Saturday, February 18, 2012

ITA 2012 Conference

This week I attended the tenth annual conference of the Israel Translators Association, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem.

The conference this year had four parallel tracks, instead of three in previous years, and as a result, every participant could only attend about a quarter of the lectures. Sometimes it was difficult to decide which track to attend.

As always, the first day contained workshops, which I did not attend this year.

Day Two (February 14, 2012) started with a plenary session. The first speaker was Dov Gordon, who explained how to focus our marketing message on solving the customer's problems and achieving the results they want. Next, Dan Almagor discussed translating for the stage. He explained that unlike a written text, a stage translation has to be immediately understood because the audience may lose concentration. He gave a brief review of translating into Hebrew throughout the ages, and expressed his opinion in support of new translations of plays every few years, to adapt them to current language and culture.

Next I heard Prof. Miriam Shlesinger describe the role of interpreters in determining the fate of asylum seekers. She based her talk on letters by a lawyer representing an asylum seeker, complaining about the interpreters who translated the hearings, displayed an insufficient understanding of the relevant language and culture, and misrepresented what the asylum seeker was saying. This is another case where officials do not understand that not every person who can speak two languages is capable of serving as an interpreter. It also raised the question of how neutral an interpreter should be.

Inga Michaeli spoke about various issues in literary translation, such as finding equivalents to foreign names that would have similar associations in the target language, and expressing the different literary registers and idiosyncratic styles of fictional characters in the different cultural context of the target language.

After lunch, Leah Gniwesch gave an inspiring talk about taking control of our emotions and our reactions to external events as a key to happiness. The language we use can form our reality, and so being conscious of using empowering and positive words can help create and maintain a productive world view. I have heard many life coaches, and this talk resonated most strongly with my personal beliefs and practices.

Leah Aharoni spoke about the potential benefits of doing voluntary translating work for non-profits. This can provide professional and personal satisfaction, work experience, and even help find paid work. Of course, the translator must set clear boundaries regarding the quantity and frequency of work undertaken.

Day Three (February 15, 2012) started with a plenary session by Dr. Tsuriel Rashi about the Pashkevilim (wall posters) as a form of communication in the Ultra-Orthodox community. These posters deal mainly with ideological struggles, and often contain a mixture of Hebrew, Yiddish, and Aramaic, often with many acronyms. Next, Robert Lederman told us about computer vision syndrome, a subject of great relevance, given that a majority of the audience admitted to sitting opposite a computer screen for six hours a day or more. He recommended taking a break every 20 minutes, and spending 20 seconds focusing on an object at least 20 feet (six meters) away.

Prof. Miriam Shlesinger and Prof. Rachel Weissbrod introduced an interesting project initiated by The Lewis Carroll Society of North America, in which translation scholars from 114 languages submit an essay, a bibliography, and a back translation, to provide an overview of translations and versions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in each language. In each case, the back translation should include a passage from the earliest and the most recent translation into that language. The earliest Hebrew translation was by L. Siman (1923), and turned Alice into a Jewish character. The most recent translation was by Rina Litvin (1997).

Orna Raz discussed the character of the translator in the book A Season in the West by Piers Paul Read. The translator served as a gatekeeper, determining the fate of the author, and attempted to bridge the cultural gap.

Galia Hirsch talked about the use of forms of address in different languages and cultures, such as languages where the plural form is used to show respect (tu and vous in French), and the difference between English, where people are often addressed by name or other terms, and Hebrew where the tendency is not to use addresses very much.

Yael Sela Shapiro explained how to find work with Israeli publishers, for beginners who hope to become literary translators into Hebrew.

My general impression is that this was one of the best conferences so far. Everything was run professionally, and even when there were schedule changes, this did not create chaos. I learned from previous conferences that there is a limit to how many lectures I can take in, so I did not attend all the sessions available on both days.

I look forward to next year's conference, and hope that some of the lectures I missed will be offered as part of the ITA's program of monthly events!

Other blog posts about the conference, in Hebrew:

Tzviya Levin ; Tzviya Levin & Stephen Rifkind ; Yael Cahane ; Yael Sela Shapiro ; Inga Michaeli.

And in English:

Stephen Rifkind; Nina Rimon Davis.