Reflections on theWords to Deed Conference #W2D2017

“Not JUST translators” was a key phrase for the Words to Deeds Conference held at the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn last Saturday (4 February 2017). A prestigious location, a top class array of speakers, a horseshoe arrangement of round tables covered in crisp white cloths and an elegant programme complete with tasselled cord, this conference was clearly intended to be something out of the ordinary. A conference just for legal translators, it’s purpose was to “Roar to the World.

Advocate General Sharpston and Susan Belgrave spoke about the importance of translators being involved in the drafting phase, while Juliette Scott emphasised the importance of insisting on a full translation brief. Sahar Bhaimia explained that plain language was a requirement for consumer protection and data protection. She reminded us that children download apps and therefore consumer protection documents need to be written in a way that a child could understand. Finally she indicated that the future would be to move away from words towards icons. Henry Liu put the case against plain language. He also pointed out that the hardest thing to master was the smallest words.

Juliette Scott asked us to think about our use of words. Were we “freelancers” or “legal translation practitioners”. Is translation an “industry”?

This conference had some novel ideas which added real value to the experience. Having a table arrangement rather than rows made it easier to engage in conversation with other delegates. After lunch we were encouraged to walk and talk in the gardens. In groups of three to five we set off with a question to discuss. Fortune smiled on us and provided an interlude of blue sky. My group discussed how we could prepare for the future of the profession. We managed several turns of the garden and discussed many other matters in addition to our allocated topic. On our return to the hall we separated into other groups for table workshops where we could discuss a variety of topics relevant to the interests of our table.

This combination of formal talks and less formal discussion was a very successful format. In addition to avoiding that drowsy afternoon session, it provided an opportunity to network meaningfully with colleagues.

The plantable name tag was another original idea. Take it home, add water and wild flowers will grow. The intended metaphor is clear enough.

After the conference there was an opportunity to visit Dennis Severs House. What a treat! Bundled into taxis we headed off to Spitalfields. Standing outside the house on the cobbled street, with its Georgian facades and Victorian pub, if you squinted out the shadow of the 21st century glass office towers and the passing cars, you might just sense the past. Inside, was all past. Up four flights of stairs, with two rooms on each floor, crammed full of C18 and C19 furnishings, heated by coal fires and lit solely by candle light you left the modern era at the door. The cup of tea and half-eaten cake, the bonnet on the wing of the chair, the unmade bed, were designed to give the impression that the owner had just popped into another room and would be back at any moment. The whole visit was conducted in silence so all the senses could take in the experience. My attention was caught by a child’s chair with a child-size walking stick hanging over the back.

An excellent day.

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