Monday, 10 June 2013

ITI conference 2013
Thelma and Louise aka Bärbel McCloskey and Ulrike Nichols are on the road again

Saturday, 18 May 2013, 6.40am. I check my phone and notice I’ve got a voicemail. Bärbel has called me to tell me she slept in and doesn’t know when she will be there to pick me up. I am only surprised because she left the message an hour ago! Five minutes later she is there and I remind her that we wanted to meet at 6.45am rather than 5.45am. All is well. Deep breath and off we go to London.
8.00am - A light is flashing on the dashboard. I am put in charge of figuring out how far one can go with a deflated tyre. An impressive 280km we learn from the car manual, and decide to stop at the next petrol station.
8.10am - We have stopped. Bärbel is checking the tyres, being careful not to get her white (!) trousers dirty. I am also in nicer clothes than my usual jeans and t-shirt; we are on our way to a conference after all. But I am a useless bystander here and I am deeply impressed – Bärbel puts air in her tyres all by herself!!! To this day I am not even capable of getting petrol on my own.
On the dot of 9.00am we are entering the hotel – right on time! We are very proud of ourselves. I go to check in and discover that a double room is not a room with two beds, but one with a bigger single bed. And I had changed the reservation from twin (since I thought twin meant narrow) to double. The concierge is Hungarian and deeply amused about the linguistic confusion. I am rather embarrassed that my years in America have confused my sense of bed sizes. In the end we get a room with two beds. Hurray!

And this is where the adventure stops – or begins, depending on how you look at it. No more misunderstandings, accidents or confusions! Just an incredibly well organized conference with loads of interesting talks, incredible food and a fringe programme that exceeded all expectations.  For me, the keynote speech by Jost Zetzsche was a particular joy because he highlighted the importance of getting the word out that languages matter, that translation matters, that communication matters and that without translators and interpreters communication would be very difficult indeed.  And it is up to us to promote this message to the world to enhance the image of our profession and thus of ourselves.

The talks I attended, regardless of whether they focused on translation technology, the debate about whether machine translation is bad, will replace us or will continue to be a tool that cannot match the human translator, or whether they focused on our own professional development and training, complemented this main message in a very rounded and sophisticated way. Yes, we patted ourselves on the back and were proud to be entrepreneurs, translators and interpreters. At the same time, we learned how we can improve ourselves to become (or remain) more successful.

The offers “on the side” included having your professional picture taken (check out my homepage to see whether you like the result), attend yoga sessions (fantastic and relaxing), learn how to line-dance (which I thought was a great response to the European Song Contest, which also took place that night) and join the impromptu choir of translators, led by Gillian Hargreaves and her partner Neil Brinkworth.  The various networks also had the chance to meet and the atmosphere was in general very personal and friendly. I was not just proud to be a professional translator, I was also happy to belong to this wonderful group of colleagues who know how to work hard and how to have fun. What better balance could one ask for?

I know for sure that I will be at the next ITI conference- and if Bärbel is driving, we will get there safely with lots of laughter and possibly a little adventure on the side. 

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