Highlights from the 12th Portsmouth Translation Conference

I returned from the UK about two weeks ago, and now that I’ve had some time to catch up on the marking and course prep work I missed while I was away, I can finally post a brief overview of some of the talks I attended at the 12th Portsmouth Translation Conference, the theme of which was “‘Those Who Can, Teach’: Translation, Interpreting and Training.” The one-day event was packed, with a 9 a.m. plenary session by Dorothy Kelly, followed by five parallel sessions throughout morning, three parallel training-themed workshops right after lunch, and then another series of 4-5 parallel sessions for the rest of the afternoon until the 5 p.m. closing plenary by Daniel Toudic.

Obviously, I got just a glimpse of the entire conference, as I attended only one talk from each of the parallel sessions. But I came back with some new thoughts on teaching techniques I could integrate into my classes, and I met some delegates who were interested in the new Master of Conference Interpreting program we’ve introduced here at Glendon (which was what I had gone to the conference to speak about). This blog post will cover three of the presentations I particularly enjoyed, along with the final plenary by Daniel Toudic.

I attended three sessions in the morning: one by Justyna Giczela-Pawtwa on how relevant undergraduate and graduate translation students consider translation theory, another by Akiko Sakamoto, who spoke about the positive and negative experiences of offering optional online translation workshops to students at the University of Leicester, and a final one by Agata Sadza, who spoke about developing a project management course for students at London Metropolitan University.

In Justyna’s talk, she presented some results from a survey of undergraduate and graduate students who were asked various questions about the relevance of translation theory. Interestingly, while most of the undergraduate students (67-70%, depending on the group) found translation theory was “almost useful” to their practice, the graduate students were more divided, with 46% responding that it was almost useful and 54% responding that it was mainly irrelevant. The MA program at the University of Gdansk, where Justyna conducted the survey, is both practical and theoretical, but has more theory than the BA level, so most of those attending Justyna’s talk (including me) were a little surprised to see that the MA students would find theory less relevant than the undergraduates. I think the results show how important it is for instructors to draw clear links between theory and practice in both undergraduate and graduate courses, to help students feel that the theory they’re learning is relevant to practical translation problems.

From Akiko’s presentation about online practical workshops for translation students, I learned about the free screen recording software BB Flashback Express, which she encouraged students to use to record themselves as they worked. Students would then post sample recordings to an online discussion forum so peers (and, to a more limited extent, the instructors) could give them feedback on their translation process. This was one solution they had to compensate for the fact that few of the students had the same language pairs and would therefore be able to offer one another very little direct feedback on the translated product. The process, at least, would be something more participants would be able to comment on.

Later, Agata spoke about the logistics of developing a one-semester project management course for students enrolled in a graduate, practical-oriented translation program. Students were broken up into groups, assigned a 6000-word text, and generally left to manage the project on their own. The class met together formally only three times (for three hours each session) to discuss progress, address problems and concerns, etc. Although I’ve incorporated group projects into my own classes (as I’ve discussed here), I’ve never run a project of the size Agata described. Moreover, Agata had some good advice to share: before breaking the class into groups, and before describing the format of the course, she asked each student about their interests, including the fields they would like the specialize in and the types of jobs–e.g. terminology, revision–that interested them the most. That helped to ensure the various interests were more evenly split among the groups. She also had students write a report about their experiences, but made sure to give them guidelines to follow, as students at this level were not all sure what sorts of things should be included in a report.

The final talk was a keynote address by Daniel Toudic, from Université Rennes 2, who spoke about the Optimale (Optimising Professional Translator Training in a Multilingual Europe) project and presented some data from a survey of over 700 non-public-sector European language service employers drawn largely from the European Union of Associations of Translation Companies.

Some of the survey results I found relevant were the fact that employers are seeking, among other things, graduates who can produce 100% quality, who can identify client requirements and who can define the resources required for a project. Interestingly, many of the skills employers did not generally find essential were technology related: understanding software/video game localization, for instance, as well as post-editing machine translation, pre-editing texts for machine translation, and using desktop publishing tools. Some respondents did note, however, that skills like pre- and post-editing would be needed in the near future. You can find a PowerPoint presentation detailing the survey methodology and survey on the Optimale website here, if you’re interested in taking a closer look.

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