A personal view of the FIT congress in Berlin

Huddled in my winter woollies, while the rain pours down outside, it is difficult to believe that just a few weeks ago I was enjoying 30 degrees of heat in Berlin.

Man vs. Machine? The Future of Translators, Interpreters and Terminologists” was my first FIT conference. I was attracted to this conference because it was in Berlin. Compared with the locations of recent conferences, China and the USA, a European venue was so much easier and cheaper to get to. Besides, I have been wanting to visit Berlin for years. Finally, there was the programme, which comprised a wide range of talks from the “usual” ones that seem to occur at every conference and to more unusual topics. I was particularly interested by the number of contributions from translators of non-European languages, such as Chinese.

The conference was from Monday 4 to Wednesday 6 August, which meant there was opportunity to add a couple of days for some sightseeing. Having had the experience at a previous conference of missing most of the first day due to a migraine induced by travelling I made a point of arriving a few days early. I was able to spend a whole day visiting museums, the Brandenburg Gate, and taking a boat trip. Another day was spent in the Spreewald and on the third day I had a wonderful bus tour of Potsdam. During these days I got to know my way around on the transport system and brushed up my rusty German.

The conference was very well organised. Stepping off the train at Thielplatz individual translators identified each other and began to form small groups. Opposite the station there was a big poster for the conference and there were signs all the way to the Henry Ford Building of the Freie Unitversität.

The venue was splendid. The university is located in a quiet residential area. The building itself had outside areas where people could gather with plenty of welcome shade from the sun. Water was available all day and tea and coffee were provided in the breaks. The food was varied and generally plentiful. Vegetarians were amply catered for. There were extremely long queues for lunch on Tuesday but when we eventually reached the food stall there was plenty left.

Most of the talks I attended were in English but there was an interpreting service (German, French, English) for most of the presentations, which I used on a couple of occasions when the talk was in German.

Although many of the presentations were held in large auditoriums a few of the interesting sessions were held in small, rather cramped and hot rooms. This was unfortunate, but with up to 12 sessions running simultaneously, could not be helped. The organisers were not to know that the weather was going to be so hot.

As usual at these events I find people I know. On this occasion there was a colleague from the Wessex Network of ITI, who was there with a large number of colleagues from the German network of ITI. It was not surprising that so many German translators were attending a conference in Berlin. There being few French or Spanish translators in evidence I gratefully attached myself to the German network for the duration of the event, and in so doing met some very pleasant and interesting people, and I hope, made some new friends in the translation community.

My favourite talks were probably the first and last: Chris Durban “Working the Room” and Barbara Sabel “Beyond Terminology and phraseology – cultural differences in technical journalism and how translators can bridge the gap.” I also enjoyed a session about ergonomics. Researchers found that it was not complex language problems that frustrated and delayed translators but technical problems such as hardware and software issues – something that resonated with many of us who formed quite a queue to volunteer to participate in the project. I have completed my questionnaire.
The survey is available in six languages. Please access it by clicking on your preferred language version.
English survey: http://gibbon.zhaw.ch/limesurvey/index.php/478455/lang-en
German survey (Deutsch): http://gibbon.zhaw.ch/limesurvey/index.php/478455/lang-de
French survey (Français): http://gibbon.zhaw.ch/limesurvey/index.php/478455/lang-fr
Italian survey (Italiano): http://gibbon.zhaw.ch/limesurvey/index.php/478455/lang-it
Spanish survey (Español): http://gibbon.zhaw.ch/limesurvey/index.php/478455/lang-es
Portuguese survey (Português): http://gibbon.zhaw.ch/limesurvey/index.php/478455/lang-pt
On a different note I enjoyed a session on the social relevance of TTI led by speakers from Azerbaijan, South Africa and China. There was also a good session on social networking, as a result of which I now have my twitter feed on full-time, although I am not yet brave enough to post anything. This was followed by a rather disappointing session entitled “Smartphone or Tablet – Gadget or Mobile Office for Translators?” I had hoped for an introduction to loads of useful apps for my iPad but other than Teamviewer for remote access to your home PC the speaker did not recommend any. He did mention tethering which is something I think I might investigate.

The main thrust of the congress was of course machine translation and I intend to tackle this topic as a separate blog. Several other issued raised in discussion sessions will also provide starting points for future blogs. I have also added 3 more languages to my collection on my language collector blog.

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