Sunday, March 1, 2020

Professional conferences and reinventing the wheel

Once again, I had the pleasure of participating at the Israel Translators Association (ITA) Conference, this year in Tel Aviv. It was a two-day event offering lectures on a wide variety of subjects. In many ways, it answered the basic question asked by many translators: Why should I join and actively participate in a professional association? The answer is because it will help your business but not necessarily in the way that people assume. To be clear, direct contacts and even job offers often result from these events. Not only that, meeting people in person has a far greater impact than virtual contacts and create opportunities for various types of collaboration. Yet, the most important and, in a certain way the most surprising, aspect of professional conferences is the willingness, even pleasure, that veteran (not old) translators have in sharing their knowledge and professional wisdom with any and all, without expecting any compensation.

At the ITA Conference, many of the most experienced translators in Israel showed anybody that was interested how to improve their business. For example, Moshe Devere, a pioneer and trainer in CAT (Computer Aided Translation) tools guided beginners through MemoQ. Alan Clayman, a longtime translator, explained advanced financial terminology. Yael Segal and I provided tips on reaching customers. Yifat Vered opened the eyes of the attendees to the intricacies of communication with the Japanese. Ruth Ludlam and Avi Staiman talked about academic publishing and editing, respectively. Translations issues involving other languages were touched on, including Arabic by Dolly Baruch and Italian by Shirly Finzi Loew. These are just a few of the lectures available to the attendees of this conference. For a full program, see

The encouraging aspect of this and any other such conference is the opportunity to learn from the experience of others in order to grow much faster than would be possible in isolation. Granted, not all techniques and tips are relevant while many need to be adopted for the specific circumstances.  Still, two or three ways of improving efficiency or reaching new markets can make the difference between surviving and thriving. Not only that, the lecturers were happy to answer individual questions after the presentations to help hone their message. They did not view the interest as a threat to the income but as a hope for the profession.

The long and short of it is that professional organizations and conferences shorten the learning cycle. It may be possible to learn a language or even gain insights on a culture through courses but learning how to succeed in a business, including translation, is a matter of experience.  It is possible to reduce the length of this apprenticeship at a very minimum price, i.e., the cost of belonging to an association and attending conferences. Expressed in different terms, it is inefficient to reinvent the wheel. Thus, joining and attending professional associations is worthwhile and does result in higher income.

1 comment:

  1. You make a good point, Stephen. Wish more newbies would join the Association.