Friday, February 14, 2014

ITA Conference 2014

This week I attended the ITA's 2014 Annual Conference, held at the Sharon Beach Resort Hotel in Herzlia. After many years of the conference being held in Jerusalem, it was refreshing to be in a hotel by the beach. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the full conference this year and had to leave on the afternoon of the second day. I will try to link to other blogs describing the conference and especially the lectures I missed.

On Monday night after dinner we heard Ioram Melcer talk about translating invented words in the classic novel "Hopscotch" by Julio Cortazar. Interestingly, the linguistic distance between Spanish and Hebrew, and the deep structure of Hebrew word morphology, made it relatively easy (for him!) to invent new words that could somehow match the invented words and be completely new words but also comprehensible.

Tuesday morning's plenary session started with historian Prof. Anita Shapira talking about the meanings conveyed by silence in the public discourse in the early years of Israeli society. When people were silent about their past lives before immigrating to Israel, this expressed the focus on their new lives and hopes for the future. The silence about the Holocaust and about the fallen soldiers of the War of Independence is understood as reflecting a pain too great to express in words. The subject was interesting, though only very tangentially related to translating and language issues.

Next we heard Polish-British translator Marta Stelmaszak discuss translating as a collaboration rather than a competition. As she noted, each translator offers a slightly different set of skills and expertise, and it is possible to create a unique service that does not compete directly with other translators, even in the same language pair. She also recommended collaborating with other professionals, such as editors and designers.

The session ended with translator Betsy Benjaminson explaining how she chose to become a whistle-blower and expose her client Toyota's cover-up of a fatal problem in its cars. Her story was recently reported in the local media, and showed that translators sometimes have to put ethical considerations above loyalty to their clients. I hope most translators never have to face this sort of dilemma, and would like to believe many in such circumstances would show the sort of wisdom and courage Betsy displayed.

After a break, there were four parallel sessions of lectures. I first attended the Professional track, and heard Eve Hecht talk about the translation of correspondence, with an emphasis on various cultural differences and social norms. Then Inga Michaeli discussed translating guidebooks into Hebrew, again noting the cases where it was necessary to adapt the contents to the readers' culture and preferences.

In the afternoon I went to the track devoted to improving your business. The first lecture was a shared presentation by Yael Sela-Shapiro and Inga Michaeli about diversification. Yael spoke about the importance of expanding your areas of expertise in order to increase your work volume. After spending a long time working towards becoming a specialist in my ideal translation niche, I somewhat disagreed with this idea. I can see that it works for some people, but I am finding that I can have a sufficient amount of work even after narrowing my area and don't feel the need to expand and diversify. Then Inga told her personal story of diversifying her business. She added content writing in her area of expertise to her translating business when she found that she was getting less work, and also proactively contacted potential customers. These strategies can be useful for translators seeking more work.

Finally, Dalit Ben Tovim discussed ergonomics, an important subject for translators who lead a sedentary life in front of a computer. I have heard her lecture at a conference a few years ago, and found it interesting to be reminded of this issue. I think I already implement many of her suggestions.

I enjoyed what I saw of the conference, and it was good to have an annual ITA conference again after there wasn't one last year. I hope some of the lectures I missed will be given again in the ITA's monthly lecture evenings.

Other blogs reporting on the conference:
Stephen Rifkind (English)

1 comment:

Ariadne Skyrianidou said...

This was really interesting although I am not in the translation business! Especially the Betsy Benjamison case!AriadnefromGreece!