I cannot be thankful enough to have received a confirmation from DG Translation, the European Commission's in-house translation service, for me to participate in the Translating Europe Forum which was held at the Conference Centre Charlemagne Building (CHAR) in Brussels on 29-30 October 2015. I could not make it on Thursday 29 October but attended a very informative session and great workshops from 9:15 to 12:45 on Friday 30 October 2015.
I was first surprised to see a full house in the Charlemagne Building's main meeting room Alcide de Gasperi (capacity: 447). Attendees, the vast majority of them being young translators since this year's forum was all about young people in translation, could enjoy a first excellent presentation by Italian freelance interpreter, translator and branding coach Valeria Aliperta who was introduced by Galician translator and television presenter Xosé Castro Roig. Valeria Aliperta, also Head of External Relations of IAPTI and a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, explained how translators or interpreters can use branding to get more visibility and enhance their profile online. Through her boosting presentation, the Italian interpreter gave an insight and a few takeaways into starting branding process, explaining why it is relevant to go through it, telling why we should invest in such branding, etc. Valeria Aliperta studied in Italy and now lives in the UK where she founded her own business called Rainy London Translations. You can see on her website www.rainylondontranslations.com and on her blog http://www.thestylishfreelancer.com/ how branding is not simply a pretty or colourful logo but a tool for every translator or interpreter in a modern world.
After this plenary session held in the De Gasperi room, I had the chance to attend two workshops: a first one on the role of translation for multilingualism and another one on revision and terminology. The first workshop focused on the "Man vs. Machine" debate and was illustrated by examples mentioned by a great panel of language industry experts like Mr. Panagiotis Alevantis, DG Translation's representative in Athens, Greece, Mrs. Judit Sereg, a freelance audiovisual translator from Hungary, Mrs. Zoe Moores, a respeaking expert from Britain, and Konrad Fuhrmann, Policy Officer at DG Education and Culture of the European Commission. Mr. Panagiotis Alevantis explained how in Greece and Cyprus young people who have learned a second language at school simply cannot speak in it when they reach the university level. He also highlighted that 51% of Greek businesses find language skills more important than digital computer or IT skills. There is therefore a need to focus on language learning in schools nowadays, especially since the Europe 2020 - Rethinking Education project has been underway and should set a new benchmark on foreign language Learning. At least 50% of 15 year olds should have knowledge of a first foreign language and at least 75% should study a second foreign language by 2020. There is much talk about the benchmark being that students should reach level B2 in accordance to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Integrating this into the digital single market will be a real challenge. As today's technological developments are ongoing and Google Translate is much talked about or criticized, quality work and awareness of translators keep making a difference in the business. For instance, we definitely need translators when it comes to idioms. As it seems that machines are taking over and people do not take care about writing and language learning anymore, there is a clear signal to be sent to politicians and maybe some lobbying to be done among MEPs for instance. Let us not forget, as Mr. Alevantis pointed it out, that the real international language for business remains the language of your client (and not necessarily English)! Mrs. Moores ended the workshop by saying that technology could also be of help or generate innovation in some way in the translation business. She said that respeaking, a process of using speech recognition software to produce subtitles in real time for live television programmes, pays off for instance. She works full-time as a respeaker in Great Britain. Mr. Fuhrmann and Mrs. Sereg concluded that although big groups like Microsoft and Google tend to stop cooperating with universities in order to develop e.g. their spelling and auto-correction systems, technology could also be a benefit for less used languages like Hungarian, Basque, Welsh, etc. which could serve as a new digital eco system for smaller companies or assocations willing to develop open source translating or terminological tools. And why not having translation play a role in the language learning process in the end?
The last workshop I have attended on Friday morning dealt with revision and terminology. Three brilliant students (two from Belgium and one from Switzerland) involved in terminological research, proofreading or revision gave interesting presentations of their work done through their studies in major European universities.
The wrap-up session was again moderated by Spanish journalist Xosé Castro Roig who gave the floor to Rytis Martikonis, Director-General of DG Translation, and other young professionals. Major risks and threats like the "Man vs. Machine" issue, the gap between academia and real life, the price pressure or the deprofessionalisation in the sector of translation can be tackled thanks to big events like the Translating Europe Forum. It was the second edition of the now traditional annual event. Mr. Martikonis invited all participants to come back to Brussels next year and see how all young translators have evolved. It was also highlighted that it was a real pleasure of being a translator when attending such a well-organized event like the Translating Europe Forum. As a conclusion, we can all agree that language is not only about data or reducible to digital data. As Mr. Martikonis finally put it: "Mastering the language will help meet challenges!"
You can find details and information about the excellent Translating Europe Forum 2015 (including video files of all presentations freely available) on: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/translation/programmes/translating_europe/forum/index_en.htm
The motto of DG Translation is "Link up with languages" and the forum was indeed an excellent opportunity to do so!