It’s been four years since my last ITI conference, and I must admit that I was excited in the run-up as I made lots of new contacts and learnt a lot so I knew that this year’s event would be no different. And I was not wrong!

Myself and my colleague Lucia made our way to Sheffield on a wet and windy Thursday afternoon will business cards and company leaflets to hand. Our first event was the welcome reception held at Bungalows and Bears. Here we had arranged to meet with some of our regular translators to have a good old catch up.

The conference venue, Cutler’s Hall, was beautiful and very impressive; the perfect setting for the event which focused on “forging the future of the profession”. The atmosphere was electric, and everyone was in high spirits.

Over the course of the two days, there was a variety of topics ranging from interpreting to literary translation and stress management.

Here I share three takeaways from the conference that truly resonated with us.

Artificial intelligence, deep learning and machine translation

As you would expect, there were a few sessions which investigated the changing role of translators in the digital age. Although machine translation (MT) technology is rapidly improving in quality, it was very apparent that translators are worried about the safety of their jobs, with some being quite negative about those who utilise MT.

Despite this, the opening session by Andy Way certainly got some laughs from the audience when he shared examples of how machine translation engines can easily mistake cockapoos for fried chicken legs, and chihuahuas for blueberry muffins! Illustrating how translators shouldn’t be too afraid of the machines taking their place any time soon.

Dare we mention the “B” word?

Brexit was mentioned in a couple of sessions, with conversations flowing into the breaks, as translators expressed how the impending fate of the UK is really making them reconsider living here. Many said that they are thinking of returning to their home country due to the uncertainty of how Brexit will impact their businesses and careers.

There had also been a clear downward trend in the amount of translation work coming from the manufacturing and mechanical engineering industries as a result of their clients’ uncertainty of the impact Brexit will have on them continuing to do business within the EU.

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With some many changes occurring across the localisation industry, there were a couple of case studies from freelance translators who have had to change their way of thinking, and their service offering, in order to stand out from the crowd.

Mason Colby and Juliet Baur’s talk centred on how they expanded their horizons by collaborating on certain projects, saying that approaching a client as business partners gave them more standing than if they had tackled the project single-handedly.

“Working in partnership is the ticket to the premium market” – Mason Colby & Juliet Baur

Conference regular Heidi Kerschl was joined by Annika Schmitz and Matthew Walker to discuss how to not only think outside the box but to get out of the box completely. Suggestions for freelancers included specialising in a subject matter whilst being open to offer new services and apply new processes.

Final thought

Although outside of Ultimate Languages’ scope of work, I really enjoyed the final session of the conference presented by Mandy Hewett. Mandy spoke about the Treaty of Waitangi 1840 which was drawn up between the indigenous Māori population of New Zealand and the arriving European settlers.

Unfortunately, the treaty, originally written in English, was translated into te reo Māori overnight by a non-native speaker which, as you can imagine, came with many issues!

As a member of the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI), Mandy introduced the NZSTI Treaty Times 30 project which has resulted in the treaty being translated – professionally I might add – into 30 languages. You can find out more about the project here.

Although I have family in Christchurch, I was unaware of the issues faced by the Māori population, which have resulted from a poor-quality translation.

Overall the ITI conference was a fantastic experience for Lucia and me, and I could not be happier to be an official Supporter of the association. The rest of the Ultimate team and I look forward to becoming an official Corporate Member in 2020 and to attending the next conference in 2021.

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