Friday, February 28, 2020

ITA Conference 2020

This week I attended the annual conference of the Israel Translators Association, held at ZOA House in Tel Aviv.

Day 1: 24 February 2020

The conference opened with a plenary lecture by author and translator Assaf Gavron. Five of his Hebrew books have been translated into 16 languages, and he has translated 22 books from English into Hebrew. He gave us a few examples of the challenges of literary translation and issues in conveying different cultural issues. He akso noted that Hebrew is one of the only languages where books that were translated into Hebrew a few decades ago receive new translations due to the rapid changes in the language.

Next, there was a discussion group hosted by Louis Mitler, where the participants were asked to raise various challenges and solutions in the freelance translation field. The issues ranged from the changing role of the translator in an era of machine translation to accreditation, professional liability insurance, relations with agencies, and membership of translators' organizations like the ITA. It showed that translators face different challenges depending on the stage of their career, their language pairs, and their specialization.

After lunch, Avi Staiman of Academic Language Experts discussed the challenges faced by non-native speakers of English in publishing academic research. He conducted a survey to examine the specific needs of academics, which included the need for greater funding of translation and editing work and the obstacle of journals and publishers assuming that articles by non-native speakers need editing. This lecture was particularly relevant to my specialization.

Next, Yael Cahane-Shadmi spoke about the sensitive issue of conflicting values, when translators find various ethical objections to working on a particular text. Of course, translators can refuse work if they find it conflicts with their personal values, but if they accept it, they must be professional about it and do their best to translate it without letting their different perspective influence the result.

After this lecture, it was my turn to speak. My lecture was about the process of publishing an academic book. It followed a psychology book I translated from the stage of searching for a publisher, through all the additional documents necessary for the query and submission process, the translation itself, proofreading and creating the index, to the publication of the translated book. Many translators are not fully aware of these stages if they only do the translation itself.

Then, Liath Noy discussed the state of translation studies in Israel. She distinguished between studies focused on translation theory and those aimed to prepare translators for an active career. She suggested that translation studies should be more practical and more interdisciplinary, touching upon language skills, cultural differences, data mining, translation software and tools, general and specific knowledge, and business skills.

Day 2: 25 February 2020

The day started with a session by Liron Kranzler-Feldman of Academic Language Experts discussing translator-client relationships from the viewpoint of non-violent communication (NVC). We did an exercise in pairs where we shared a difficult situation with a client and went through the basic steps of observing, identifying feelings, identifying needs, and making a request for action (of the client or of ourselves). This was a useful session for many participants, and I think it's important for all professionals to think about how they communicate and how to resolve any issues without conflict.

Next, Yifat Vered spoke about working with Japanese companies, from her experience of living in Japan for ten years and then helping Israeli companies do business with Japanese companies. She explained the cultural and communication differences between Israel and Japan, and the complexities resulting from the Japanese language and its three alphabets.

Stephen Rifkind considered the customer's perspective when seeking a professional, such as a translator, in order to help us professional understand what customers are looking for. This included aspects such as pricing, website, proof of skill, and flexibility.

Then, Yael Segal gave a complementary lecture about how to reach new customers. She mentioned creating differentiation by having a narrow specialization, finding the sort of marketing that works best, and connecting to other professionals who work with the sort of clients you want.

After lunch, Dolly Baruch spoke about the translation of songs from Arabic to Hebrew. In some cases, only the tune was kept and completely new lyrics were composed. In other cases, the translation tried to be more faithful to the original. It seems that in translating songs, there has to be some compromise between various elements.

Next, Charlotte Gremmen discussed aspects of intersemiotic translation in a Hebrew graphic novel version of The Diary of Anne Frank. In addition to the linguistic translation, this version used visual elements beyond the text in order to convey the story.

Shirley Finzi Loew talked about her translation of an Italian novel that contained Sicilian dialect, and how to represent local dialects in the target language. The options are to leave out this aspect, to add notes explaining it, to use a different register, or to use dialects of the target language. The choice is on a spectrum between an acceptable translation for the target audience and an adequate translation of the source language and culture. In this case, she preferred to reflect the literary style over linguistic accuracy, and used mainly lexical means.

The conference was well-organized and enjoyable. I was happy to give a lecture 12 years after my first lecture at an ITA conference. I look forward to next year's conference.

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