Pre-conference pondering

ProZ has held an annual international conference for translators since 2001. I have wanted to attend one of these events since 2001. This is the first time it has been a reasonable proposition. For a start, I live in the country in which the conference is taking place. By some incredibly fortuitous set of circumstances, I can finally afford it.

In six days’ time the 2013 International Conference is set to take place.

Like others, I have duly paid my attendance fees and made hotel reservations. João and I each have a train ticket to Porto, the venue. We have booked for all the social events, and in true enthusiast fashion, I have chosen a full schedule of sessions and workshops to attend. Once the conference is over, we even have a luncheon planned with a fellow translator I have worked with before, herself a resident of Porto. There is additional excitement in the air because we have never been to Porto. I am almost ready to get us packed. One of my favourite clients, a one-woman agency, has asked me to do a bit of guest blogging for her website. Another agency from Lisbon, has sent out a request to meet with me at the conference. My clients all know I shall be “on holiday”. The Spanish courier is going to try again tomorrow to find me to hand over my new business cards.

This picture still has nothing to do with the subject of my blog.

So, what now?

Planning, that’s what.

Oh, I hear you say, I sound pretty organised already.

Well, I am not.

I have not organised my mind.

There are things I do not know about myself.

I have not organised my laptop. I still have not decided whether I will use my laptop during some of the sessions, or settle for the more traditional taking notes on paper.  I think the latter. I can get my daily Internet fix in the privacy of our luxury suite. The hotel has free WiFi everywhere. How secure is that?

Things I do not know about myself:

  • How many thousands of words I have translated so far this year? I lost count about two months ago. I have been busy.
  • Which language pair after my most dominant – German to English – is really in second place? I know the answer, but I really do need to quantify it.
  • I know what my favourite subject fields are, but do these reflect accurately the ones in which I do the most work?
  • Thanks to the tax department, to whom I have to pay VAT, at least I know precisely who my best clients are.
  • Apart from prompt payment, what do I like most about the ones ranking in the top three? After all, I would like more clients like that.

Of course, I could do what my seventeen-year-old nephew claims he does, and “wing it”. It is not as if I haven’t had practice doing just that over the years. It is just that this time, I would like to be prepared. It saves stuttering and saying “um” a lot. It will bring focus.

Bringing my translation activity into sharper focus is my primary motive for attending the conference. I look forward to two whole days of unadulterated “me time”. Time set aside to examine what I need to do to keep abreast of developments. After 26 years as a translator, I certainly do not know it all, but I do still want to be working in 20 years’ time, if only to prove then that dinosaurs are not extinct, as is commonly believed.

I am thrilled at the prospect of being at a venue with roughly 300 other translators. People of my breed. I look forward to meeting them, and making the most of the face to face encounters. I have attended quite a number of conferences in my life, but none of them have been as a conference participant.

I have been to conferences where I have translated on funny old computers in a back office in a cramped room with three others and learnt how to use state-of-the-art photocopiers stored in creepy basements at nine at night.

I have been to conferences where I have been part of the welcome reception desk; the cross between being a slave and a secretary to hundreds of different people, many of them at the same time.

I have attended three annual conferences  where I have taken verbatim minutes the whole day about the exciting issues affecting the tobacco industry in Zimbabwe.

I have attended quite a few UN day-long workshops, also as a minute-taker. A one-day UN workshop is a sure-fire recipe for a splitting headache by five in the afternoon! It probably has more to do with air-conditioned rooms than the subject-matter, but one can never be sure.

But I have never been to a conference as a delegate.

A freelance translator’s life is often a solitary one. Sure, we interact on fora, and read each other’s blogs, but we seldom get to talk to one another in real life to exchange ideas, opinions, and experiences. I have known relatively few translators in real life. Those I have met, I really, really like.

In real life. Real life is what we do every day. Once I have prepared myself a little, I look forward to escaping into an altered-reality bubble for a few days. I just know it is going to be good for me!


P.S. The illustration below is not for the German-challenged, but might as well be a cartoon. Feel free to use it to illustrate why translators should not offer discounts on fuzzy matches:

72% match with what?
72% match with what?

8 thoughts on “Pre-conference pondering

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  1. I am a fan of blogs with pictures that don’t have much to do with the subject of the blog (yours are nicer). I don’t think we translators need to offer any discounts on fuzzy (or not fuzzy) matches (tax advisers, lawyers or notaries won’t – they certainly have quite a lot of fuzzies, don’t they). Also looking forward to Porto. Let us hope the weather will be nice too.


  2. Allison, have a lovely time in Porto! I really look forward to reading about your experience there 🙂
    @Valerij: That’s a great point – I’d never thought of it that way! I’ll definitely mention this the next time I have to explain why I don’t want to give a discount for fuzzy matches. Thank you


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