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  • Writer's pictureEllen Worrell

ELIA Together 2016 conference review

On Thursday 11th and Friday, 12 February 2016, I attended the ELIA Together conference in Barcelona. It was the first time that this conference had been held and I was a little unsure of what to expect. The conference was held at the World Trade Centre which overlooks the Mediterranean. Thankfully, all the talks I attended were sufficiently interesting to stop me from gazing out to sea longingly! The talks were all divided into three different tracks: relationships, growth and technology. I seemed to end up going to most of the relationships talks, but I did attend the odd growth and technology talk for good measure.

The conference was opened with a very enthusiastic keynote speech from Stephen Lank, who set the tone for exploring ways in which freelance translators and language service providers (or LSPs) can work together to revitalise their relationship. I particularly enjoyed his metaphor where he explained that most freelancers and agencies have a chalk and cheese relationship, but that we should all be striving for a cheese and wine relationship. I'm sure most of you would agree that both cheese and wine are yummy by themselves, but when paired together can create something just a little bit special. And of course, some pairings are better than others. It certainly gave me some food for thought.

I also attended another talk that was largely aimed at LSPs but I still found it highly entertaining. It was entitled "What every translator wants you to know, but is afraid to tell you". The speaker is based in the US so it was very interesting to get a more US-centric view and he touched on several topics that hadn't even crossed my mind. My favourite quote from his talk was "no translator is an island". Collaboration, coexistence and cooperation are the antithesis of being a freelancer, but without other freelancers and LSPs, we would not be able to survive as we need each other to thrive.

While focusing on the growth track, I attended a talk that was based around the principles of Aikido. I'd never encountered this approach where the goal is to interact as harmoniously as possible. Aikido also aims to improve our relationships with ourselves, with other people, and with the environment. The speaker suggested that by analysing our intention, energy, focus, confidence and faith, we are able to pinpoint where we may be lacking and therefore solve any problems we may overcome. Again, more food for thought.

On the second day, I attended my one and only technology talk on using dictation software to decrease repetitive strain injury and (hopefully!) increase earnings. The talk was very interesting as I have started dabbling with the use of Dragon Naturally Speaking, but I'm yet to fall in love with it. The speaker will be giving a more in-depth workshop at the ITI in Milton Keynes at the end of April, and I will certainly consider attending this talk with the hope of being able to master this software.

I attended a panel discussion on CPD and found it very interesting to see the way in which LSPs view CPD. In many professions, CPD is seen as compulsory, but freelance translators are free to choose how much or how little CPD they undertake and to judge what is useful for them. LSPs have to trust that freelancers are choosing the CPD that is appropriate to them. I found it particularly interesting that one LSP organises CPD for their regular freelancers in areas that are of use to them. It was generally agreed that the more people do to professionalise our profession, the better.

Closely linked to this topic of professionalising our profession, I attended my favourite session of all on Friday afternoon: "Mind the gap: overcoming strife in the translation industry" – a talk given by Lloyd Bingham and Andrew Morris. They both spoke of the way professional translators interact online, particularly when talking about their clients, rates and their peers. It was argued that the language used does not reflect our profession. Lloyd gave several examples of language that I would deem to be completely unacceptable – may I suggest you have a look on Twitter for some of the examples! Both Lloyd and Andrew suggested that we need to understand and tackle the root cause behind many of these online rants and outbursts, and that open debate needs to be embraced professionally.

Some comments from the audience suggested that this open debate is not necessary and that it is a problem that we will never overcome, but I felt compelled to respond. As a relative newcomer to the world of freelance translation, I joined several Facebook groups for translators when I first started out. I joined the groups with the most members as I assumed they were the best places to see how other professionals behave. However, I quickly realised that the atmosphere was far too negative for my liking and I left almost as quickly as I joined. When I discovered Standing Out®, it was a revelation. I saw many translators from all walks of life interacting professionally and politely, and I felt as though I could ask any question without being made to feel silly.

I could go into far more detail about every single talk that I attended, but I'm sure I'd bore you all to tears! I thoroughly enjoyed the event, and thought it was very well organised. There was ample opportunity to network and it was a delight to meet so many like-minded freelancers and approachable LSPs. I'm already looking forward to attending next year's conference in Berlin.

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