Man vs. Machine? The FIT World Congress 2014

It’s been a hectic summer for me, and it’s shaping up to be an even busier autumn. I won’t bore readers with details of what has been keeping me occupied lately (although I will include a few links at the end of this post for friends and family curious to know what has caused me to drop off the map). But at some point amid all the list-making and juggling this summer, it occurred to me that either (a) I manage to find a way to balance blogging with my busy schedule, or (b) it may be time to close up shop on the Diaries altogether. And since I’m not quite ready for (b), here is my attempt to get back in the blogging saddle.

 "Image courtesy of Tom Curtis /".

“Image courtesy of Tom Curtis /”.

I’d like to ask you all to cast your glances ahead to August, 2014. Just under a year from now, the International Federation of Translators (FIT) will hold its XX World Congress in Berlin. The topic for the 2014 congress is Man vs. Machine? The Future of Translators, Interpreters and Terminologists. Over three jam-packed days, there will be a trade expo, a job exchange and plenty of opportunities for networking, not to mention around 100 different presentations, panels and workshops held around the following four sub-themes (as listed on the call for papers):

• Translators, interpreters and terminologists – careers demanding a diverse range of expertise (e.g. translation technology, terminology work, research expertise, business competencies, translation and interpreting in a wide range of specialist disciplines, literary (book) translation, intercultural competency, post-editing, audiovisual translation)

• How translation and interpreting contribute to safeguarding human rights (e.g. community interpreting, intercultural understanding, court interpreting, medical interpreting, interpreting in crisis and war zones)

• Professional practice and the rights of translators, interpreters and terminologists (e.g. professional ethics, standards and norms, fees, copyright and intellectual property, security and freedom of expression for translators and interpreters, crowd translation, transcreation)

• Teaching and research in the field of translation, interpreting and terminology work (e.g. didactic methods, general education vs. specialist education, CPD, IT tools in training, TRAFUT, language industry studies)

Why am I telling readers about the FIT event almost a year before it is scheduled to take place? Because now is the time for prospective attendees to vote for their favourite presentations, panels and workshops from the list of all the proposals submitted. Only the top submissions will be invited to form part of FIT 2014, so the voting process is key to the success of the event!

I have to admit I’ve got a bit of a vested interest in getting people out to vote. If you scroll way down the voting list, near the end under the heading “Teaching and research”, you’ll see one proposal that bears my name. It’s for a panel discussion entitled “The future is now: Virtual learning environments and the digital revolution in interpreter education” and if all goes according to plan, I’ll be joining Suzanne Ehrlich of the Univeristy of Cincinnati in the United States, Della Goswell of Macquarie University in Australia, Andrew Clifford of York University in Canada, and Kim Wallmach of Wits Language School in South Africa to address this very hot training topic. Together, we’ll offer perspectives from around the globe on how virtual learning has been embraced in interpreter training.

But that’s not all there is for interpreters at FIT 2014. A quick look at the list of proposals reveals a wealth of potential sessions that could be of great interest to those in our industry. Here are just a few that caught my eye:

- a workshop on the use of smartpens in interpreting (Esther Navarro-Hall, aka @MmeInterpreter)

- an introduction to iPads in the booth (Alexander Drechsel, aka @tabterp)

- theatre improvisation techniques as a professional development tool for interpreters (Matthias Haldimann, aka @matthaldimann)

- a panel proposal called “Interpreting 2.0: Exploring the interface between interpreters and technology”  bringing together Navarro-Hall, Drechsel, Nataly Kelly (@natalykelly) Barry Olsen (@ProfessorOlsen) and Thomas Binder

- a presentation on interpreting in the European Parliament (Juan Carlos Jiménez Martín)

- a paper on Edupunk (Jonathan Downie, aka @jonathanddownie)

- A review of EU Directive 2010/64 on the right to interpreting and translation in criminal proceedings (Liese Katschinka)

- A panel on technology and interpretation at European and international Courts and Tribunals (Liese Katschinka, Christiane Driesen, George Drummond)

…and there are plenty more. The good thing is, you can vote for as many proposals as you want! So, if you want to support ongoing dialogue in the translation and interpreting community – even if you don’t think you’ll be attending FIT 2014 in Berlin next summer – please cast your vote for what you see as the hottest topics in our industry today (if you submitted a proposal on an interpreting-related topic but don’t see it on my shortlist, please tell me in the comments section and I’ll add it). If you think you can fit it in, try to plan a trip to Berlin for next summer. I hope to see you there!


…so what have I been up to this summer? In addition to putting together this proposal for FIT 2014, I attended a summer school for researchers, co-planned and ran a CPD course for young interpreters, prepared two courses for the fall term of my favourite online MA program, co-designed and held a skills upgrade course for practitioners, and am currently busy putting together a seminar for trainers in Africa. If you’d like to find out more about any of these initiatives, just let me know! 

Top 5 Lessons Learned in Edinburgh

Recently, I treated myself to a week in Edinburgh. No, it wasn’t a last-minute getaway or family holiday. I went to attend the Edinburgh Interpreting Research Summer School (EIRSS) organised by Heriot-Watt’s School of Management and Languages. The EIRSS brought together some 30 interpreting researchers, students and practitioners for an intensive course in all things interpreting studies-related (you can consult the full programme here). All those in attendance agreed that the EIRSS was a resounding success and that the organisers did an excellent job of putting together the inaugural edition of what is intended to become an annual event. (For a full review of the EIRSS and a look at the event’s photo album, click here.)

Photo credit: EIRSS

Photo credit: EIRSS

While I am not entirely sure my readers would be interested in learning about the virtues of qualitative vs. quantitative research or hearing about the best apps for bibliographical reference management, I do think there are a few things that I learned at the EIRSS that are of interest to the broader interpreting community. I’ve decided to choose the five main lessons I will be taking home from Edinburgh to share with readers today.

1) Interpreting Studies has come of age. Looking around the room in Edinburgh, it became quite clear to me that Interpreting Studies (IS) is alive and kicking. Some may insist on continuing to consider it a subdiscipline of Translation Studies, while others may agree with Pöchhacker that it is a full discipline it in own right. As I see it, it doesn’t really matter what you call it. As one EIRSS attendee quite aptly commented, “We’ve been saying that Interpreting Studies is young for 40 years, and it’s about time we acknowledged that it has grown up.”

Of course, the fact that IS is able to stand on its own two feet doesn’t mean it is isolated. There were constant references over the course of the week to crossovers with other fields, including Translation Studies, and one word that was on all lecturers’ lips was “interdisciplinary”. But my impression is that increasingly, IS can engage in interdisciplinary work not as the poor cousin, but as an equal partner.

2) Interpreting academics have their feet planted firmly in the 21st century. Forget dusty library stacks and stuffy academic gowns. Participants at the EIRSS were quite happy discussing the best apps for organising bibliographical references (oops! I said I wouldn’t talk about that – but do check out EndNote and RefWorks if you’re so inclined) and taking notes on their iPads (Evernote and Scrivener seem to be the favourites there). Similarly, lecturers offered tips on everything from annotation software for video transcriptions (ELAN) to online survey tools (SurveyMonkey) and statistical programs (Qualtrics).

Speaking of high tech, I’m ashamed to say that I was one of the few users of pen and paper in the room – for that I blame my old-fashioned consecutive note-taking habits, which were learned Rozan-style way back in the 20th century…

Social media got their turn at the EIRSS, of course. After some hesitation on the first day, the few hardcore tweeters in the crowd, including yours truly, managed to get a modest Twitter feed going (hashtag #EIRSS) and even succeeded in drawing a number of new converts onto what is undoubtedly the superior social network on the planet (Facebook and Pinterest, eat your heart out!).

3) It’s well worth meeting the people behind the names. A quick glance at the EIRSS programme reveals that the organisers managed to put together a star-studded list of lecturers for this first edition. Having previously only met Daniel Gile in person, I have to admit I was more than a little curious about the sort of impression that I would get meeting all these top IS researchers in person. I’m pleased to report that the experience was extremely positive.

At the EIRSS, I had the opportunity to witness great minds at work. Just to name a few: we saw Graham Turner effortlessly connecting the dots between seemingly unrelated phenomena to reveal structure where none was apparent; Daniel Gile grinning like a Cheshire cat as he discussed current trends in Conference Interpreting studies; Jemina Napier making correlational statistics actually sound like fun; and, last but not least, Cecilia Wadensjö’s eye twinkling as she undertook a content analysis of Gorbachev  speaking through an interpreter in a televised interview, naughty jokes and all. I assure you, this last one alone made the trip worthwhile.

Equally gratifying was the opportunity to meet so many up-and-coming researchers in the field, each with their own experiences, insights and research priorities. Which brings me to my next lesson…

4) It’s all about weak ties and long tails. These terms actually came up at one point in the seminar, during a discussion on how to maximize the impact of research. But I didn’t have to look up at the PowerPoint slide to know that the world runs on the strength of weak ties. All I had to do was glance around during the coffee breaks to see colleagues busily building those all-powerful weak links with like-minded people, upon which future collaborations and new initiatives will undoubtedly be built. And I have to confess I did a teensy weensy bit of networking myself (I couldn’t resist!).

5) Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I went to Edinburgh with two main questions in my mind: 1) is it possible to balance a PhD workload with raising a family, and 2) how do academics manage the financial side of things? You know, I’m thinking of the minor details like paying the bills, filling the fridge…

I asked a number of EIRSS participants these questions on the sidelines of the seminar, and the most common reply I got was a shrug, a chuckle, and “Oh, you know, one manages to muddle through somehow.” While this may not be the sort of answer I can take to the bank, it is reassuring to see that yes, generally speaking, PhD students – even those with small children and heaps of other obligations – really do manage to survive, somehow.

Which reminds me, I have a special treat for you for my next post: Jonathan Downie, a PhD student, interpreter, and yes, husband and father based in Edinburgh, has agreed to write a guest piece for me about how he manages his work/life balance. I won’t give away the punch line, but do watch this space for an upcoming article about how one interpreter manages this balancing act…

To conclude, let me just express my thanks to Katerina Strani and Raquel de Pedro of the EIRSS Organising Committee and everyone at the Edinburgh Interpreting Research Summer School for this extremely enriching experience. I have only listed five lessons learned here, but there is much, much more that I’ll take home with me from Edinburgh.

Assessment Criteria at Exams: A Hot Topic These Days

There have been some exchanges lately in the blogosphere about the evaluation criteria applied to conference interpreting students at their final exams. This is natural – it being exam season and all, people (and by people, I mean both students AND their trainers) are thinking hard about what is to be expected of students at their final exams and if they are going to be able to deliver.

Think positive!

I’d like to make my own modest contribution to this debate, which was started by Jerome (@jamizuno) at the 2interpreters blog in his post on Graduation exams evaluation, was picked up in a post by Elisabet (@tulkur) on Research on Quality in Interpreting and led to an interesting exchange on Twitter. (The post What Every Client Wants? that came out on Lifeinlincs last week is not directly related to our discussion, but touches upon a similar topic.)

I won’t tell you what I had to say in response to Elisabet’s and Jerome’s posts – for that, you can read their comment sections. I’d just like to keep a promise I made to Jerome to share with readers the guidelines* that external examiners are asked to apply at the exams here in La Laguna. Here they are:

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