One of the purposes of any professional conference is to get people to dream while showing them how to make the dream a reality. In that sense, the 2021 ITA conference was a great success. Spread over three days from March 1-3, the attendees profited from the variety of visions in regards to translation and its significance as well as practical steps for success in these challenging times. When the lecturers speak with enthusiasm and authenticity, it is the icing on the cake. I would like to present my personal highlights (with apologies to those speakers I do not mention).
Starting with Yves Champollion, we were taken to the start of the modern translation, the process of the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone, which exemplifies the required skills and challenges of today. Later that day, Douglass Hofstader discussed the relative merits of transposing contextual language, whether description or dialogue, from one culture to another, citing the translations of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and David Grossman’s A Horse Walks into a Bar, among others. He discussed the degree to which the readers’ culture should be reflected in the choice of words. The next day, Prof. Yehuda Shenhav-Shahraban spoke about the problem with translating from a language without solid knowledge of its culture and how working in groups, i.e., through dialogue, can overcome this limitation. Later that day, David Chrystal took us on a rapid and fascinating trip through the history of linguistics, a challenge in itself, and enlightened us on its latest focus, pragmatics, crystallizing (pun intended) our intuitive knowledge that context is almost everything in determining the actual meaning. Fabienne Bergmann and Eliezer Nowodworsky discussed the problem of censorship even when the translation is clear, using the Little Prince as an example. These lectures brought out the extasy of translating a word.
No less importantly, other lectures provided guidance for business success in the changing world translation. Regardless of your current specialization or future area of growth, lecturers provided a gold mine of information. Nina Sattler-Hovdar broke down the ins and outs of transcreation while Joseph Kovalov demystified machine translation. Michel Norman shared his wealth of knowledge on financial translation, which I personally profited from, while Maria Victoria Tuya provided a detailed presentation on medical translation. Paige Dygert gave excellent advice on why and how to find legal clients while the challenges of remote interpretation were addressed by several speakers, including Francesco Saina as well as Myriam Nahon and Gisèle Abazon of the AIIC. I personally led a discussion on communicating with customers when problems occur for the purpose of both limiting damage and building customer loyalty. The conference provided plentiful practical tips.
Maybe the most valuable contribution of this conference was the inspiration and hope it gave after this last difficult year. Anna Lewoc presented the why and how to achieve the proper balance between work and happiness, an art that especially tends to be lost in tough times. Armenise Guiseppe Alessio spoke with enthusiasm and specific about how he succeeded in starting a freelance translator business in the middle of the Corona crisis. Finally, and most inspiring, Marguerite Strom showed how us how she reinvented her business in that period, overcoming all the psychological barriers, including being non-native to technology and uncomfortable with marketing, and is thriving. She especially cheered up those generalists, who have been feeling underappreciated in recent years. Whether we are new or established, their messages rang a bell.
The best testimony of this conference is that I was able to sit on my sofa for three days without suffering, an abnormal act if I am healthy. The combination of relevant topics and effective speakers made it easy to do nothing but listen and learn. The ITA chairperson, Uri Bruck, deserves a whole haberdashery of chapeaux for the organization of the conference and keeping it on schedule. Churchill said that if you are going through hell, keep on going. This conference was a giant step to better times.
*Use picture captions to assist the blind.
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