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Museum of london_free useI’ve recently been up to London for three networking events in the space of three weeks – which is pretty good going for this particular freelance translator, much as I sing the virtues of getting out there and meeting colleagues! They included the ITI German Network Work & Playshop, the Standingoutaganza and the SDL Roadshow – all highly different, but nonetheless enjoyable and worthwhile sessions for all that – and the benefits have already started to come rolling in….

I had intended to write this as one post reviewing all three events, but I can see already that there’s far too much to say about each one and their contrasting styles and virtues, so I think it’s best to present them as a series of three individual posts – related, but very different, and all extremely relevant networking for translators! Whether you find new clients, directly or indirectly, pick up technical tips that improve your workflow, or establish contact with colleagues for help with specialist queries or simply to alleviate the isolation of being a freelancer, networking invariably pays off.

ITI German Network Work & Playshop

First up was the ITI German Network Work & Playshop, our annual get-together and opportunity to get some CPD under our belt at the same time as sharing convivial times with long-time-no-see colleagues. I’ve been to a number of these over the years and they have always been very friendly and enjoyable. They follow a fairly traditional workshop pattern with a couple of presentations in the morning, followed by lunch and another session, often more interactive, after lunch, all rounded off by a very informal review of GerNet affairs and the opportunity for any questions/suggestions, and finishing in a suitably hospitable local restaurant for the “play” side of the proceedings. There has traditionally also been a social event on the Sunday morning, this time a guided walk around London, but I opted out of that on this occasion, as I had too much to do in the garden at home!

This year’s event was held in the Museum of London, a very central venue once you had worked out how to get in! Having ventured, in desperation, into an adjacent office building (followed by a group of Chinese tourists who were obviously equally confused) and been chastised by a gruff security guard, I eventually found the Alice-in-Wonderland entrance up a hidden staircase and over a bridge – better signage is a priority, Museum of London! We were actually in a very pleasant garden room off a courtyard, so well away from the museum’s other activities and an ideal setting for an event of this nature.

The workshop proper kicked off with an excellent presentation by Laura Byrne about Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software. I’ve already written about this in my blog (see Taming the Dragon) and have been using the software for 8-9 years now, so I have to confess I didn’t expect to learn anything new (sorry, Laura…). However, I was very pleasantly surprised, as I did pick up some extremely useful tips. Laura uses the Professional version of Dragon, as she has health problems and relies on Dragon to be able to dictate as much as possible, i.e. not only text, but also word processing commands and CAT tool commands as well – quite a tall order. She demonstrated how she has customised Dragon’s commands to adapt to Trados Studio (and MemoQ), but emphasised that this level of interactivity is only possible with the (very expensive) Professional Version. For anyone not wishing (or needing) to dictate all commands, but happy to use the mouse and keyboard shortcuts as well as dictating text, then the Home version is perfectly adequate, as I’ve certainly found over the years.

Anyone wishing to dictate in two languages will have to upgrade to Premium, as the foreign language versions automatically come with English. However, I did learn that even with the Home version it is possible to set up two language profiles: a UK and a US English profile, say. This can be useful if you have a particular client who always requires American English and saves you having to run the spell check and watch it like a hawk for those “-ise/ize” endings that sometimes slip through the net… Laura explained too that she finds it useful to train it to flag up (and even automatically convert) certain “no-no” words in US English, such as “vacation” rather than “holiday” in her US profile.

Another valuable lesson I learned was how to use Vocabulary Editor properly. I knew it was there, of course, but had never quite seen the point. My favoured approach for those impossible-to-dictate words, especially abbreviations, was to use a random word that you wouldn’t normally expect to say in your translation, e.g. unicorn, and to use that whenever the tricky term (that Dragon refuses to recognise, no matter how often you train it) comes up, then to do a Find and Replace at the end, replacing unicorn with the actual term. This works fine, but using the Vocabulary Editor is so much neater! Just tell Dragon to “Open Vocabulary Editor” and it opens up a box in which you can type in the written version of the word on one side and the spoken version of the word on the other side. What I hadn’t realised before was that Dragon really needs to be able to recognise your spoken words for it to work effectively, so just using random syllables, or spelling out abbreviations is unlikely to be successful. Far better, say, for the abbreviation TSIs (which my fire-breathing friend persists in typing as “TSI is”, or some such variation!), to type TSIs as the written version, then enter the spoken version as “tea size” – something you’re unlikely to say normally, but easy enough to remember throughout your translation. Lo and behold, it works a treat – just remember to say “tea size” and Dragon types TSIs every time – bingo! A welcome reminder that you may think you know all about a certain product or technique, but hearing another person’s take on it often brings welcome surprises….

The next presentation was a fascinating introduction to a website called “New Books in German”, an organisation that seeks to offer the best of German, Austrian and Swiss literature with a view to ultimately getting it translated into English. They offer internships for German graduates interested in the publishing/editing business and also have an “Emerging Translators” programme and competition to commission new translators for the best of the German books on offer. Whilst I’m not myself a literary translator, it was an extremely interesting overview and a number of our members are already involved with the programme as readers/reviewers.

Lunch was next – a delicious and varied spread of assorted sandwiches and wraps, followed by some very good home-made cakes: always a good thing in my book!

The final session of the day was a translation slam, following the example set by the FIT Congress in Berlin and this summer’s Translate in Chantilly workshop, attended by our coordinator, Cherry. Four brave souls had volunteered to translate a challenging text selected by Cherry, two from German into English and two from English into German, before the event. They would then read out their translations to the assembled gathering, throwing the floor open for discussion and comments. Inevitably there were similarities and differences between the translations, but the resulting discussions took place in such a friendly, interested and lively atmosphere and it was far from the critical bloodbath I’d imagined. We are often our own worst critics after all! Congratulations to the translators who put themselves forward for their outstanding efforts: Alison Layland, Rachel Ward, Judith Sauerzapf-Christopherson and Isabel Brenner – and bring on the next one!

The workshop concluded with a quick mention of GerNet business and I’m sure we were all happy to agree that relations in the group have been so much calmer and more pleasant recently after last year’s shenanigans. The group finally has its official constitution and the new committee seems to be running ultra-smoothly. We have a satisfying number of new members and hope that numbers will continue to rise again now that the group is back on an even keel. The various members of the committee and the team also introduced themselves. I’m merely the Twitter Coordinator for the group – @ITIGerNet is our “handle” – but if anyone feels inclined to join us (you have to be an ITI member first), please use the contact form on our website: http://www.itigermannetwork.org.uk/contact.php?l=en_GB

With the work side of events complete, we all adjourned to the Haz St. Paul’s restaurant just up the road for more networking and an enjoyable Turkish meal – time to meet up with old friends and introduce ourselves to new colleagues. I just wish they offered large, round tables in restaurants rather than the standard, long narrow ones for sizeable groups – it’s so hard to get to talk to everybody!

All in all, an excellent day’s work, reinforcing the benefits of networking with like-minded colleagues!

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