Our sister society MET (Mediterranean Editors and Translators) held its 14th annual conference in Girona, Spain in October this year. The theme was ′Giving credit where credit's due: recognition for authors, translators and editors′. Lured by the interesting programme (and beautiful location, no doubt!) several SENSE members were there. We caught up with them to find out what they thought.
One of the many attractions of MET conferences are the wonderful locations. Girona was well worth the trip – lovely old town, cathedral with the widest nave in Europe and one of the oldest tapestries, numerous good restaurants and bars, and woods and hills within easy reach to walk off the good meals.
The 14th annual MET meeting was entitled ′Giving credit where credit’s due: recognition for authors, translators and editors′. Given that this profession is such a self-effacing group, this meeting proved to be an excellent awareness raising exercise. Joy Burrough-Boenisch’s online questionnaire sent out last Spring showed that only 14.5% of us actually expect or ever ask for recognition of our work! How on earth are we ever going to get reasonable pay for our activities if we don’t value our own work? The most common reason given by respondents for not asking for credit was: ‘It has never crossed my mind.’
Thomas O’Boyle (Spain) continued this theme with his talk entitled Knowing your worth, showing your worth in which he urged language service providers to explain to their clients what they do, ensure excellent service and be proactive in seeking credit. It makes sound business sense.
I sat on a panel of academic providers set up by Valerie Matarese to discuss Acknowledgements in the eyes of scholars using language services: perceptions of language professionals. The other participants were Wendy Baldwin (Spain), Kate Sotejeff-Wilson (Finland) and Mar Ferández Núňez (France). Valerie asked us to explain our different work situations, ranging from in-house editor to freelance translator. The questions from the audience revealed the timidity of a lot of language service providers and/or the awe they have for their high-ranking academic clients. It’s worth remembering that professors are just normal people. The panel talked about their own experiences of receiving credit, and offered tips to the audience: the main ones being to pursue excellence, take due pride in your work and start asking for recognition (and not to be put off if one person says no).
On the Thursday evening, I hosted an Off-METM dinner for eight conference-goers to discuss why they wouldn’t want to be credited for their work. Some of the reasons given were: ‘the client may tamper with the text after I return it (and thereby introduce new errors)’, ‘I have been paid, why should I expect credit too?’, ‘I have a list of clients on my website so don’t need credit to be given in other places’ and ‘my client would consider it a loss of face to credit my work because it shows he/she cannot write good enough English’. On the other side of the fence was Iria del Río, editorial director of the official journal of the Spanish Society of Cardiology, which is published in Spanish and English. She explained how hard it is to get any information about the article translators from the journal’s publishers, or to persuade the publisher that credit should be given to the translators.
The conference was a big meeting – 175 participants, with a choice of 13 half-day pre-conference workshops, two or three parallel sessions of talks over two whole days, and 10 Off-METM dinner and 11 lunch groups. The challenge for MET is how to accommodate the ever-growing number of participants while keeping the meeting personal, friendly and so well-suited to language service providers’ needs.
This was my fifth MET conference and, as usual, it didn’t fail to meet my expectations. MET always manages to find the perfect cities and venues for their annual conference. This year was no exception. The wonderful city of Girona, with its many historical buildings, restaurants and great weather, served not only as the ideal place for the conference itself but also as an amazing backdrop for all the Off-METM activities. I attended an Off-METM meal group (for the vegan curious), joined the free walking tour of the historic centre with a great guide, and cycled through the very green outskirts of Girona on a burricleta.
Before the actual conference started, I attended the Translation Revision and Beyond workshop, which was well presented, very interesting and had plenty of interaction. The keynotes and the great variety of presentations were inspiring and informative. And of course, there was the networking. It always feels like meeting up with old friends.
The conference once again gave me lots of creative energy, food for thought and inspiration. Can’t wait for next year’s conference in Split.
The first keynote speaker was Daniel Hahn, who spoke on In praise of editors: the translator’s view. As a seasoned literary writer and translator himself, he bemoaned the lack of credit given to editors, who, he says, have the potential to either make or break a book. For me, perhaps the most striking takeaway message from this talk, and the conference as a whole, was his Orwellian image of editing being analogous to getting a window cleaned: the view must not be different afterwards (ie, don’t mess with the author’s words and images by imposing yourself on them), but the editor’s interventions must make everything sharper and clearer. He also nicely distinguished the editor’s interventions from the translator’s: editors must help new writers to ‘find their voice’, while translators have to ‘lose their voice’ – the reader should be able to recognize the author’s writing or voice in the translated text.
For a bit of light relief, I attended Karen Neilson’s presentation on To oak or not to oak… profiling the wine translator. Her message was not about the nuts and bolts of translating in this genre but about steeping oneself in the industry – doing so not only allows one to understand that industry but also means one can provide seamless translation and editing services to its many and varied facets and players: from wine growers to wine tourism. Spain is the world’s third largest producer of wines, but the industry sorely needs a change of image. So while the opportunities for wordsmiths are almost endless, to contribute one has to know one’s stuff, from appellation to terroir. Her final slide in an informative presentation said it all: ‘Get thee to a winery!’
On being edited: how authors respond was the title of Sally Burgess’s presentation. Sally spoke ‘from the heart’ as both an author and an editor. What emerged is that editorial intervention is a sensitive subject for many authors and editors. Developing an awareness of the affective dimension in author editing can therefore improve relationships between author’s editors and their clients. This means that editors must be aware of the factors that influence authors’ positive and negative responses to being edited. In practice, this is about how the editing is framed: an attitude of deference towards the author is more likely to be perceived as solidarity with the author. Whereas, for many authors, having their words edited can be face-threatening, the deferential approach is more likely to be face-saving.
The second keynote having been something of a damp squib for this delegate, the conference ended on an inspiring note with a double bill: Jenny Zonneveld on From Lada to Lamborghini – tips for becoming a premier freelancer and Thomas O’Boyle on Knowing your worth, showing your worth: creating value for your client, creating value for yourself. Not only were the presentations professional but the seasoned speakers were able to speak from experience.
Jenny shared with us the secrets of her success as a freelancer, which included becoming an (indispensable) expert in the field, putting herself through continuous professional development, nurturing networks, building sound relationships and not being afraid to take herself out of her comfort zone (something we language practitioners are notoriously bad at). Jenny also suggested charging a project fee rather than quoting a rate, because it’s difficult to justify higher rates to existing clients. Tom stressed that freelancers should not underprice themselves, because once a rate is set for a client’s work, it’s virtually impossible to increase it substantially. So when quoting a rate for a job, don’t hesitate to start at the right level for you – although this is, of course, easier when working directly for clients than through agencies.
Tom shared seven key words with us: Mindset, Proactive, Improve, Organize, Service, Value and Excellence. These both complemented and added to what Jenny said. Three are particularly important for freelancers: Mindset, which should be that of a business professional, including considering yourself as part of someone’s business, and treating them accordingly; Proactive, which means getting out of your comfort zone to woo potential clients; and Value – adding value to our clients’ businesses (and telling our clients how we do this).
Tom’s final quotation left a lasting impression on me: a client can demand price, time and quality from us, but they need to know that they can’t have all three!
This was my third MET conference, and I have found all of them rewarding and beneficial. MET is a very well-organized group and the conference always runs in a smooth and professional manner. The quality of the presentations and speakers is generally excellent. I sometimes hear two complaints: either there is too much emphasis on academic language (according to the translators) or there is too much emphasis on translation (according to the editors). Although I may be at a bit of an advantage since I work in both fields, I personally find the balance between the two very good.
As it happens, the topics chosen by this year’s keynote speakers were less relevant to my own work than they were in previous years, but I suppose that’s just the luck of the draw. Besides, the MET conference offers good networking, the chance to catch up with acquaintances, and a general sense of camaraderie, all in a sunny Mediterranean setting (the weather was particularly good this year). Another beautiful city – Split, Croatia – has been chosen as the setting of next year’s conference, so my calendar is marked. How about yours?
As a freelance editor working primarily for scientists and scholars, I found this year’s MET conference one of the best of the 14 I’ve attended. Here, I’ll mention only the non-plenary sessions I attended but I also enjoyed both the plenaries and fun activities (yoga, burricleta!).
It’s the richness of linguistic resources and expertise among attendees that makes MET conferences so special and rewarding. My pre-conference workshop on editing non-native English, which was again fully booked, attracted 20 attendees with knowledge of 12 languages other than English – including exotics such as Finnish, Bulgarian and Russian but excluding Dutch – so it needed little help from me to draw out insightful comments and discussion. We learned much from each other.
In the conference proper, the panel discussion chaired by Valerie Matarese in which Jackie Senior participated complemented my presentation reporting on the survey of editors’ views on being acknowledged. Jackie’s position (until her recent retirement) as an in-house editor always acknowledged for her work contrasted with the more retiring pragmatic (fatalistic?) approach of the others, all of whom worked for scientists and scholars but were either fully freelance or lacked an appreciative and supportive boss like Jackie’s.
In their excellent joint presentation On being edited: how authors respond, Sally Burgess and Clara Currell (both academics as well as editors) drew on the editing that they’d been subjected to, reminding us not only that editing is a face-threatening act but also to be aware of the hidden agendas of editors, be they jobbing freelancers or – especially – academics who are journal or book editors.
At the other extreme of academic editing, Nigel Harwood’s presentation on ‘proofreaders’ of student texts in UK universities left me with the impression that they are generally neither as skilled nor as foreign-language savvy as SENSE and MET members. His presentation on citation practice in academic texts was useful to me as a teacher of scientific English. This interest was well catered for in two other sessions: Oliver Shaw’s pre-conference workshop in which he showed how genre theory can be used to help scientist authors write (and critically read) the Discussion section of a paper, and Iain Patten’s evangelical presentation in which he advocated integrating research writing into research planning, so that reports and papers evolve with the research, almost writing themselves, rather than being scheduled to be prepared at fixed points in time.
Finally, the six of us attending the ‘Clients who think they know better’ lunch didn’t just pour out woeful anecdotes; we found common experiences across countries as diverse as France, the Netherlands, Spain and Finland, and shared tips on how to avert confrontation and challenges. Therapeutic and fun.
This was my third venture to a MET conference, and I’m sure it won’t be my last. The experience is different from any other conference I’ve been to. It’s a belevenis – the city, meeting up with friends and making new contacts, the off-conference activities, the workshops and of course the conference sessions themselves.
MET has a knack for selecting excellent locations where you can soak up the local history and culture as you go along. And now I’ve got to know some of the MET community, I feel very much at home wherever the location.
MET conferences have something for everyone, and this year I selected the sessions on machine translation and business practice. Michael Farrell gave an interesting talk entitled The stink of machine translation – the take-home message being that machine translation will never match the variety, originality or inventiveness of human translators.
My own talk From Lada to Lamborghini was at the close of the conference, and being Spain where food is served at strange times of the day, this began at what we here in the Netherlands would consider after supper time. Despite this, it was well attended and I hope that more people will now dare to venture outside their comfort zone – as I did in giving this talk – to where the magic happens. It will be very rewarding.
I travelled to the MET conference primarily for anthropologist, editor and translator Susan DiGiacomo’s Friday morning workshop, When the writing is bad but the analysis is good: a practical exercise in editing ethnographic writing, and it remains the highlight for me, hands down. Organized as a seminar, the workshop centred on the editorial analysis of an original draft text of a journal article that had, after revising, been accepted for publication this year in the high-ranking journal, American Ethnologist.
One of the major problems writers across the social sciences have in crafting their work is the effort to bring two very different discourses together into a single, coherent text. It can be quite difficult to bring the highly localized evidence you’ve gathered – whether it be from a village in Europe, a city in Asia, a piece of art, a social movement, a religious ritual or an organization – into the same space as the abstracted and seemingly ethereal concepts and theories within your discipline. Many social scientists obtain reams of fabulous data during their research phase, but then struggle to find a theoretical lens through which to view it. How can you place the unique local data you’ve gathered into conversation with the work of other scholars in your field or those in related areas of critical thought?
To answer this question, Susan presented the best leveraging of Clifford Geertz’s classic ethnographic concepts that I have ever seen. Because ethnographic work in the social sciences is ‘empirical, but not empiricist’, she told us, ‘experience-near’ local knowledge and vocabularies – the raw stuff of qualitative data before it’s been interpreted – must be juxtaposed with ‘experience-distant’ abstract theoretical concepts drawn from the analytic vocabularies of academic specialists. The trick, she explained, is to bring the two vocabularies into simultaneous view such that they ‘vex’ one another and move knowledge forward. In a phrase so pithy that I have tacked it above my editing desk, Susan writes, ‘The intention, as always, is for theory to illumine the data, and for the data to challenge theory, if possible pushing it, and the resulting interpretation, to reach new conclusions.’
The small group of attendees (three no-shows were working on last-minute changes to their own talks) were so moved by the experience of finally having a workshop that speaks to the most difficult elements of editing and translating social science and humanities texts that we organized a Saturday lunch meetup to discuss the possibility of creating a MET Humanities special interest group. Headed up by Sally Burgess of the University of La Laguna together with Alan Lounds of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and me (freelance editor Theresa Truax-Gischler), the group’s initial goal is to organize a panel for next year’s MET conference in Split that focuses on the writing, editing, translation and teaching of texts in the humanities, social sciences and literatures. Because these genres are topographically distinct from the genres of the hard sciences, a special stream within MET seemed appropriate. In the words of sociologist Howard Becker, these genres all ‘tell about society’ albeit in distinct ways. As of this writing, the new MET special interest group has 23 members. If you are interested in joining the group, please email me at email@example.com.
I’ve been a member of both SENSE and MET since 2011, and even though I’m quite active in SENSE, for the most part I’ve been a bit of a shadow member of MET. But after years of fellow SENSE members asking why I don’t go to the MET conferences, I decided to head to Girona this year to see what all the fuss is about. And I must say, I was extremely pleased!
From the pre-conference workshop on citations, to the meals, to the packed sessions during the conference itself, I found the entire experience engaging and stimulating. Everything was quite smoothly organized, and I found that as a strict non-translator (my core business is editing) there was plenty in the programme to choose from. The location was charming, easy to get around and offered plenty of opportunity to work my muscles trudging up the hills.
One thing that struck me was the way a relatively small conference can have a large-conference feel. During the first plenary lecture, I looked around the hall and saw it was fully packed, making me think that the meeting had drawn around 400 attendees. But later, I asked one of the organizers and was surprised to learn that the actual number was 175.
So to sum up my experience? Thoroughly positive! I’m definitely adding the MET conference to my list of must-go-to events each year, and I’m looking forward to next year’s conference in Croatia. See you there?
We were particularly pleased to see so many members of our sister societies MET and NEaT attending the SENSE 2018 Conference. Here, some of the MET members who attended tell us what they thought of the conference.
The SENSE conference was my first-ever visit to the Netherlands. I encountered a Den Bosch that was warm (warmer than my hometown Madrid), traffic free (a welcome break from polluted air) and full of bicycles (city cycling is too risky at home).
And the conference itself? A small, friendly group of some 80 people living under one roof meant we could get to know one another over breakfast, at a presentation or even in the loos! There was some good content too. I particularly enjoyed John Linnegar’s review of Garner’s Modern English Usage. Not only did we hear about the benefits of this new corpus-based resource, but we were also able to leaf through the book ourselves at the end of the session. Valerie Matarese’s talk ‘Bad Textual Mentors: how awkwardly written research articles complicate the work of an authors’ editor’ was also interesting. Valerie explained how poorly written texts are propagated through citing, and as a result, scientific terminology is distorted. Food for thought indeed.
(For more information about Emma, see her website.)
I arrived a day before the conference started to participate in Margreet de Roo’s workshop ‘Making the best, most optimal use of MS Word.’ I am delighted with everything I learnt in the workshop as it is going to save me so much time when editing. The content of the conference itself provided a good mixture of stimulating presentations, which were very relevant for my work as an in-house authors’ editor (eg, Maria Sherwood-Smith on ‘Outreach and research communication in English: opportunities for language professionals’), and entertaining stuff that everybody comes across and could have a good laugh about (Lloyd Bingham’s ‘Dealing with Dunglish – and other source-language interference’). There were plenty of opportunities to chat to other participants about work, living in a country other than the one in which one grew up, children and bilingualism, and life in general! And, to top it all, there was an abundance of snacks, lovely fresh fruit and drinks in all of the breaks! Thank you SENSE – it was a wonderful conference and I look forward to the next one!
(Gráinne can be found in the MET directory.)
A highlight for me was Tom Johnston’s talk ‘Mid-Atlantic English: which mid-Atlantic English?’ because it offered a solution to something I’ve been struggling with for years: which English to ‘adopt’ when – like me – you don’t have your own, native English. The Mid-Atlantic English (MAE) Tom proposed takes the strongest elements of UK and US English and merges them into a variant of English for use in international contexts; in other words, a standardized lingua franca. To create this variant, Tom first applied Google’s Ngrams to corpora of British and American English for a close look at actual usage. Based on the result, he then formulated guidelines to select words, abbreviations, verb endings, punctuation and even certain grammatical forms for MAE. The criteria for selection include frequency, logic and practicality. It was appealing to imagine that MAE might become the standard to replace the vague and poorly defined ‘international English’.
(Marije can be found in the MET directory.)
I travelled to my first-ever SENSE conference with friend and fellow presenter Ailish Maher. This is fitting because Ailish was the person who took me to my first-ever Mediterranean Editors and Translators Meeting (METM) meeting in 2005. On arrival at Eindhoven airport, Ailish and I got talking to a Dutch couple who had missed their flight to Portugal. They chatted to us about Den Bosch and its people and taught us how to pronounce the official name for the city, ’s-Hertogenbosch, and explained what it meant. It was a good start for two linguists!
Half an hour after arriving at the hotel, I was seated at a restaurant table for an informal intersociety dinner with Jenny Zonneveld and John Linnegar from SENSE, Kenneth Quek from NEaT, Sarah Griffin-Mason from the ITI, and fellow MET council member Emma Goldsmith. We spent a pleasant and productive two hours chatting about different aspects of our respective associations and exploring informal mechanisms for further collaboration. John had wisely prepared a checklist of points to discuss that we had prioritized in advance.
The conference venue and organization were top-notch and staying in the same place as most of the other conference-goers made for easy connections and networking. There was no shortage of interesting talks, but I particularly enjoyed Maria Sherwood-Smith’s account of how she and her team apply the daisy model to help researchers communicate their core message effectively. Maria, if you’re reading this, MET would like a presentation on this part of your work next year – and another one sometime on medieval manuscripts! One of the things I enjoyed most about the conference was hearing about the challenges facing people doing similar work to me but in a very different language and culture. SENSE and Den Bosch, thank you!
I thoroughly enjoyed Stephen Johnston’s workshop ‘The Impossible Blog’ on how to write a readable blog post from unreadable material. The principles we applied to transform wads of technical and business documentation into an engaging read for asthmatics will come in useful when I’m struggling to make complex research findings accessible to a lay audience. And for someone who’s been working as a lone editor for far too long, it was great fun to brainstorm with other participants and to hear everyone’s brilliant ideas.
Like a good blog entry, the conference ended with a call to action. In her closing plenary talk on ‘Trends in translation and interpreting to 2050’, Sarah Griffin-Mason encouraged language professionals to organize and make our voices heard. We need to show people what we do – and to communicate the skill and value in what we do. One way of helping to shape the future of our professions is to get involved in organizations such as SENSE, MET and NeAT … and potentially a German sister organization in the years to come?! So come on, fellow SENSE members in Germany – let's get our heads together!
(Susannah can be found in the MET directory.)
My decision to attend the SENSE conference was somewhat spur of the moment, after hearing about it through MET, having a quick look at the programme and deciding I’d quite like a weekend in the Netherlands!
The conference was very well organized and the venue and food were excellent. There were also plenty of opportunities to chat to colleagues during meals and breaks. In terms of content, there was an interesting mixture of presentations on topics related to translation, editing and English in general. I found the session by Tony Parr and Marcel Lemmens on ‘Identifying and rectifying translatorese’ particularly interesting, since the Dutch to English examples were a different type of ‘translatorese’ than I am used to seeing in texts translated from the Romance languages I work with.
Overall, I found the event to be very worthwhile and enjoyable, and I will definitely try to attend another SENSE conference in the future.
What did the delegates think of the SENSE 2018 Conference? We caught up with some of them to find out
I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and was especially pleased with how much time was allotted to meeting up and chatting with other professionals. I tend to get over-tired at conferences and the breaks gave me time to recover while catching up with people I knew already and getting to know new people.
My biggest struggle was choosing which presentations to attend; I was often torn between going to what I felt I ‘should’ see (ie, those that spoke very directly to my current work) versus attending those that lay outside my current work but sparked an interest.
I think I struck a good balance in the end. Stephen Johnston’s ‘The impossible blog’ workshop on Friday seemed outside my current field of work but intrigued me. The workshop challenged us to comb through reams of technical information to find the points relevant to a general audience, and participating made me realize that it is a skill I actually use quite often. I also enjoyed Maria Sherwood-Smith’s talk on ‘Outreach and research communication in English: opportunities for language professionals’. Maria touched on the same theme of how to take abstract technical information and hone it to a message appropriate for a public audience, and I found her examples of how students worked through that process in her course especially enlightening.
On the closer-to-home front, I found the panel discussion moderated by Valerie Matarese about ‘Invasive species: language versus subject specialists in biomedical editing and translation’ enlightening. In it, Anne Murray, Marije de Jager and Emma Goldsmith shared their career paths and experiences on the road to becoming biomedical editors/translators. The discussion revealed, to me at least, commonalities behind what makes good language professionals: a curious mind, a ragged tenacity, a flexible approach and a willingness to take on new challenges. The theme of commonality came back again in Sarah Griffin-Mason’s closing plenary talk ‘Trends in translating and interpreting to 2050’ when she unabashedly pointed out that all the language professionals in the room were ‘the ones who get it’, the three kids in the class who don’t need to be taught the lesson a second time.
If there was one talk I wish I had been able to attend it was Kenneth Quek’s ‘Chinglish as she is writ: on the uses and abuses of English by native Chinese speakers’. I work with increasing numbers of native Chinese speakers, and I respect their tenacious assault on their especially hard path up English mountain, so I hope I get to see Kenneth’s talk at another conference. I also enjoyed Lloyd Bingham’s ‘Dealing with Dunglish – and other source-language interference’. It was a good framing of all the Dunglish I see on daily basis and a good reminder to not let it slide when I see it. It also taught me that ‘beamer’, a word that came into use after I moved to the Netherlands, is not the UK English word for a projector.
All in all I enjoyed the conference immensely and thank the organizers for all their hard work in putting it together.
The Golden Tulip Hotel Central in Den Bosch was an ideal location for the SENSE 2018 Conference, and I enjoyed the guided tour of Den Bosch on the Saturday morning, where we saw the magnificent St John’s Cathedral.
Later in the day, I attended Charles Frink’s presentation 'Disrupting the inheritance of poor writing habits: an alternative approach to editing and teaching writing (in the health-related sciences)', in which he mentioned that 500,000 new academic articles are published each year. Apparently, the originality of the research is dubious from the perspective of journal editors. His suggested solution was to focus on core concepts, then support them with details. Clarity was the essence of his presentation.
Nigel Saych’s presentation ‘“…divided by a common language”: cultural, topical and geographical Englishes’ was enlightening. He discussed the words lavatory and toilet, and pointed out that Geoffrey Chaucer and Thomas Crapper had contributed to lavatorial English, which I found rather amusing.
Carol Norris’ presentation ‘Developing a modern, journal-acceptable manuscript style’ focused on getting to the point as quickly as possible, which I believe is essential. I also enjoyed Jackie Senior’s presentation 'International science needs editors' and agree wholeheartedly with her opinion that international science needs English editors. In the same session, Joy Burrough-Boenisch focused on using the SENSE Guidelines for Proofreading Student Texts as a map to edit English-language doctoral theses in the Netherlands. Her sound advice was that they can help you achieve transparency in editing a thesis.
In 'Outreach and research communication in English: opportunities for language professionals' Maria Sherwood-Smith made us aware that research communication to non-specialists is now key in many areas. She pointed out that more courses on research communication are necessary for early career researchers.
The conference ended with Sarah Griffin-Mason’s talk on ‘Trends in Translating and Interpreting to 2050’. She told us that humans are more important than machines, and gave us hints as to how we can get this argument across to our clients.
The picturesque boat trip on the Binnendieze was a perfect end to the conference!
(Enid can be found on LinkedIn.)
I only joined SENSE earlier this year, having seen the conference advertised on social media. It was great to find a network that focuses so heavily on skills for my target language – as translation events traditionally focus on source-language skills – and one based in the Netherlands too, just a 50-minute flight away.
I was impressed with the conference on several counts. First, the venue and host city. Den Bosch is very charming indeed, and the hotel itself was pleasant and conveniently located. Second, the programme. I appreciate that SENSE is geared towards English-language editors, but for into-English translators like myself, the sessions were superb and highly focused on improving my target-language skills, something which translation-specific conferences sometimes lack (surprisingly enough). The range of speakers was excellent. It was rather humbling to be counted amongst such experienced speakers, who more than knew their onions, and I was pleased that, with a mere seven years of experience, I could contribute too. Third, the general organization. It must have taken a great amount of effort to put the event together, especially for a relatively small association. I knew very few people in SENSE, so it was a wonderful opportunity to meet and converse with many of its members, whether long-established or fellow newbies. This, coupled with the peer-to-peer structure as opposed to top-down, created a gezellig atmosphere. I look forward to the next conference!
(Lloyd is the owner of Capital Translations.)
The conference was a great match for me personally. I felt at home because it mirrored what I do as a translator and editor working with Dutch and English. Specifically, I liked the focus on honing language skills rather than on social media use, marketing, running a business, etc. The SENSE team were very welcoming, always making sure people were happy and enjoying themselves. And it was lovely to finally meet some faces I had worked with virtually and to meet new colleagues too.
If SENSE have another conference, you can count me in!
I heard about the SENSE conference via Twitter and decided to attend as it seemed a good opportunity to meet up with other English-language editors and translators in this part of Europe.
The first pleasant surprise was Den Bosch, which is a charming city, and I wish I had had more time to explore. At least I got to enjoy the guided tour on the Saturday morning.
Saturday’s opening session with presenter Jeremy Gardner provided some entertaining insights into EU English and raised a few questions about the future of English in the EU after Brexit and the ensuing lack of British translators. I also found Iris Schrijver’s talk ‘Translation quality (assessment): insights from Translation Studies in the quest for the holy grail?’ very interesting – a pleasant change from some academics’ presentations, which can be somewhat inaccessible for those of us working outside universities.
As a translator, not an editor, not all the sessions were relevant to my work but this allowed me more time for networking. It was great to meet colleagues from all over Europe and I especially welcomed the collaboration between the various professional associations.
On Sunday morning I found the workshop with Tony Parr and Marcel Lemmens on ‘Identifying and rectifying translatorese’ very worthwhile. I don’t speak Dutch so it was particularly interesting to compare my changes to the English translation with suggestions made by colleagues who also understood the source text.
The conference finished on a high with a very upbeat talk by Sarah Griffin-Mason, the Chair of ITI. It was inspiring to hear her views on the changing translation industry and the ITI’s plans, when so many translators are all doom and gloom when it comes to the future of our profession.
The whole weekend was extremely well organized and I found it both worthwhile and enjoyable and hope to attend the next conference too.
Thank you SENSE!
I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about signing up for the SENSE conference – I just thought it was something I ‘should’ do for ‘continuing professional development’. By the time I left, I was on a high and even felt that I’d made new friends.
Attending such a conference is not just a question of learning things that you can apply to your work (translation in my case), or dealing with clients, or, indeed, of following developments in the industry, but of something more subtle, of orienteering yourself in the industry, of discovering what you already know or don’t know in relation to others. I’d allowed myself to become quite isolated as a translator and my only contact with other English-language professionals until now had largely been combative; revising or being revised by other (fairly poor) translators and having to deal with non-native project managers who think I’m being overly picky or subjective, while all the time very much aware of my own deficiencies. The SENSE conference was like the proverbial warm bath, and I felt genuine respect and curiosity between professionals at different stages in their careers. ‘Who’d have thought?’ I tweeted. ‘Translators can be good company!’
This was my first SENSE conference, and I enjoyed it very much. The feedback on my abstract was thoughtful, and there was a sense the peer review process had been done rigorously but fairly.
The conference itself was very well organized, with helpful directions to the venue available on the SENSE website. The venue and facilities were excellent and the conference fee was very reasonable.
I enjoyed the friendly atmosphere and found the conference was stimulating. I had many helpful and enlightening conversations with delegates about editing in the Netherlands and other countries. I learned a lot, made some very valuable contacts and left with fond memories and no regrets about attending!
Having been rather negligent in my attendance of SENSE events lately, I decided it was high time to show my face again, and remind people that I’m still around at the SENSE 2018 Conference. It was indeed great to see many familiar faces again and chat with people I hadn’t seen for a while. And it was also very gratifying to see many new faces, showing that SENSE is alive and well.
Being mostly in the business of editing medical and health science research papers, I attended the talks by Charles Frink, Valerie Matarese and Lloyd Bingham on Saturday. Charles reminded us that when editing research papers and teaching students how to write them, it is not only correct grammar and spelling that is important, but for writers to think of their audience and make sure they get their message across. He provided us with a clear recipe for achieving that.
Valerie Matarese’s well-structured talk led us systematically through the problems that make scientific texts so hard to read and explained their origins. The main cause of many problems appears to be that scientists follow the example provided by existing articles, which means that unnecessarily complex languages are perpetuated. It’s up to us language professionals to break this vicious cycle and point our clients and students in the right direction, while recognizing that scientific writing may sometimes deviate from ‘standard English’ without apparently compromising communication.
Lloyd Bingham’s entertaining talk focused on the misuse of English words, which he referred to as Dunglish, although that term is usually reserved for the interference from Dutch grammatical and syntactic structures that crop up when Dutch people try to write in English. Nevertheless, the examples he presented were a healthy reminder that words can change their meaning when they cross national borders.
After the tea-break, I attended the panel discussion featuring Anne Murray, Marije de Jager and Emma Goldsmith, all translators and editors of medical texts. They discussed whether a medical translator/editor should preferably have a background in medicine and turn to translation/editing afterwards (as Emma did) or be trained as a translator and work their way into the subject matter (as Anne and Marije did). In both cases, the person might be regarded as an ‘invasive species’ trespassing on a field that wasn’t originally their own. Unsurprisingly, no definitive answer was obtained, but the very fact that three people from very different backgrounds had managed to build a lasting career in medical translation and editing would suggest that trespassers need not always be prosecuted.
On Sunday morning, Tony Parr and Marcel Lemmens put us to work immediately, identifying translatorese in the English version of a Dutch brochure on flu vaccination. As usual, their hands-on approach led to very lively discussions as to what constitutes translatorese.
(Jan can be found on LinkedIn.)
We translators are usually happiest when working alone, the one exception being when we meet each other at a conference. I have only been to a few conferences, but SENSE 2018 was the best so far. Excellent choice of subject matter and experts to present it. I will gladly join this society (if they will have me, but you know what Groucho Marx said about that...).
(Kees can be found on LinkedIn.)
As a freelance translator, editor and writer, my work shoes are slippers. I’m slipshod in the original sense of the word – shod in slippers – while trying to produce work that isn’t. For the SENSE 2018 Conference in Den Bosch on 9 and 10 June, it was time to exchange my slippers for a pair of proper shoes, time to leave my familiar desk and venture out into the world.
This is exactly what Sarah Griffin-Mason, Chair of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, urged us to do in her plenary talk at the end of the conference. The theme of the conference was ‘Englishes now! Trends affecting language professionals’, and Griffin-Mason talked about these trends. The main ones are artificial intelligence, machine translation and the gig economy. If we’re not careful, people will start to believe they no longer need human translators, editors, writers and interpreters, even though humans understand context in a way that machines cannot – not yet at least.
The trouble, Griffin-Mason continued, is that many of us become language professionals because we want to shut ourselves off from the world and think about words. We like wearing slippers. However, the time has come for the slipshod to leave the safety of our home offices and tell the world what we do. This brings us to another problem with language workers, said Griffin-Mason. We’re good at helping others communicate, but not so good at telling the world why it needs us. And it does need us, if Jeremy Gardner’s plenary talk that opened the conference is anything to go by.
Gardner’s talk was a cautionary tale of what you get when good language goes bad: jargon, gibberish and gobbledygook. And claptrap, hocus-pocus, jabber, twaddle, balderdash, double Dutch, baloney and hogwash. The EU’s form of English, which was what Gardner’s talk was about, is a prime example. For insiders, it’s obvious that ‘ovine animals’ are sheep and ‘caprine animals’ are goats, and that every other word is an abbreviation of something else. Insiders also know that an ‘enterprise’ is a business, that a ‘mission’ is a business trip and that ‘agents’ are simply people who work for the EU. For outsiders, however, this is gibberish and gobbledygook. Could, Gardner wondered, the EU’s opaque communication be one of the reasons why the public is so hostile to it? If the EU was clearer in its communication, would the public be more aware of what it does? Could a beslippered editor have saved Britain from Brexit? Who knows?
Jargon was also a theme in another presentation I had signed up for: Charles Frink on how poor writing habits are inherited. The presentation was on academic writing this time, but again the message was how important clear communication is. Unfortunately, academic writing is becoming less readable and more jargon-filled, which makes it increasingly difficult for non-specialist readers to understand. Does that matter? Well yes, because non-specialist readers could be on the grant-assessment boards that decide whether to award a researcher a grant. What makes for good academic writing? It’s the same as with any writing. The text needs to be readable. It needs to tell a story. It should avoid jargon, the passive and complex sentences. It should express rather than impress.
Whereas Charles Frink spoke about what makes academic writing good, Valerie Matarese talked about what makes academic writing bad. She explained how researchers use source texts or a corpus of texts – textual mentors – to inform their writing. If these textual mentors are badly written, this style is propagated. She called them ‘bad textual mentors’. Again, good language gone bad. It is our job, as editors, to correct bad textual mentors.
Maria Sherwood-Smith also focused on the importance of clear communication in academic writing. With Dutch universities expecting researchers to communicate their research to non-specialists, this may mean opportunities for language professionals. This could be in the form of editing, translating or teaching.
The conclusion from all of this is that while we know why the world needs language professionals, the world does not. The world might think that rough and ready machine translations are fine. The world might think that as long as you get your message across it doesn’t matter how you say it. What the world doesn’t realize is that how you say it often means that you don't get your message across.
We, the slipshod, must therefore leave the comfort of our home offices – perhaps only virtually – and tell the world why it needs us. Or, as they say in Dutch, we moeten onze stoute schoenen aantrekken.* We must don a stout pair of boots and be stout-hearted enough to get our message across before the machines take over.
* 'We have to don a stout pair of shoes.' The Dutch stout and the English stout are related but have parted ways over the years. The Dutch stout now means naughty or impertinent but can also mean daring, audacious or brave, which is the sense of stoute schoenen aantrekken. This is why Karel de Stoute is Charles the Bold in English rather than Charles the Naughty. The English stout also meant proud, fierce, strong and defiant in the past. It also meant having a powerful build, which is where the stout shoes come from, and has since come to mean thickset or corpulent.
Marianne Orchard is SENSE's content manager. She is a freelance translator (Dutch to English), editor and writer who specializes in creative texts.
Write a blog post about the new EU payment service directive and make it entertaining, said my client. Before I could even think about the entertaining bit, I spent hours trawling through articles that all said such different things about the directive that I ended up reading the bloomin’ thing itself, or at least parts of it. If only I’d attended Stephen Johnston’s workshop ‘The impossible blog: how to write a readable blog from unreadable material’ beforehand. It was held in Den Bosch on 8 June, the day before the SENSE 2018 conference.
So how do you write a readable blog about a less than thrilling topic? Well, said Stephen, it’s about the tone. That's what makes a blog a blog. Write as though you’re talking to someone, but without the ums and ers. Avoid jargon, and if you must use it, explain it. Make the complicated sound simple. Avoid words you wouldn’t use in regular speech.
It’s also important, said Stephen, to know who your reader is and why you’re writing for them. What do you (or your client) want the reader to do when they have read the blog? Buy your product? Find out more about your company? Contact you? Keep this in mind while researching and writing the blog.
This brought us on to the structure. Stephen had brought along some materials about a new product, ranging from a very technical proof of concept document to marketing slides. Our job was to scan the material and find three main messages, without forgetting the reader and aim of the blog. He explained that once you have these three messages you can present these together followed by the supporting material. Or you can present them as: main message, supporting material, main message, supporting material and so on.
We also looked at what to say in the introduction, which is where you explain why you’re writing the blog. Then Stephen talked about ending with a ‘call to action’. This is what you want the reader to do when they finish the blog. Stephen also talked about using headings to make the post easier to scan.
A blog about writing blogs. How meta! So – I began the piece by explaining what it’s about, am writing as I talk, have made the subject matter sound simple and have three main messages followed by supporting material. All that's left now is the call to action. What do I want you the reader to do? Why not improve your blog writing skills by writing for the SENSE blog? We're always looking for new input and it's a great way to spread the word about your business. Contact me if you're interested. For upcoming workshops see the SENSE events page.
Marianne Orchard is on the SENSE Executive Committee and an editor and writer for the SENSE blog and newsletter. She is a freelance translator (Dutch to English), editor and writer who specializes in creative texts.
Several SENSE members are speaking at the SENSE 2018 Conference. Here they reveal what they hope to achieve and what they are looking forward to at the conference.
Editing English-language doctoral theses in the Netherlands: are the SENSE Guidelines useful?
Joy Burrough-Boenisch: ‘In my presentation I dig deeper into the situation that contributed to SENSE setting up the Guidelines for Proofreading Student Texts to explore why – unlike universities in anglophone countries such as the UK and Australia – Dutch universities seem unconcerned about the ethics of editing PhD work.
'I’ll suggest how we editors can respond. I secretly hope that awareness of the issues raised in this presentation will ripple out beyond SENSE and create waves in Dutch academia that will ultimately result in acknowledgement of the need for guidelines and transparency about the editing of student texts in the Netherlands.
‘I’m particularly looking forward to hearing Nigel Harwood’s presentation at the conference, as he’s done thorough empirical research on what “proofreaders” in the UK do to a student text and why. His findings will help us put our own work and approach here in the Netherlands into context.’
Dealing with Dunglish – and other source-language interference
Lloyd Bingham: ‘I’m delighted to be attending a SENSE conference for the first time, more so because of this year’s theme: Englishes now! As translators into English, we need to be conscious of the varieties of English that our target audiences speak and we need to write accordingly.
‘My presentation will examine the hybrid language that is Dunglish and the problems it poses for translators. Dunglish is traditionally understood to mean English words borrowed by Dutch that retain the same meaning. Modern Dunglish, however, is also about borrowing words and phrases that might look English and sound English…but English they ain’t. Cue translators pulling their hair out, trying to get to the bottom of what a Dunglish phrase actually means. After all, there are no Dunglish dictionaries! So my presentation will propose some techniques to translate Dunglish into English that natives can understand.
‘Looking forward to seeing you there!'
Disrupting the inheritance of poor writing habits: an alternative approach to editing and teaching writing (in the health-related sciences)
Charles Frink: ‘The main goal of my presentation is to provide a glimpse of the underlying scientific structure in biomedical manuscripts. A narrow linguistic approach to writing and editing is often ineffective if the core scientific elements of a biomedical manuscript are not explicitly present and logically linked. The document may still lack the elusive “flow” that is so highly prized by peer reviewers and journal editors.
'My proposition is that mastering this structure will empower young scientists to disrupt the inheritance of poor writing habits from their supervisors, professors and senior co-authors.
‘I am especially looking forward to Valerie Matarese's presentation on bad textual mentors and the panel discussion on language versus subject specialists in biomedical editing and translation.’
Identifying and rectifying translatorese
Marcel Lemmens: ‘Some literal translations are fine and others are awkward. The awkward ones are often examples of translatorese. Being able to distinguish between the two makes you a better and more efficient editor. That is the message we would like to get across.’
Tony Parr: ‘Among the points we’ll be looking at are “the curse of knowledge” and “translator’s privilege”. So what have these got to do with translatorese and why should we as translators be wary of them? To find out, join us at 9.30 on Sunday morning on 10 June (gulp)!’
International science needs English editors
Jackie Senior: ‘I hope to show that it is well worth specializing in science editing if you’re looking for a niche. I’m particularly looking forward to meeting the international delegates at the conference and hoping they will set SENSE members thinking about the Dutch versus the European situation.’
'... divided by a common language': cultural, topical and geographical Englishes
Nigel Saych: ‘I’m looking forward to discussing with people attending my presentation how the English we used in the past differs from that in use today, and what we may have to concern ourselves with as linguists in the future. My only regret is that I can’t attend the other sessions that are on at the same time!’
Outreach and research communication in English: opportunities for language professionals
Maria Sherwood-Smith: ‘What I would like to achieve with my presentation is to sound people out on what I think may be a trend towards a more central role for communication skills in the research process and what implications this may have for language professionals. And as a first-time presenter, I suppose my other aim is to take another step along the path towards becoming that mythical “language professional”, as opposed to merely the full-time language amateur I usually feel I am.
‘As for other presentations, I’m especially looking forward to Jeremy Gardner's talk on EU English, Nigel Harwood on editing Master’s theses and Jackie Senior on science editing. I am particularly sorry to be missing the panel discussion on the Dutch guidelines for editing PhD theses in an international context, which is at the same time as my own presentation. I found it very difficult in general to choose between all the tempting parallel sessions...’
The day before the SENSE 2018 Conference, John Linnegar is giving a workshop entitled ‘It needs only a “light” edit': negotiating the differences between light, medium and heavy editing. We caught up with him to find out more.
How do you feel about giving a pre-conference workshop?
Very enthusiastic, for two reasons: first, I believe that such workshops (certainly most of those I’ve attended) offer great value to attendees – we always come away with worthwhile and practical knowledge and skills, even if they only refresh our current thinking and practice. Second, the topic I’ll be covering strikes many a chord among editors – many are searching for the answer to the question of how we distinguish between the different levels of editing. I myself learnt the answer relatively late in my career as an editor! Now I want to share my discovery with my colleagues, because I know how much it has helped me with editing and quoting.
What do you hope participants will take away from the workshop?
A clearer understanding of the differences between the three levels of editing (heavy, medium and light), and of the criteria used to distinguish one from the other. I’ve also developed a little ‘formula’ for measuring the differences, which I’ll be sharing with the participants.
Are you attending the conference itself?
Yes, and I’m looking forward to it! I’m on the organizing team, too. And besides the workshop, I’ll be presenting a brief session on Garner’s Modern English Usage (OUP 2016). I believe it to be a gem of a reference work for (English) language practitioners. It’s an admirably modern update to Fowler’s Modern English Usage, and displays wonderful inclusivity and balance in dealing with American and British English.
Is this the first SENSE conference you’ve attended?
No, I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the 2015 Jubilee Conference, shortly after I joined SENSE. That was a great professional gathering and information-sharing experience that I was concerned should not be allowed to remain a one-off. After all, other societies in Europe hold annual conferences...
What are you looking forward to most?
First, the two keynote speakers, speaking on topics of great interest to all of us. Then, the camaraderie engendered by a meeting of minds from all over Europe (11 countries). Recently, I’ve become particularly interested in how the quality of translations is evaluated, so I’m keen to hear what a researcher in the field – Dr Iris Schrijver, from the University of Antwerp – will have to say about this controversial topic.
Emma Goldsmith is travelling from Spain to give a workshop entitled 'EU regulatory medical writing and EMA templates: compliance and consistency' the day before the SENSE 2018 Conference. We caught up with her to find out more
‘I’m the sort of person who loves to follow rules,’ says Emma. ‘Give me a style guide and I’ll read it from cover to cover. Give me a deadline and I won’t be late. That explains why I feel so at home with EMA templates and the strict terminology, quick turnaround times and detailed guidance documents that go with them.’
If, like Emma, you love rules and are a translator who works with European languages, then this workshop is for you. You will learn about, or refresh your knowledge of, EU regulatory medical writing in general and EMA (European Medicines Agency) templates in particular.
‘My goal is to share my enthusiasm for EMA templates with workshop attendees,’ says Emma.
Emma is a Spanish to English translator who specializes in medicine. She has over 20 years’ experience translating clinical trial documentation, articles for publication in medical journals, and product information for EMA submissions. She trained and worked as a nurse before becoming a translator.
The workshop is on Friday 8 June from 14.00 to 17.30, the day before the SENSE 2018 conference. It will take place at the conference venue, Hotel Central in the Dutch city of ’s-Hertogenbosch.
Emma is travelling from Spain to give the workshop. Will she be attending the conference while she’s there?
‘Absolutely,’ she says. ’I’m particularly looking forward to the contrasting talks on well and poorly-written texts by Charles Frink and Valerie Matarese. I’ve also got my eye on the Saturday morning guided tour of 's-Hertogenbosch and I’m only sorry that my early Ryanair flight on Sunday afternoon means that I’ll miss the boat trip!’
Is this her first SENSE conference?
‘This will be the first SENSE conference I’ve attended and in fact the first time I set foot in the Netherlands. So I’m looking forward to it for many different reasons: meeting old friends, making new ones and getting to know a new country, language and culture, albeit in just 72 hours!’
So if you fancy following some rules and want to learn all about the not-so-wild world of regulatory medical writing, sign up for the workshop. (Don’t forget to log in first if you’re a SENSE member).
Sometimes you come home from a workshop thinking how useful it was and how you’ll definitely do everything the trainer suggested… when you find the time.
Sometimes you dash straight to your PC.
The latter was certainly the case after John Yonce’s immensely useful Data Privacy and Information Security workshop. By the time the kids had surfaced on Sunday morning, I’d installed two new browsers, tried out a new non-spying search engine, looked at what my virus scanner did on the malware front, installed an ad blocker, reviewed my backup process and configured the password vault I’d recently started using. (And made a checklist of all of this and checked off each item as I completed it.)
Most of us at the workshop were attending because we’d heard about the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and this seemed like an easy way to find out what we needed to do. We were working as translators, copywriters, editors, subtitlers and interpreters.
John began by looking at the origins of privacy and how it has a cultural context: in some cultures you don’t talk about your salary, for instance, whereas in others it’s fine. The modern concept of privacy dates to 1890 Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and Samuel D. Warren talking about ‘the right to be let alone.’
We then looked at current privacy laws in the Netherlands and Europe and the GDPR in particular. This was relevant to our professional and personal lives: professional because we must protect any personal data of others that we have access to and personal because we should protect our own data.
The next step was to look at possible threats to privacy and information, and measures to prevent these. This means virus scanners, firewalls, ad blockers, malware blockers, updates and so on.
It also means general awareness of what data you’re sharing with whom when you install an app, create an account or hand over a copy of your passport, and whether you want to share this data at all. And a whole lot more, because there’s a lot of bad eggs out there waiting to get their hands on your data.
SENSE workshops tend to be bastions of niceness with lots of tip sharing and empathising. This stood out against the skulduggery and menace of data theft. But perhaps skuldugs are also charming to each other at skulduggery workshops and travel home together on the train discussing words for sprinkles (chocolate vermicelli, nonpareil, hundreds and thousands…), why coriander is cilantro in US English and how they need crocheted bootees for their sofa legs because they keep stubbing their toes on them. Who knows?
Marianne Orchard is on the SENSE Executive Committee and an editor and writer for the SENSE blog and newsletter. She is a freelance translator (Dutch to English), editor and writer who specializes in creative texts.