The Language Show 2019 has been as memorable as ever — bustling with exciting talks, intriguing exhibitors and amazing linguists from various avenues of the sector. Many contacts to make, much information to remember, a few lessons to take on board. For me the day was marked by an additional and totally unexpected learning curve.

Keeping up-to-date with the technology, I was busy photographing various slides of the masterful presentations and the most interesting exhibitions: with myself, without myself… I was really enjoying myself and, of course, looking forward to sharing with the community of my readers everything that impressed me.

My mobile phone, however, had a different view on the matter. The day must have been excessively overwhelming for the poor device, and on the way home it decided it had had enough of everything — so much so that I had to upgrade my contract and until  mid-week I will have no way of connecting with “the outer world” except by email and via landline. Long live the diversity of means of communication!

Among other consequences, however, I was left with no visual material to support my narrative — except for one photograph taken by my husband (for which I am really grateful to him!).

I guess, the lesson here is very obvious. Do not store all eggs in one basket, i.e. do not rely on a single device for every imaginable function.  Fortunately, being a little old-fashioned, I still favour pen and paper as (arguably) the most reliable storage of knowledge — after all, according to Bulgakov, “manuscripts do not burn”. As there was no fire in my handbag (only in my head — as I was trying to bring my humble electronic friend back to life) I have my precious notes and the rest is in my memory.

The first talk was presented by M4 Translation Service Manager Atul Ramanuj — an amazing personality who spent the last 27 years of his career running the interpreting and translation services for Manchester City Council. To my humble knowledge, this is the only local council in the UK that not only employs in-house interpreters on PAYE but provides professional training to the bilingual individuals with a potential to serve as community interpreters.

His speech was highly inspirational because the set up of Manchester offers a benchmark quality for the rest of the country. Interpreters and translators are not left in isolation and are provided with regular training and employment. The support of the council is incredible, and the contribution and the effort of Mr Ramanuj well deserve respect and admiration.

The quote of the day I carried from the lecture: “As a community interpreter — how can you show empathy yet remain impartial?” summarizes very well the complexity of the position interpreters find themselves on a daily basis.

The same is relevant to translators. How can we remain impartial to the text we are working on if impartiality borders with indifference? How can we translate and not feel (for) the subject matter? Yet, our professional duty calls upon us to remain detached and un-involved — and that is what we do. How we do it — is part of our trade secret.

Karen Stokes — an amazing linguist and a prominent member of CIOL — gave an insightful talk on the present state of translation industry. The outlook was based on the conducted by CIOL UK Translator Survey 2017 and revealed a few issues to consider by any translator who wants to thrive and strive for success today and in the near future.

Based on the results of the survey, Karen suggested that translators should adopt a new approach to CPDs aligning their skills with the demands of the clients. Engaging with professionals who are on the receiving end of the translation product will ensure a close link and a consistent quality with a view to the ever-changing socio-economic situation in which companies and their clients have to operate.

In other words, skills and qualifications should be relevant to the service receivers and translators as language service producers should be adaptable and relevant in the service they provide.

This seems to be a  viable answer to the grim message of the Survey suggesting that translators are underpaid and undervalued.

The third talk that I attended was organised jointly by the European Commission, CIOL and ITI. The topic focused on the importance of specialisation in translation.

The message from the panel of experts was clear: the future of translation is in its expertise and quality, which can be guaranteed and ensured only if translators specialise.

Specialisation means giving up other fields and rejecting possible jobs if they do not relate to your area of expertise. That is embedded in CIOL Code of Conduct and it makes perfect sense.

Steve Jobs once said: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully […] Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

The same could refer to specialisation. In order to become experts in our chosen field we have to say no to the hundreds of other linguistic areas.

The difficulty here is that translators are intrinsically fascinated by languages they work from and into. Being an explorer and a researcher is part and parcel of our trade. That means going beyond the boundaries, stretching into the impossible and invading unknown territories. Language as a concept is endless.  Working in one area of expertise inevitably involves crossing to the neighbouring fields or at times much further.

If I translate annual accounts of a mining company, I must embed into my translation the expertise and knowledge of the mining industry. How do I acquire it? Through thorough research, learning and continuous professional development. Does it reduce my expertise of a financial translator? As a linguist can I and should I limit the scope of my knowledge if my clients can benefit from it?

The talk was thought-provoking and has left a lot to reflect upon.

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Copyright 2019 Liudmila Tomanek







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