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Last weekend I was lucky enough to be one of the 150+ guests at the ITI’s 30th Anniversary Lunch at The Anthologist in London, a truly enjoyable and career-affirming event. It was an opportunity to get together with colleagues I haven’t seen for years, in some cases, and celebrate the first thirty years in the life of our professional association. Delicious food, cake, a quiz and lots of networking made for a very pleasant afternoon, and reminded me just how important it is, especially in our isolated profession, to keep in touch with like-minded individuals with the same problems, concerns and interests.

ITI 30th lunch crowd

Although I’ve been translating professionally for over thirty years, I was a young staff translator in the North-West of England back in 1986, so the founding of the Institute passed me by, I’m sorry to say. I do recall attending a “Translating and the Computer” conference organised by ASLIB in London around the same time and hearing of the newly-founded organisation (along with forward-looking presentations about something called e-mail and OCR readers that would revolutionise our lives!), but it had little impact on my life as an in-house translator, far removed from London.

Roll on ten or so years, by which time I’d had two babies, gone freelance and moved to Scotland with my family. Strangely enough, it was a former colleague living in France who put me in touch with a fellow translator who lived in the same small seaside town as me in Scotland; we met up, got on and she introduced me to the ITI Scottish Network – my first taste of the delights of networking and the ITI itself. I was very much a full-time mum with a part-time translating habit in those days, but I did enjoy my trips over to Edinburgh (usually) to meet up with colleagues. ScotNet didn’t require its members to be ITI members, which was probably just as well as I don’t think I was translating enough words to qualify at that stage – it was just very useful to keep my finger on the pulse and feel part of a wider community of translators and interpreters.

When we moved to the South of England in 2003, I joined the Sussex ITI Network, again a more informal gathering of translators and interpreters which welcomed translators without formal allegiance to any particular association. In those days, of course, Facebook and Twitter weren’t around, so networking was a much greater challenge and had to be done in person, if at all! All the time, my children were growing up and I was able to devote more and more of my time to translation and eventually, in 2008, I felt able to apply to join the Institute as an associate member, initially so that I could access the German and French networks, of which I’d heard such good reports. I went on to qualify the following year and have been a proud MITI ever since – I feel you reach a point in your career when just thinking you’re a “good enough” translator isn’t actually enough. Having that professional accreditation IS the logical next step and enables you to progress your career in the right direction, with like-minded professional colleagues, as I wrote in my post on ITI membership last year.

Saturday was a resounding endorsement of what it’s all about; not only did I meet up with the colleague and dear friend who’d introduced me to ScotNet in the first place, but also many other ScotNetters, German and French Network colleagues, translators and interpreters I’d encountered on assignments in this country and abroad, and colleagues old and new I’d met at conferences and networking events, or even via online forums, Facebook or Twitter – not forgetting the ITI Walking Weekend!

Conversations ranged far and wide, covering the inevitable threat of Brexit, translation technology, old times and even the thorny topic of retired members. Despite mutterings behind the scenes from a vocal minority on the ITI and LinkedIn forums, I’m delighted to report that the atmosphere was unequivocally positive about the association’s future. Most of the members I spoke to were, like me, resigned to the fact that times have changed and translators just don’t retire at 60 or 65 – why would we? My father took early retirement from his job in finance at 58 (just three years on from my current age – I couldn’t possibly contemplate retiring so young!). Admittedly, many of us love our jobs (as proved by the fact that so many of us are still translating thirty years on….), but without final pension salary schemes, we often aren’t in a position to retire.

That being so, it hardly seems unreasonable for the ITI to suggest that retired should mean precisely that: retired, and that translators who are still working should not be eligible for any special retirement category. That seems fair enough to me: at £220 a year, or just over £4 a week, it’s extremely good value for money. I would hope to cut down in future years, of course, but experienced translators can and do make a very good living from their craft, and should surely be able to afford to pay for the privilege of those letters after their name and the associated benefits. It strikes me that to offer a retired members’ category to members who have chosen to work less would lay them open to offering a reduced rate for translators suffering ill health, or bringing up children…. I’m not convinced there’s a difference!

No dissent at this party, in any event – we were definitely all singing from the same hymn sheet (literally in the case of the Singing Translators’ performance!) and looking forward to the next 30 years. Who knows what delights are in store for us? I found it hard enough to believe in the prospect of “e-mail” broached some thirty years ago, and look at us now!

Happy Anniversary, ITI – I’ve so enjoyed being a member. Roll on the next thirty years and indeed the next get-together – see you all at Cardiff next year?

ITI 30th cupcake