I have been back a couple of days from my trip to Berlin where I attended the BDÜ Conference “Interpreting the Future.” On my way back, it was Lufthansa, of all airlines, which was delayed so that my suitcase didn’t make the connecting flight to Chicago and traveled all on its own to Los Angeles. The German airline being late? Things really have changed in Deutschland.
But back to the conference. It was my first German translator conference, although I am sort of a veteran of the American Translators annual get-together. My reasons for signing up were the conference city, the theme of the event, and the fact that a number of friends and colleagues attended as well.
I do not regret my decision. Most of the sessions I attended were informative and helped me simply by dealing with translation-related subjects in German. As one would expect from a conference organized in Germany, sessions started and finished on time. Two of the main threads I detected were: (1) the repeated call for independent translators to realize that they are entrepreneurs as well, i.e. to embrace the business side of what they are doing; (2) the tendency of presenters and discussants to portrait certain types of creative or semi-creative translation as the real translation and to use this type of text to argue against the effectiveness of translation tools in general.
I found it refreshing that representatives of translation companies and in-house translation services were present and willing to talk about their work and their expectations and, in some detail, how they would like to see a better cooperation with independent translators. I found it disappointing, in particular with regard to the theme of the conference, how widespread and heartfelt the translation tool bashing was. I have, as many other translators, my issues with some of the technical quirks and some of the economical fall-out of CAT tools. As somebody who translates full-time for a living, however, I more than welcome anything that will help me improve on what my biological memory can do and save time in the process – not that I want to start a CAT tool discussion here.
Unfortunately, with all their organizational prowess, the conference organizers did not find it necessary to include a conference evaluation sheet with our material. Maybe they forgot, maybe they don’t want to know. So here, in a short form, my likes and dislikes:
- The conference city – It’s hard to beat Berlin.
- The on-line program – Being able to compile your own program was very cool.
- Registration – It worked like a charm.
- Organization of sessions – The started and finished on time and in the assigned rooms.
- Snacks & drinks – Coffee, juices, water, fresh fruit, etc. were available all the time.
- Some of the program – I liked especially the practitioner-oriented presenters.
- Audio-visual equipment – Sound and slides worked amazingly well in all the rooms.
- The venue – It was too small for 1,600 attendees; too isolated from restaurants, bars, the city; not inducive to spontaneous networking or lingering; the seating in the session rooms was a joke.
- Bathrooms – Did you see those lines? Not enough bathrooms by far.
- Wi-Fi – No building-wide free Wi-Fi for everyone.
- Networking – The networking in the outside tent was self-directed and did not work. Perhaps German translators are different, but I attend such conferences at least to 50% for networking purposes and I’d expect the organizers to structure this with one or several networking sessions. I missed structured networking events.
- Nametags – The nametags were beautiful, but much too small. The purpose of the nametags is to make it easier for others to read one’s name. This was only possible with binoculars. Make the nametags three to four times larger and print the name larger.
- Some of the program – Where was the connection to the conference theme?
- Evaluation – There were no evaluation forms to give feedback.
Next month it is onward to the ATA Conference in New York City. I hope some of the Berlin attendees will have a chance to come to New York. And perhaps the Masked Translator will comment – like last year on the Orlando conference.
Addendum Sep 25: Since I wrote this post, the Masked Translator’s comments about the ATA conference in Orlando have been removed. Schade.