Apr 2

A report from the Translation and Localization Conference 2013 in Warsaw

The Translation and Localization Conference 2013, which took place on 23-24 March in Warsaw, Poland, attracted over 200 participants, majority of whom came from Poland, but also from Germany, France, Russia and the UK.
The speakers were delivering their presentations in one of three conference rooms, of which in one there was always a presentation in English for the benefit of the international audience. In addition, we could also choose from technology or terminology workshops which were paid for separately in advance of the conference.

Day 1, Saturday
The opening presentation
The opening ceremony was styled to resemble a pre-flight cabin crew safety demonstration – amusing and ingenious, and applauded by the audience. Then followed a presentation by Wojciech Froelich of Argos Translations, Grzegorz Wójcik of Magit and Agenor Hofmann-Delbor of Localize.pl who talked about the latest trends in the industry. I especially remembered gloves designed to translate sign language into speech! There was also a talk on the ever-popular subject of machine translation (no, it won’t drive translators out of business) but, as we were slightly behind the schedule, there was no time for questions (to the disappointment of some attendees).
What is excellence?
Agenda went back on track with a presentation delivered by Stefan Gentz – a keynote speaker who took us through the process of going from good to excellent in the translation industry. I particularly liked one quote: “Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way” – thought-provoking, don’t you think? The speech was perhaps more relevant to translation companies than to freelancers, but it gave me some new points to consider. Providing excellent translations is only a part of the concept of excellence.
Glossary converter
I also enjoyed a quick, but useful presentation by Kate Smith of SDL Technologies who showed us 4 free applications in the SDL OpenExchange. My favourite one was called Converter which allows you to convert an Excel glossary into a MultiTerm format (or the other way round) with just one drag and drop move.
I’m confused
I didn’t understand a presentation on whether translation agencies look for cheapest translators mainly because its title, when compared to its content, was misleading. In my opinion, the speech had little to do with the subject, as it more concerned different types of translator personalities, such as “A translator who can take any project”, “A translator who can never take any projects”, “A translator who works overnight”, etc. Though entertaining, I felt we were all a little bit confused, and some of us even expressed it out loud!

Day 1 concluded with an informal party at a nearby venue called Balsam. Despite temperature outside being as low as minus 15°C, the event was well-attended. Organisers arranged transportation and greeted us with vouchers for drinks. Delicious snacks and music were also provided. It was a great opportunity to talk to colleagues I mainly know from on-line portals, and to discuss subjects different than translation. From what was reported in the morning, the party went on until well after midnight.

Day 2, Sunday
Day 2, which was definitely more exciting to me than Day 1, started only at 10.00 am to give the party-goers a chance to get some sleep.
For medical translators
First, there was a remote presentation by Yana Onikiychuk who described the results of a survey on whether one had to be a medical doctor to be a successful medical translator. The data showed an insignificant difference in favour of MDs, but it still depended on the error category we took into consideration: terminology vs. grammar vs. spelling, etc. Something the audience didn’t ask was whether the translations reviewed in the study were marked by the same assessor so as to avoid any bias. I know one thing – research skills and training are crucial in medical translations.
Build your brand
The highlight of Day 2 to me was a presentation by Marta Stelmaszak – a useful, clear and well-delivered talk on how to rock the industry by building your brand. Marta’s approach was a bit controversial as she questioned many of the tools we consider now a must in order to be successful. She asked “Do we really all need websites, twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to make it?” Perhaps just being good enough is what is required to get there? What Marta emphasised was that you need to understand your client first, and this should be the cornerstone of your business. People loved her talk.
Translators’ education in Poland
As I had to catch a train from Warsaw to Szczecin, I ended Day 2 with a debate on the state of education for translators in Poland. A gloomy picture emerged:
1. Post-graduate students come with poor source and target language knowledge.
2. Specialist subject training is too superficial or lacking.
3. Teachers on translation courses are often academics and not practicing translators.
4. Students are not taught any business skills.
5. Students enter the market unprepared for what is there.
My stance on this is ambiguous, as you can’t be taught everything. Effort, as well as constant development, are inseparable in becoming successful.
It was with some sadness that I had to leave the conference venue and go back home, but I also felt inspired by the talks I attended and the colleagues I met.

Feedback for speakers
Lastly, I have to make 6 comments to do with public speaking:
1. Less is more: too much content in your presentation and audience loses the plot quickly.
2. Don’t assume participants have the same level of knowledge as you do – clearly explain key concepts.
3. Speak slowly enough for everyone to follow – some participants are foreigners.
4. Interact with your audience: ask for feedback and encourage questions. Someone will speak up eventually.
5. Turn your presentation into a story – people will follow instantly and your talk will be well-received.
6. Edit your presentation just as you do your translations.

I really enjoyed the conference and think the orgnisers, localize.pl and TEXTEM, did a very good job. Considering my personal interests, I’d welcome a workshop on medical translations or specific aspect of it and more presentations to do with the business side of being a freelance translator. I most certainly recommend attending one conference every year, as real relationships are still built in the real life.