How to evaluate the quality of a conference? Excellent organization, interesting program, knowledgeable speakers, opportunities to learn and network… that’s what comes to (my) mind. If you add to the formula the only person in the world who actually speaks Dothraki, well… chances of success get very close to 100%. The Translation and Localization Conference 2016 was my first conference ever and I landed in Warsaw with mixed feelings: excitement, curiosity, enthusiasm, anxiety, thrill, fear of failure. How did it go? Well, you have to read to find out 😉

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The organization was outstanding: more than 30 presentations3 workshops, the coolest keynote ever, everything always on time, no technical problems, rivers of coffee and mountains of cookies always available (because food for thought sometimes is just not enough), free transportation always provided for events not taking place at the venue, nice and clean music-themed conference rooms AND the loveliest, most helpful and welcoming organizers in the whole translation industry.

Talks and Workshops

Needless to say, all the speakers were highly knowledgeable and qualified professionals. However, sometimes knowledge is not quite enough, sometimes what you need is someone teaching you honesty and self-esteem, someone telling you that you are worth it and that with hard work you can make it in this industry. Some highlights include:

Keynote – David J. Peterson

If you think the languages you hear in fantasy movies are just a bunch of sounds made up by screenwriters and producers, think again. David Peterson, creator of pretty much all the invented languages you see on TV, showed us in detail how the process of creating a language from scratch works: from the inspiration phase to phonetics, grammar, orthography, lexicon, etc… As the only person in the whole world speaking and understanding these languages, the struggle for him is real: his translations get butchered, mispronounced, even canceled from this or that show because “who cares? No one really understands anyway”. What struck me about David were his admirable commitment and his humility: come on, he translates Daenerys’ script and knows what happens to Jon Snow, who wouldn’t brag in his shoes?! And yet, instead of being snobby and arrogant, he was patient and extremely nice and approachable: a lesson of humility for many of us.
(Ps. For those who are interested, on his Youtube channel you can find a lot information about the creation of new invented languages)

Transcreation Workshop – Adriana Tortoriello

We all know that transcreation is not easy, but this workshop brought its challenges to a whole new level! After a brief theoretical introduction, we got to work in groups on practical examples, debating, passionately defending our choices, brainstorming. It was very interesting to compare the translation choices made by many different language groups, their ways of analyzing the brief and approaching the translation, it clearly showed the huge role played by culture in transcreation processes.

Interpreters, islands and super heroesJonathan Downie & Valeria Aliperta

I’m not an interpreter so I didn’t know how much of these talks could actually be applied to my situation. As it turns out, Jonathan had planned for us something very different. He asked us to self-assess where we are in our career and personal life, how our support team is coming along, he gave us some tips on the good to haves and the importance of adopting the right attitude. Lastly, he asked us to describe in one sentence [I am + adj.] where we feel we are standing now in our professional and private life. Focusing on honesty was an excellent approach: sometimes we tend to be overcritical or we don’t want to admit we have a problem, we may want to impress someone or avoid showing our weaknesses. These exercises forced us to evaluate our real selves, reflect on our strengths and weaknesses and set goals for self-improvement.
Valeria then talked about the qualitiesskills and assets required to be an interpreter, as well as the challenges they have to face everyday. Now, given that Valeria is one of my role models and I could listen to her reciting the shopping list and be perfectly happy and satisfied, her talk really provided a thorough insight on this extremely demanding job. It was already on my long-term life goals, but it has definitely earned a few more points thanks to her presentation.

Valuable Marketing TipsGala Gil Amat & Melanie Di Costanzo

Marketing is always a tricky part of the translation business, but Gala’s tips on how to improve a LinkedIn profile and Melanie’s workshop dealing with the importance of SEO shed some light on the dos and don’ts of these two important marketing tools. The workshop included also a practical part where we had to advertise an object, a service and a place using the right keywords. For anyone interested, Melanie has also a website dedicated to SEO for translators, where she publishes videos with useful tips every week.

Why translate?Ellen Singer

The conference was wrapped up by Ellen’s talk, which I found very inspiring and uplifting. She talked about the role of translators in our society and how we can make a difference, she pointed out that every word matters, we are important and we have to value ourselves for what we are worth. After her talk, she asked us to share episodes when we think we made a difference and many valuable stories were shared. It was the perfect way of ending the conference and I think we all left the room with positive vibes and renewed motivation.

Warsaw at night

Networking was my main goal and my biggest fear. Being my first conference and not knowing anyone in person, I pictured myself wandering around alone, unable to talk to whomever or to hand out a single business card. I’m happy to say that I was very much mistaken and I had a blast meeting wonderful colleagues and human beings. In a nutshell this is what I learnt:
– translators & interpreters are great, but Standing Out® ones are better;
– translators & interpreters can rock the dance floor;
– translators & interpreters have the most amazing love stories (yes, we spent a good hour telling each other how we met our significant other and apparently we are pros when it comes to long distance and intercultural relationships);
– translators & interpreters are not social misfits but wonderful human beings, highly sensitive, with a great sense of humor and many stories to share;
– not all of them are addicted to coffee, some actually prefer tea

A cultural touch
On Sunday, we wrapped up this experience with 3 hours of sightseeing in Warsaw. Mother Nature blessed us with a sunny day to close this great experience the right way.

Photo credit: © The Translation and Localization Conference 2016

Now that it’s over I can say that everything was beyond expectations from every point of view and I feel so energized, inspired and motivated to keep going on this path I’ve chosen and keep growing. A huge thanks goes to Marta, Anna and the team for organizing such an empowering event and to all the attendees whom I hope to meet again at the next conference!