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 Proz.com 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.
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: