Thursday, 22 March 2018

The minimalist approach to Twitter

Twitter can be, but doesn’t necessarily have to be, overwhelming. It can instead be used minimally and in an organised, systematic way.

There is obviously no one right approach to Twitter. Some of us have several accounts, while others manage their tweets via just one account. Some Twitterers send out tweets strictly limited to work, whereas others mix in tweets of a more personal nature, too. Some of us are very active, while others just lurk on Twitter. And all these approaches are okay.

One comment by Alison Hughes, the presenter at a workshop hosted by ITI's Western Regional Group in Bristol in June 2017, sparked the idea for me to write the present blog post. Alison commented that she generally avoids information overload, as well as overloading others on Twitter.

Twitter can be used minimally and in an organised, systematic way.

It struck a chord with me in that I, too, generally try to avoid Twitter overload: I aim not to overload others and not to overload myself. It’s become part of what I call my “minimalist approach to Twitter”, which involves the following:

1) Restricting Twitter to my personal needs

If you’re in business, Twitter can be a brilliant marketing tool for acquiring more customers: it may be used in a targeted way to achieve specific marketing goals by engaging with companies and potential clients. Twitter offers a plethora of opportunities and ways for individuals and businesses to interact.

However, I do not see the need to use Twitter in this way. Instead, I use it merely for extracting useful articles and information. I also enjoy having the possibility of socialising with others occasionally as I’m working on my own at home. Restricting myself to this use of Twitter involves less strategising and organising on my part.

2) Minimising Twitter overload by setting up lists

Whenever I visit Twitter, I go straight into one of my personalised Twitter lists, depending on what I’m interested in reading right at that moment. For instance, to catch up on what my ITI colleagues have tweeted, I visit my ITI list. If I want to catch up on the latest Brexit news, I call up my Brexit news list. Or if I feel like indulging in the most recent minimalism tweets, I access my minimalism list.

Lists on Twitter are great for managing tweets: jumping straight into one of them means I won’t get lost in the masses of unrelated tweets that would jump out at me and overwhelm me straight away. For instructions on how to set up Twitter lists, see

3) Reducing Twitter activities

It’s a simple mechanism: the more you tweet, the more followers you’ll gain, and the more popular you’ll become eventually. Maximising your Twitter presence will help you stand out. By contrast, not being present on Twitter often enough may mean losing followers or missing out on interesting discussions or trends.

However, I’ve decided to sidestep those rules and keep Twitter use to a minimum. I don’t visit it every day, and even sometimes have Twitter breaks. As a general rule, I aim to be selective about what I tweet.

As with all things at our fingertips (especially apps on our phones!), it is very easy for them to take over our lives. However, by applying minimalist techniques, I find that Twitter consequently has not taken over my life.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Better and happier at work by slowing down

In the past few years I’ve turned into a keen runner and have even come to enjoy fast running! As of late, though, I’ve become a bit fed up with trying to run as fast as I can. Although I won’t deny that achieving a new Personal Best does give me an immense sense of satisfaction, I’ve switched to a slower pace.

The benefits of slower running are manifold: I do not just eliminate the risk of potentially collapsing with exhaustion at the end, but also consciously enjoy the activity in itself much more. I notice more of the little things in nature around me. And it has the pleasurable effect that running thereby is now (almost!) relaxing.

Pomphrey Hill parkrun, Mangotsfield, Bristol (image courtesy of Heli-air Imaging)

I’ve noticed a striking parallel between running and my job in translation. Working too fast involves running the risk of failing to pick up nuances in meaning, of missing minor details in the text, or of failing to see errors in the vicinity of other errors that I did spot. So reducing the speed (within reason) in whatever we do in our jobs has clear benefits, too.

In translation projects we sometimes whizz through texts, either because of time constraints, or because we’re revising somebody else’s excellent translation that doesn’t require many changes, or because we’ve worked through one of our own texts often enough already. Don’t we sometimes simply want to get the job over and done with to have it out of the way?

When preparing the first translation draft, I tend to work at a fairly high speed. Needless to say, raw translation as I’m rephrasing the text in German calls for creativity, too; however, it is in a way also “mechanical”. This is because for my first draft I make abundant use of internet resources, translation memory segments from previous projects already stored in my CAT tool, as well as some machine translation.

However, I work more slowly on subsequent drafts, especially the final version of the text! I usually prepare the final version in a distraction-free setting, when I’m completely alone at home. As a general rule, I’m up for this in the morning while I’m still feeling fresh in my mind. I then also notice and appreciate the little things in it.

Is it perhaps the consequence of what happens when we do something habitually day in, day out? I’m under the impression that as translators over time we tend to lose the appreciation of the beauty of language a bit. Isn’t beauty to be found in the words of even the most technical or driest of texts? They’re words, after all: the small, beautiful components of language that can be turned into something amazing when put together in a translation.

Reducing my running pace has made me realise that the benefits of slowing down at work are manifold, too. They include an even greater eye for detail, a reduced likelihood of overlooking errors and more appreciation of the words and the text. Slowing down has made me better and happier at work.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Machine translation in human translation workflows

With the cognitive computing age approaching at mind-boggling speed (before humans and technology likely will merge from about 2040), there seems to be a certain urgency in the need to familiarise ourselves with Artificial Intelligence. For translators this involves thinking about how (and if!) to integrate machine translation into their workflows.

Post-editing a translation is not the same as revising it!

On 24 January 2018 an event on the use of machine translation in professional contexts was held at Clifton Hill House in Bristol. It had been organised by the University of Bristol in partnership with Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville and the ITI Western Regional Group (WRG), attracting academics, professional translators, translation companies and technology providers.

My main takeaways from the event:

The job of post-editor is a relatively new profession. Post-editing nowadays is either offered as a service in its own right or just used as a tool that is incorporated into the translation process.

Post-editing has been defined in the ISO 18587 standard. Yet, although it’s been defined and hence should be clear-cut, in practice it’s more complicated since clients tend to have different requirements.

Machine translations often are over-edited, rather than under-edited. It is therefore important to note that post-editing a translation is not the same as revising it! They are two different skills.

Ideally, MT should be regarded as an additional tool, or translation memory, or source of reference, which for certain projects (!) can help improve efficiency and productivity.

There will inevitably need to be a move from word count-based pricing to time-based pricing for projects involving the post-editing of machine translations.

There has been a notable shift in the perception towards MT among translators because it’s becoming more capable of producing results that are usable. However, feelings of uneasiness, or strong dislike, towards MT continue to persist.

News headlines about advances in machine translation have led to inflated expectations by clients of what such tools can do. It’s worth bearing in mind we’re still very far from the point where the machines can take over from us!

The upside of such news headlines, on the other hand, is they’ve drawn attention to professional translation and interpreting, an industry which had previously often been overlooked.

My thoughts after the event:

There is a bizarre discrepancy between “human translators are a dying breed” headlines and the real situation human translators find themselves in: All the translators who I know are up to their ears in work. Constantly. And the demand for translations seems to be steadily increasing.

So contrary to what headlines want to make us believe: No, translators are not a dying breed. So where does machine translation come in? Well, it’s been introduced as a new, additional type of translation activity. (And fair enough, perhaps the term “translation” is no longer an appropriate description of this new activity.)

The cognitive computing age is just around the corner, so should all translators integrate machine translation into their workflows? Well, it’s up to each one of us to decide that. As succinctly put by a colleague in an e-mail conversion on that same topic recently: “People are always free to choose what they want to do both with regard to work and life in general.”

Find out more about this week’s event on the use of machine translation in human translation workflows by looking up the hashtag #MTBristol on Twitter.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Minimalism in punctuation

Web page visitors will click away and never return if what they see is a bit too hard to read. It therefore makes perfect sense to implement subtle measures to make such reading easier.

I recently came across a fascinating article entitled “Why you should be a punctuation minimalist” on the Articulate blog. It includes tips on the minimal use of punctuation, advocating the idea that “needless punctuation is a speed bump for readers”.

Web page visitors will click away if what they see is too hard to read.
The writing approach favoured by Articulate is “to minimise everything that gets between our words and the reader’s brain”. This includes, e.g., replacing punctuation marks with words, not using the “Oxford comma” before an “and” in a list, and writing dates without superscripts.

As an aspiring “writing minimalist”, I already aim to give precedence to shorter over longer words when producing online content. And in the editing stage I eliminate as many unnecessary words as possible. However, I’m constantly on the lookout for new ways to improve my writing.

As writers, we choose our words carefully, but how much thought goes into the use of punctuation? It’s clear why applying some minimalist thinking to punctuation, too, is likely to attract more readers and keep them on the page.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

The minimalist way of dealing with criticism

When someone upsets or criticises you, what’s your usual reaction? Which coping mechanism do you use?

As I was leafing through the OM Yoga Magazine edition in which my article about my Jala Flow Yoga retreat in Sidmouth had been published, I was thrilled to find an article contribution by Leo Babauta in it. Leo Babauta is an American minimalist, who writes extensively about minimalism.

It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to share with you a fantastic, easily implementable way of how not to bother when someone is inconsiderate towards you or criticises you. Leo Babauta sets out this coping mechanism in his e-book, “The Little Book of Contentment”:

Leo argues that the problem never is the other person’s actions: instead the problem is your reaction, or rather your action based on that reaction. He contends that other people’s actions, such as rude behaviour or unfair criticism, are just an outside stimulus.

Other people’s actions are like a leaf falling outside, or a rock falling in front of us on a mountain path. Isn’t his analogy just brilliant? Ponder this: when a rock falls, we don’t get angry at the rock, we go around it to continue on our way!

Criticism is like a rock falling in front of you in the mountains.

I’m allowed to share this tip with you as Leo’s e-book is uncopyrighted. Accordingly, no permission is required to copy, reuse or quote the text of his book.

Leo Babauta suggests dealing with criticism by thinking of it as a rock falling in front of you in the mountains: go around it, carry on walking and forget about it. Simple.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Christmas 2017 donation to OneDollarGlasses

Dear blog readers, merry Christmas and very best wishes for 2018!

In the same minimalist vein as in previous years, I have once again donated to a charity instead of spending money on Christmas cards and gifts.

Over 150 million people would need a pair of glasses, but can not afford it.

I have chosen the OneDollarGlasses aid scheme. Since I suspect I will need glasses myself soon, it appeals to me a lot. This aid organisation is based in Erlangen in Germany (where, incidentally, I‘d lived for a few years before I moved to the UK in 2003).

Worldwide, more than 150 million people would need a pair of glasses, but can not afford it. They can not learn, can not work and can not provide for their families. OneDollarGlasses consist of a lightweight, flexible spring steel frame and prefab lenses and can be locally manufactured with simple bending machines. The material costs: approximately 1 US $ (source: OneDollarGlasses website).

If this charitable cause appeals to you too, you can donate to OneDollarGlasses here.

You can find the German translation of this blog entry here.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

2017 Portsmouth Translation Conference

In a world in which machine translation (MT) is becoming ubiquitous, the theme of the 17th Portsmouth Translation Conference “Translation and Disruption: Global and Local Perspectives” on 4 November 2017, at which MT attracted special attention, couldn’t have been more topical. It brought together translation researchers and students, language professionals and industry stakeholders, who were all keen to discuss human and the latest technological aspects of translation.

Isn’t it stunning how often the word “magic” appears in descriptions of Neural Machine Translation (NMT)? NMT already outperforms Statistical Machine Translation (SMT). However, the mechanisms of NMT are indeed so complicated that often its intricacies are not even fully understood by its developers. According to Prof. Dorothy Kenny from Dublin City University, one of the keynote speakers, the most worrying part of NMT therefore is its opacity, which opens the door to error and misuse.

Sarah Griffin-Mason, ITI chair and senior lecturer in translation studies at the University of Portsmouth, enthused us with her optimism about the future of professional translators and interpreters. Without a doubt, there will always be sectors with a need for premium suppliers. She encouraged us to make a big noise about what we humans do – what machines can’t do – and why we’re so brilliant!

The conference was rich in insights and furthered an understanding of the underlying issues of machine translation and what’s at stake for language professionals. The way forward amidst the impending disruption seems to lie in adapting appropriately to the challenges ahead. In other words, we need to work out “where we fit” – and then communicate this clearly to clients!

The 2017 Portsmouth Translation Conference focused on machine translation.
In summary, the 2017 Portsmouth Translation Conference provided a powerful glimpse into the future of translation and interpreting. I came away from it feeling passionate about my profession and confident that, despite the recent hype about Neural Machine Translation, a safe future exists for all translation and interpreting professionals who remain committed to the cause.

It was generally felt that, although machine translation might fundamentally change how we work, the overall outlook remains positive. There seemed to be a general consensus that machine translation is no longer to be looked down upon as a “dirty” activity, as it is perceived by many in the industry. Finally, it should no longer be regarded as the taboo issue that no one wants (or dares) to talk about.

The overall outlook for translation and interpreting remains positive.

You can find out more about the 2017 Portsmouth Translation Conference by looking up the hashtag #2017portxl8 on Twitter.

I've written a more in-depth article about this conference, which will appear in the January/February 2018 issue of the ITI Bulletin.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

I am in OM Yoga Magazine this month!

I am excited to report that an article about my recent Jala Flow Yoga retreat in Sidmouth in South Devon, which I had originally written for the ITI German network’s newsletter, has just been published in the October edition of OM Yoga Magazine

Find my Jala Flow Yoga retreat article on pages 125-126.
Translators and other desk-bound workers often suffer from neck, shoulder or back pain as a result of working and sitting hunched in front of their computer screens in an unnatural position over prolonged periods.

Find out why I think yoga is excellent for easing and releasing tension and stiffness, why I wholeheartedly recommend a yoga retreat with Tom and Louise Hunt from Jala Flow Yoga, and how I even almost forgot about my minimalist principles during my stay in Sidmouth!

Order your copy of OM Yoga Magazine, in which you’ll find my article on pages 125-126, here. Or contact me to request your free copy of my article as a PDF.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

DeepL: Tool or threat for translators?

The end of August saw the launch of DeepL, a new machine translation tool developed by Cologne-based start-up DeepL GmbH (formerly Linguee GmbH). It was born from Linguee, a translation tool that has been around for some years and is a popular resource amongst us translators.

DeepL apparently performs better than any of its rivals’ products because it’s based on the relatively new Neural Machine Translation (NMT) approach, in which the processing of data is modelled on thought processes as they occur in the human brain. Its makers also claim to have created one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, conveniently located in Iceland (where electricity costs are lower than elsewhere).

Neural Machine Translation (NMT) is modelled on thought processes in the human brain.

Curious about these latest developments in machine translation (MT), I incorporated DeepL into my own work last week so I could familiarise myself with it. Since I’d heard it supposedly is excellent at what it does, I started off my experiment with a bit of a feeling of dread in my stomach. I was soon relieved, though, when I realised it’s basically yet just another tool. However, unlike many of its predecessors, it produces some output that is actually usable!

Having said that, I also encountered severe (in some text types potentially even dangerous!) issues in the DeepL MT output. They may seem minor or insignificant if you don’t work with language professionally; yet in translation for the commercial world they do matter. They do, in fact, matter very much!

I’m going to list a handful of these issues from the patent I was translating assisted by DeepL. (Note that for this article I’ve deliberately picked just shorter sentences or terms from shorter sentences, as DeepL couldn’t cope with longer sentences or shorter sentences with more convoluted syntax.)

“In one embodiment, the guide tube 106 includes an opening 105 on a first end which receives the medications.”
Although I was supplied with a sentence in perfect German grammar, so at first sight there seemed nothing wrong with it, DeepL had incorrectly assumed that the relative pronoun refers back to “a first end”, whereas its actual antecedent is “an opening”.

“treatment of the surface of the guide tube 106 that comes in contact with the pill
Here we have the same issue as above: The antecedent of the relative pronoun “that” in this particular context is “surface”, i.e. not “guide tube”, because the surface comes into contact with the pill. How can a computer decide what the antecedent of a relative pronoun is? It can’t.

“The shape of the guide tube 106, the orientation of the guide tube 106 to the force of gravity or other source of force, and the coefficients of friction and drag can be specifically designed to orient the axis of each pill in the direction of travel or with the axis of the tube 106.
“direction of travel” was nonsensically translated by DeepL as “Fahrtrichtung”, which would, of course, be the correct term in automotive contexts, whereas here it simply means the pill is moving in a particular direction.

Translated by DeepL as “Rillen”. Further down in the text, though, and especially when I looked at the technical drawings, it became clear that “Erhöhungen” or a synonymous term is more appropriate because the ridges on the internal (i.e. not the external) surface are described.

“low-distortion transparent material
Translated by DeepL as “verzerrungsarmes transparentes Material”, which does not make sense here since “low-distortion” in this particular context simply means the material in question isn’t prone to becoming deformed. (Also, DeepL omitted the important comma between the two adjectives in German.)

“cameras with fast shutters
Translated by DeepL as “Kameras mit schnellen Shuttern”; however, people working in this field tend to call them “Ultrakurzzeitkameras”.

“System 700 includes an image analyzer 704 and includes or has access to an image database 706.
Translated by DeepL as “Das System 700 verfügt über einen Bildanalysator 704 und eine Bilddatenbank 706”. Although the sentence is correct grammatically and sort of conveys the meaning, leaving out parts of a sentence is a no-go, especially in patent translation.

“In one embodiment, the light sources are continuous.
Translated by DeepL as “In einer Ausführungsform sind die Lichtquellen durchgehend”. The grammar is impeccable, yet the sentence sounds odd. A human translator would likely opt for a more technically sounding translation such as “In einer Ausführungsform sind die Lichtquellen Dauerlichtquellen.”

Translated by DeepL by “Optiken” in the plural. Difficult for a computer to get right, but Germans tend to use the term in the singular here to refer to an assembly of optical elements.

“electrophoresis (e.g., capillary)
Translated by DeepL as “Elektrophorese (z. B. Kapillare)”. A human translator would likely elaborate a bit and render the whole phrase as “Elektrophorese (z. B. Kapillarelektrophorese)” as otherwise it all somehow doesn’t fit together.

“limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed
“forms” was translated by DeepL literally as “Formen”. In this particular sentence, however, its meaning in the patent is “embodiments” or “forms of embodiment”, so it really should have been output as “Ausführungsformen”.

Following my experiment, I can confirm DeepL is indeed more precise and nuanced than any of the other machine translations that I’ve previously seen floating around the internet. So should we translators see DeepL as a threat? Will it disrupt the translation industry? I don’t believe it will. Machine translation is becoming more and more widespread, but: I am convinced human input will always be required for many text types.

For any change that looks potentially disruptive, there is both threat and opportunity. It’s ultimately all about how we respond to such changes! It’s also worth remembering there is a shortage of translators (read: good translators) across the board, while translation volumes are increasing year by year. So there is no other way than additionally employing machine translation for all the easier-to-handle-texts that require to be translated.

Machine translation or MT (also often referred to as instant, automated or automatic translation) was pioneered in the 1950s, and although this has taken a very long time, machines are gradually becoming better at translating. We have to acknowledge they are now no longer producing the hopeless gibberish of the early days of MT.

I have until recently been sceptical about the viability of post-editing machine translations as a new field of work in professional translation, simply because the MT output has typically been poor. But following these latest developments, I wonder if it is now worth exploring a bit more? Although DeepL hasn’t set out its vision yet, I wouldn’t mind if DeepL was made available for professionals at some stage – perhaps as a plug-in in the CAT software that we use?

If computers are indeed becoming more and more capable of taking over the boring bits of our work, then this can only be a welcome move forward. For it’ll mean we will at last be able to concentrate and spend more time on the bits in our texts that are actually interesting, that are blissfully complex and therefore worth getting our teeth into!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Super-easy decluttering for busy people

Are you always too busy for decluttering? The unbeatable solution to that dilemma: simply commit to chucking one item per day. It’s an approach that is simple, super-fast, and won’t disrupt your day.

The One-A-Day-Declutter approach has been part of my daily routine ever since I started out on the minimalism journey back in April 2014. It has helped me reduce my unnecessary possessions – one by one, drastically, and without ever looking back.

The simple approach to achieving a more minimalist household

I’ve found the following decision-making techniques useful when thinking about whether to keep something or throw it out: an object that I decide to keep has to be a) functional, and/or b) beautiful. If it doesn’t fulfil a) and/or b), then out it goes! I also find it helpful to picture my next house move and work out what I would want to take with me and what not.

This may sound weird, but I love the feeling of buzz and excitement when thinking about what next to get rid of! With every item I purge, I feel I am making (at least tiny) progress towards a more minimalist household. The One-A-Day-Declutter approach has transformed my life towards something better.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Translation and minimalism: On learning and growing

The minimalist lifestyle is not an end point: it is a process.

It is a learning experience: you learn what you value the most, how to reduce clutter, and consequently how to be much happier! It isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely fun and worthwhile.

Minimalism sets you off on a journey. You identify what is truly essential to your life and what you can live without. It is about constantly challenging yourself. And in the course of this journey, you become more individual and flexible. Minimalism enriches your life and gives you a chance to grow.

Minimalism sets you off on a journey!

The same applies to translation: translation is not an end point, it is a process.

From the day you venture out into the world of translation, it is a learning experience: you constantly pick up new, fascinating aspects of translation and language as you go along. A colleague of mine once remarked that she loves translation so much because she learns something new every day.

Translation sets you off on a journey. You constantly have to challenge yourself: by digging deep into grammar technicalities; by absorbing feedback from revisers; by having a go at new types of text. And on this journey, with time, you become more flexible. Translation gives you a chance to grow.

All this isn’t easy, but it’s definitely fun and worthwhile.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Brexit: Translated article goes viral in UK

“If it weren't so serious, the situation in Great Britain would almost be comical.”

Last week a translated article calling Britain the laughing stock of Europe went viral in the UK. It had been expertly translated by freelancer Paula Kirby and is based on an article written by Christian Zaschke, UK and Ireland correspondent for Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany's largest broadsheet newspaper.

An article calling Britain the laughing stock of Europe has gone viral in the UK.

The article is an excellent summary of the current situation in regard to Brexit, and both the original and its translation are linguistically brilliant, so well worth checking out! You’ll find Paula Kirby's English translation here and the German source text in Tages-Anzeiger, a Swiss newspaper, here. Christian Zaschke’s original comment appeared in Süddeutsche Zeitung and can be accessed here.

At the time of writing this blog entry, Paula Kirby's translation has 24K likes and 51,747 shares on Facebook.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The baffling solution to clearing mental clutter

We all tend to always have something going on in our minds. Many of us even have voices inside our heads constantly telling us we should do this or that, reminding us of failures or setbacks, and building up clutter in our minds.

There is a bafflingly simple solution to dealing with mental clutter.

In our everyday lives, we are bombarded with information, news items, photos, e-mails, text messages and social media notifications. We’re incessantly haunted by must-do’s, ideas, plans, decisions, thoughts flitting back to past experiences, interactions with other people. We are constantly having to respond to requests.

I’ve found a baffling solution to dealing with such “mental clutter”: it consists in implementing “stateless practice”. It’s a fascinating concept that I’ve come across in one of Leo Babauta’s blog posts, which you can read here. A stateless protocol in computer programming is a communications protocol that treats each request as an independent transaction that is unrelated to any previous request (source: Wikipedia).

Leo Babauta suggests applying this concept of statelessness to our everyday lives: rather than constantly responding to a million requests, must-do’s and thoughts running around our heads, imagine they simply faded away into the ether... Imagine that no requests, must-do’s or thoughts were weighing down on your mind right now.

Statelessness involves letting go of all previous moments and instead focusing on what’s happening now: the task at hand; the activity you’re enjoying right now; the person in front of you. Imagine there’s nothing else pulling at your attention, nothing negative weighing you down, nothing draining energy out of you.

Try it! It really works!

Monday, 22 May 2017

ITI Conference 2017

Conference buzz is the positive vibe you get from sharing a dedicated space with 340 like-minded, super friendly people over 2 days, to borrow an #ITIconf17 tweet by Aletta Stevens MITI. I’m sure anyone who’s just returned from the ITI conference in Cardiff, or indeed any previous ITI conference, will be able to relate to this!

This year’s ITI conference was held at the Mercure Holland House Hotel in the centre of Cardiff from 19th until 20th May 2017 and was entitled “Working our core: for a strong(er) translation and interpreting profession”. There had also been the option of attending a negotiation training workshop on the pre-conference day.

Conference buzz: sharing a dedicated space with 340 like-minded, super friendly people

Delegates had come from all over the UK and beyond. I'm based in Bristol, so travelling for me this time just involved cycling to the station and then embarking on a 45-minute train journey to Cardiff on Thursday evening.

The programme, as expected, was once again packed with talks, workshops as well as opportunities galore for networking and the exchange of profession-related experiences in an open and convivial atmosphere. It focused on issues faced by more established translators, with the second day’s agenda as varied as the first.

Throughout the conference I was constantly reminded of a comment by Cate Avery FITI in an edition of ITI Bulletin several years ago that conferences tend to open a window into current trends because of repeated references to particular topics. Cate, who incidentally was among the excellent line-up of speakers this time, had pointed out that you pick up on trends in our industry that way, perhaps without even realising it. So true!

One common theme that was running like a thread through some sessions was the relevance of collaboration as an emerging trend. It crystallised that the way forward seems to lie in collaboration in an environment where translators are working less and less in isolation or “in a bubble”, as Hugh Fraser put it in his session “Who’s afraid of feedback?”.

According to Hugh, all translators crave more feedback because it ultimately makes our work better. We should therefore embrace and welcome feedback as it’ll make our translations shine! Having said that, many of us flinch when receiving feedback since the idea of making mistakes can be scary. Hugh recommended that if you’re a feedback giver, you should regard the translator you give feedback to as a member of a team.

Collaboration was mentioned explicitly by Chris Durban FITI in her talk entitled “Scalability – headache, hurdle, Holy Grail”. Chris encouraged us to create and promote collaborative environments and to team up with others. Collaboration is key!

Collaboration obviously also is at the core of revising and editing others’ work, which was the theme of Marga Burke-Lowe MITI’s practical session on tips and tricks for improving our skills in this area. She talked us through many of the thorny issues that revisers and editors often face, either in the revision of translations or the editing of non-native writing.

The latter topic incidentally also was covered by Karen Tkaczyk FITI  in her talk entitled “A lucrative sideline: editing non-native scientific writing”. I did not attend the talk myself, but have heard that it was excellent. Check out the slides in this tweet by Rebecca Hendry MITI:

As a keen runner I'd been particularly looking forward to the conference run, which had been organised by Trinidad Clares MITI. Exercise, fresh air and some lovely sunshine were just what I needed after a very intense and stimulating first conference day! I enjoyed my run through Bute park in Cardiff in the company of fellow professionals.

Thank you to everyone involved in organising the conference for working so diligently to put together the programme, arrange the venue, find speakers, invite delegates and sort out fringe events. I realise a lot must have been going on behind the scenes! I feel that thanks are owed in particular to Anne de Freyman MITI, our chief executive Paul Wilson and Sarah Griffin-Mason MITI as well as the local organising committee, consisting of Lloyd Bingham MITI, Trinidad Clares MITI and Elvana Moore MITI.

It strikes me that the positive vibe that I referred to above will likely carry us along in our daily work lives and will help us, to quote from the conference programme, continue to improve and thrive for some time to come!

And finally, given the theme of the blog you’re just visiting, it will probably not surprise you that I was pleased to even encounter two references to minimalism at the conference:

Firstly, Marga Burke Lowe MITI mentioned in her revision/workshop session that Brian Mossop, who has written a book about revision for translators, in general advocates a minimalist approach. I published a short blog post on minimalism in revision last year here. For an in-depth look at revision for translators do check out Nikki Graham MITI’s blog post series on the topic here.

Secondly, minimalism was implicitly also referred to by Sarah Silva MITI in her brilliantly and entertainingly delivered TED talk entitled “Uncork your potential”. Sarah suggested we set ourselves an exercise in which we pare down the long list of aims for our businesses: first by listing what’s most important to us (one word per aim!) and second by picking just the three most important. It reminded me of a similar approach to to-do lists, which I described in a blog post here.

Claire Cox MITI, Alison Hindley MITI, Richard Lackey and Chloe Jones from Surrey Translation Bureau have also blogged about the event. Check out their articles here:
- A Truly Capital Event (by Claire Cox)
- Beyond Words and Back Again at the ITI Conference: 18 – 20 May 2017 (by Alison Hindley)
- Co-working (by Richard Lackey)
- ITI Conference 2017 An in-house translator's view (by Chloe Jones)

And Alexander Drechsel has produced a brilliant video on the ITI conference 2017! Watch it here:

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Dispelling the myths: Translation and minimalism

“You’re a what?” When I say to people “I’m a translator”, I often receive the same funny, incredulous, but also curious looks as when I say to them, “I’m a minimalist”. Myths and misconceptions about both translation and minimalism are very widespread.

Let me set the record straight: being a minimalist does not mean that I own just 100 things. This is perhaps the most widespread misconception about minimalism. There are, in fact, very few minimalists out there who do own just 100 things.

Minimalism is about reducing excess and living mindfully.

There are so many aspects to minimalism that if I wanted to list them, I wouldn’t know where to begin. So I’ll give just a few examples: minimalism is about reducing excess in all its guises, reclaiming our time, pursuing our greatest passions, and living mindfully. Minimalism is all about efficiency, clarity and simplicity. It offers fantastic tips for decluttering our homes and offices, but it is also about “decluttering our minds”.

As for translation, note this: being a translator does not mean that I translate speech orally for parties who converse in different languages. Translation and interpreting are similar activities. However, they are also fundamentally different in that an interpreter handles the spoken word, whereas a translator works with the written word!

There are so many aspects to working as a translator and the complex matter of translation that I wouldn’t know where to begin if I had to list them. To give a basic definition: translation is about deciphering and understanding the meaning behind words in both general and specialised texts, and expressing it clearly in the target language.

And no, human translators have not been replaced by computers: it is actually looking more and more likely that they never will be. Human translators are very busy people. Only humans ultimately are capable of tackling the linguistic, grammar, research or cultural challenges that typically arise in translating for the professional world.

Misconceptions about both translation and minimalism abound. But there is indeed so much more to translation and minimalism than meets the eye! Hence my motivation to blog about translation and minimalism here.