Just over two weeks ago saw me catching the train bright and early on a Saturday morning to go up to London for the first of a brand new event: ITI’s One Day In, intended as a biennial gathering on the years between the established ITI conferences, held every other year. The last one was in Cardiff in 2017, incredible though that may seem (how time flies!), and it was good to have another opportunity to catch up with colleagues.
This new event was to be held in the august setting of Gray’s Inn, in the venerable Inns of Court in the City of London, usually a bustling hive of activity on weekdays, but surprisingly quiet on a Saturday. Even some of the shops near Holborn tube station were closed! Fortunately the M&S was open, so I was able to buy my picnic lunch as planned. The idea was for everyone to gather on the lawns of The Walks, a beautiful tree-lined garden area adjacent to the law courts, and picnic on the grass ahead of the afternoon’s events. You could order a packed lunch, but I’m fussy about my sandwiches so opted for the DIY M&S approach: very good they were too!
It was lovely to meet up with colleagues I haven’t seen in ages over lunch, but all too soon we were ushered back into the stunning chambers at Gray’s Inn for the afternoon’s proceedings to commence. I had been invited to attend the morning session, the launch of the ITI’s new Research Network, bringing together the professional bodies, corporate members and academia, but had felt that required far too early a start on a Saturday – plus I have dogs to think about!
ITI had lined up an excellent programme for the afternoon, interspersed with presentations of the ITI awards to individual translators, interpreters and translation companies. These were launched at the conference last year, so it was good to keep the ball rolling at this new event and celebrate outstanding achievements amongst our ranks. The ever inspirational Chris Durban kicked off the formal part of the day with a wake-up call reminding us that four eyes are better than two. Not enough of us seem to be aware that working with a reviser is definitely best practice, not only to pick up errors and omissions (and we all make them, no matter how many times we check our work!), but also to iron out standard, pedestrian output. Another pair of eyes and the associated red pen may seem daunting at first, but it makes you raise the bar – something we should all be aiming for.
Anne de Freyman was next up, introducing a new “open mic” session where attendees had been invited to have their say on a subject of their choice in strictly-monitored 5-minute slots, making for an interesting whistlestop tour of a range of topics. Martin Hemmings was first in line with a brief account of the desirability of translator portfolios, especially to showcase your work at gatherings such as this. He was closely followed by Sue Fortescue telling us about her work with Translators Without Borders and squeezing in a mention of a Foodie Translators and the TWB cookbook, both topics close to my heart. Other fascinating mini-talks included Gillian Hargreaves describing how she took the next step from volunteering professionally to standing for her local council in a bid to fight Brexit. Nick Rosenthal regaled us with his adventures in the land of literary translation via the German Krimi novel as a complete step change from his usual day job as a technical translator. Becky Mynett broached the novel idea of awards for clients who commission the best translations with a view to encouraging the awareness that quality matters. Elizabeth Garrison in turn extolled the virtues of mobile working in her tantalising tales of life as a digital nomad. All in all, a very entertaining and novel idea – perhaps encouraging people to speak who might otherwise feel daunted by the prospect of public speaking?
The highlight of the day for me was Lynne Murphy’s entertaining talk on the differences between US and British English. Lynne is an ex-pat American who has lived in the UK for many years and teaches Linguistics at the University of Sussex. I’ve followed her on Twitter for quite some time (@lynneguist) and heartily recommend her “Separated by a Common Language” blog. I should perhaps confess a special interest, as my soon-to-be daughter-in-law is American and we’re still finding surprising differences 5 years down the line! Lynne warned us against “Amerilexicophobic” tendencies – where we blame America for everything that’s wrong with the English language. In fact, we’re quite capable of butchering our own language: think “should of” instead of “should have”…. not at all an Americanism! In fact some differences have become more pronounced since the advent of computer spellchecks in the 1990s: whereas -ize was a perfectly acceptable ending for verbs in British English (Oxford spelling, no less!), it has now become recognised as the American spelling, with -ise as the preferred English spelling. Borrowed words often have different meanings on each side of the pond: an oh-so-British scone (rhyming with gone in my book) might be served with icing in the US, and the word cookie in the US can even cover what we’d call a traybake, far more than the biscuits we’d expect over here. And while some previously very British words are gradually being accepted in the States, e.g. bespoke, ginger as a hair colour, who knew that a ginger cat goes by the name of an orange cat across the pond?! As for that old favourite of many an Enid Blyton novel, the apple-pie bed (where on earth did that come from?), an American would be more likely to understand you if you referred to a short-sheeted bed – endlessly fascinating!
With the formal part of the proceedings at an end, we all adjourned to the gardens once again for a glass of fizz or elderflower, and more chatting (oops, networking!), followed by dinner in the main hall. Sorry, ITI, but I have to confess to being rather disappointed by the dinner menu, which turned out to be a glorified indoor barbeque with burger, chips and salad, not what I’d expected from such a prestigious venue… There were chicken kebabs too, but I only saw them after we’d queued up to be served, canteen-style. Dessert was strawberries and cream, pleasant enough, but hardly fine dining – yet this was billed as “excellent food”. In fairness, the afternoon tea and assorted cakes earlier in the day were very good, but this wasn’t a cheap event: if you’re going to put on a high quality event, you really do have to make sure the food is up to scratch…
That aside, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day: the perfect opportunity to meet up with colleagues old and new, and celebrate the joys of our profession. The conference returns in Sheffield next year, but I look forward to the next reincarnation of “One Day in..” in two years’ time.