditation and proof of their status. Unfortunately the current system simply is not cost effective, so FIT Council would like to look at alternatives. Finding an appropriate solution that meets all criteria at a reasonable cost will be difficult, and one of the principle ways of remedying this would be to stimulate greater demand. Perhaps this is something that the larger members associations in particular could look at, on the basis that the greater the take-up, the lower the unit cost. The topic will be up for discussion at the Statutory Congress as well, and it promises to be an interesting debate.

Another area that was touched on was communications. The difficulties of managing publication processes were raised, for example, with volunteers with little spare time having to juggle conflicting deadlines imposed by printers, etc. It is clear that a lot, if not all of FIT’s work is heavily reliant on the volunteers who work in Council and on the Committees. To them we all owe a great deal of thanks.

In conclusion, I suppose it is unsurprising to see that FIT is faced by many of the same issues as ITI. We all have to treat our volunteers’ time with respect if the pro bono model is to be sustainable.

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Day one: Arrival and about FIT

Day One – Arrival and What FIT Does:

It’s day one of my trip to the FIT XIX World Congress in San Francisco, and despite it being 6.46am and my having been awake since 4.30am, I’m feeling quite refreshed after a good few hours’ sleep. My first transatlantic flight passed off without drama, with stunning views of Greenland and northern Canada accompanied by the full recording of Under Milk Wood by Richard Burton, and others, courtesy of BA’s in-flight entertainment system. You can take the boyo out of Wales…

Last night I met up with FIT Treasurer Andy Evans, who is also a founder member of ITI, and his wife Marede. We visited a local Irish bar (http://www.johnnyfoleys.com/), which felt authentic apart from the conspicuous lack of anyone more than a little tipsy. The food (Tandoori chicken skewers with cucumber dipping sauce) and beer (Anchor Steam) was good though, and for me especially had the benefit of not having been prepared at 36000 feet… I hope to try something a little more American next!

Andy has been FIT Treasurer for the past two terms (six years) and is standing for election to his final term of office at the Statutory Congress here in SF. But before going into more detail on that, I should perhaps explain more about FIT and what it does.

According to the strapline on its website (http://www.fit-ift.org/) the Fédération Internationale des Traducteurs / International Federation of Translators is the “voice of associations of translators, interpreters and terminologists around the world.” In other words, it is a membership body for membership bodies of professionals in translation, interpreting and terminology. The FIT website has recently been redesigned and is worth a browse.

Every three years, FIT holds a World Congress, which is organised by one of the member associations. This year the American Translators’ Association (http://www.atanet.org/) has organised the event in San Francisco. The Congress is split into two parts. The first is the Statutory Congress, which is like the General Meeting – lots of discussion of bylaws, admission on new members, ratification of budgets and appointment of new council members, etc. As I mentioned above, Andy Evans of ITI is currently the treasurer, and will be standing for election to his third and final term in this position and on FIT Council. There are 17 seats on FIT Council in total, and members, who must be proposed by their own associations, are elected for a term of three years, serving a maximum of three consecutive terms. The second part of the World Congress is the Open Congress, which is a translation conference that is open to all, members and non-members alike. Have a look at the FIT XIX World Congress website (http://www.fit2011.org/) to see what sort of sessions are on offer.

When it comes to the issues that occupy FIT members, it seems that the usual concerns of membership bodies, such as member benefits and subscription rates, can be found here too. Subscription rates in particular are a thorny issue, especially in a global organisation operating in an industry where costs (and therefore translators’ incomes) differ wildly across the world.

That’s all for now – today is my acclimatisation day so I hope to get in a bit of sight-seeing, but will first observe the beginning of the FIT Council meeting this morning.

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A new way of communicating (for me, at least)

When I was a teenager, I was never one of those who entrusted their innermost thoughts or desires to a Dear Diary. I’ve never been the type to dwell on past successes and failures, and I’m suspicious of over analysis. Plus I prefer to live in the here and now.

However, my geekier side has long being telling me that I should start to blog, and fully embrace social media. Beyond occasional forays Twitter and LinkedIn, I’ve not done much more than dabble in this new world yet, and now the opportunity presents itself, it seems a good a time as any to start.

The opportunity is the FIT XIX World Congress, which takes place in San Francisco between 1-4 August, and which I’ll be attending on behalf of ITI. Over the next few days I will be tweeting and blogging from the Congress, so come back for more information! I’m sending this blog post from Heathrow – next stop, San Francisco!

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