by Silvia Giancola
The 2021 ELIA Together conference has just wrapped up – and I’ve spent the past few days bringing together all the various ideas explored during the event. Disclaimer: This article is based on the notes I took during the event, so there could be the odd inaccuracy. Bear with me! J
The event kicked off with a warm welcome from organizers, Diego Cresceri and Carlos La Orden, who deserve a lot of credit for making us forget about the physical distance between us over the course of the proceedings. With the formalities out of the way, it was on with a packed schedule touching on all manner of topics.
With great interest, I followed Nicole Sixdorf’s contribution on the communication difficulties that often reign supreme in the translation industry. Some of the points might seem like givens, but they’re really not.
How many times do translators hesitate before asking for clarification because they’re worried about being seen as substandard or because they don’t want to “disturb”? And how often do they simply not have enough time to try to fully understand a request from a project manager or the end client? Whatever the motive, this is something that can make life more difficult for all concerned.
Nicole also warned of the potential misunderstandings between people when they’re not communicating in their native language, when the parties imagine a subtext or ulterior motive that may not be there and when an inappropriate tone is used. And that’s without mentioning the potential ramifications of responding in the heat of the moment or being distracted, generic or inconclusive in our replies.
The benefits of good communication between translators and project managers
Nicole also stressed the huge potential to be unlocked if we can turn passive attitudes into active ones. When communication comes to life. When a shared language is created. When we take the required time. When we ask questions. When we participate in the process.
As a strong supporter of collaboration with translation agencies, I can’t help but agree about the benefits in terms of quality of work and overall satisfaction when there is synergy between all the various stakeholders in the industry. I’m talking about active participation, sharing, dialog, commitment and collective effort – the kind that helps to build a community, a sense of belonging and win-win relationships among all parties involved.
I also really enjoyed the Juremy presentation. Juremy is a custom tool made for translators in response to the need to find accurate terminology practically and quickly (in the legal sector in this case, hence the name).
The tool searches through all of the main resources provided online by the European Union, so IATE, EUR-Lex and the online translation memories (TMs) produced by the EU’s Directorate-General for Translation. It’s a fascinating idea from the creators because it reflects our very specific need to find exact concordance, thus drastically reducing time taken and removing the need to cross-reference between different sources.
There was plenty more food for thought from Robert Sette in his session, entitled “Surviving as a quality-oriented translator in the age of technology“. The central focus was once again on translators and their ability to react and adapt in a rapidly changing world, where “rush is the new norm”, to quote Robert.
Asked whether translation is an art or a service, Robert replied, “It’s a craft”. It’s a definition I whole-heartedly agree with. I too see translators as modern craftspeople who work with words to forge texts that fit the needs of the client. Just like a tailor, a luthier or a blacksmith.
Robert also focused in on something that we rarely talk about: the trap of ultra-specialization. Only translating texts relating to flip-flops (just an example that springs to mind) can turn out to be a double-edged sword, because you’re instantly ruling yourself out of jobs in an infinite number of other fields. As such, Robert recommended being open to broadening our horizons beyond our specific field of expertise. Nowadays, the internet offers us a huge range of ways – many of them free – to find information and tools to help us tackle areas that aren’t strictly part of our field of specialization.
I’d add that the decisive push that leads us to expand our knowledge often comes from an agency showing their confidence in us by asking us to translate something in an area we’ve never worked in before, sometimes supplying us with training resources and links to useful sites to help us. You can tell I believe in teamwork, right? Robert wrapped up his session with the mantra, “We’re all in this together.” In my opinion, that would have been the perfect name for ELIA 2021 itself.
MT is here to stay
The SDL talk called “What does the rise of Machine Translation mean for the Freelance translator?” from NicoleLoney was a brave one, if nothing else. Machine translation is the elephant in the room. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s a game-changer in the industry.
Regardless of the angle you approach the issue from, it’s here to stay – Nicole left us no doubt about that. More and more agencies are offering their translators PEMT jobs, while increasing numbers of translators are opting to use machine translation as a way of boosting their own productivity.
I liked some of the things mentioned, including perhaps the most provocative statement, which was when she suggested that translators could draw inspiration from automatic translation generated by specialist software. To be fair, that certainly happens when we proofread translations done by others. Many will be screaming sacrilege at this point. In my eyes, what we need is a more open, flexible approach to the issue from all involved, in recognition of the fact that machine translation is something we’re going to be talking about for a long time to come.
The final presentation I attended was by Maha El-Metwally on behalf of the ITI (Institute of Translation & Interpreting), a professional association representing translators, interpreters and language service providers in the UK. Maha provided an overview of the current regulatory picture as it pertains to the interpreting sector. In short, Maha’s point was that there is no one international standard for interpreting. Each national association has acted independently to bring in new regulations to address the current situation, which has seen the vast majority of interpreting services moved online as a result of the pandemic. The purpose of such regulations is to protect interpreters and help them overcome the challenges associated with working with difficult audio/video quality and having to bear all the expense of creating a set-up that would usually be provided on site.
It was a packed three days of interesting events and food for thought, which is why I wanted to share it with you here, in the spirit of mutual progress. And though I do believe that training should be a valuable chance for colleagues and other industry figures like agencies, associations, institutions and the academic world to come together, there were still plenty of opportunities for that this time, despite the limitations of the online format. Until next time!