The MET Conferences have become a recurring autumn event in my calendar. A few years ago, when I was part of the organizing team for the first SENSE conference, held in 2015, fellow SENSE, MET and ITI member Joy Burrough-Boenisch suggested I might like to attend a MET conference. ‘It would be a fun experience’, she said, adding that I could find out first-hand what makes a good conference! So, in October 2016 I set off to Tarragona, south of Barcelona in Spain for my first METM. It was my first business trip abroad since becoming a freelance language professional. I’ve not missed a MET conference since.
As delegates must travel from far and wide to attend, MET does its utmost to keep costs down and ensure that their conference is affordable for all. The edition in Split, Croatia was no exception and this year even the workshops were not included in the conference price so delegates could really pick and choose. Needless to say, many of the pre-conference workshops were sold out within a few days, even the one I was giving on Word skills for translators and editors.
There is always something for everyone at a MET conference: workshops, plenary speakers, panel discussions and ‘regular’ presentations in two or three tracks. I like the pick-and-mix of a varied programme; within the comfort of the conference there are sessions to take you way outside your comfort zone. And it’s at these sessions I’m always pleasantly surprised by the gems of wisdom and tips that are there for me to grasp.
A METM would not be complete without the off-conference activities. There’s always drinks for early arrivals on the Wednesday evening and a social activity on Thursday morning before the workshops start. This year it was a guided tour of the splendid old town of Split comprising of the 4th Century Diocletian's Palace and historical centre, all of which is an amazing UNESCO world heritage site. And I should not forget to mention the off-MET meal groups, which are an excellent opportunity to get to know your fellow conference delegates. Because these are so popular, and the MET organizers only allow you to sign up for either Thursday evening or Friday lunch time, and I didn’t want to be without company for a meal, I volunteered to host a lunch – our topic for discussion was ‘Feedback is a two-way street’. The time passed by quickly and before we had exhausted the topic it was time to return to the conference venue.
MET conferences are an excellent opportunity for networking and while in Split I spent time with some of my SENSE colleagues who I hardly see in the Netherlands. It’s also a great time for meeting colleagues and making new friends from other countries and organizations. During the Saturday buffet lunch we had arranged to meet up with our sister-society committee colleagues from ITI, NEaT and of course MET. We had a productive ‘huddle’ and agreed to collaborate more closely, particularly to share our efforts and to establish a WhatsApp group to encourage sisterly communication!
There were three sessions at METM19 that I found particularly interesting. First, the workshop memoQ: the secrets of a flexible CAT tool revealed given by Juliet Macan. She set out to show us a path through the jungle of tools available to the translator and the myriad of features and settings in memoQ in particular. The combination of theory and practical exercises gave me the extra boost I needed to be confident about using memoQ more frequently.
Second, the session given by Maeva Cifuentes entitled Content marketing 101 for translators. Maeva has spoken on marketing at several conferences I’ve been to and because I have more work than I can cope with already, I’m not intending to start a blog to promote my own business, but I did want to hear what she had to say and now I have a little more understanding of what some of my clients want to achieve with their articles and blogs.
Besides the two keynote speakers, who this year were excellent, the third memorable session for me was that given almost at the end of the conference by SENSE and ITI colleague Lloyd Bingham on Translating pseudo-English. Now, this is something I come across every day in my Dutch texts and everywhere around me in the Netherlands. Thanks to Lloyd’s entertaining talk, I’m now more aware of pseudo-English and how to deal with it.
I came away from METM19 in Split with a post-conference buzz, with a high level of adrenaline generated by a few days of intensive networking and CPD absorption, and of course the wonderful weather and magnificent location. It’s an addictive feeling, partly fuelled by my desire to give something back to the professional organizations that have helped me develop as a freelance language professional – so it’s quite likely I’ll be attending, presenting and helping at future conferences, whichever society is the host.
On 21 September, SENSE held its biennial Professional Development Day (PDD) for editors and translators. I was excited to be attending my first SENSE PDD! The two plenaries and four parallel sessions ensured there was something for everyone – editors, translators and copywriters alike.
After some coffee and networking, the day started with a plenary lecture by Jenny Zonneveld, who gave us a number of valuable tips on how to gain repeat clients: be an expert in your field, network, attend events, and build sound relationships. She warned us that this will require leaving our comfort zone, though!
Next, I attended a fascinating presentation by Dianna Beaufort on writing and translating in architecture and urban planning. Dianna guided us through some problems caused by ‘architecture and urban development speak’ or false friends. Translating een karakteristieke oppervlakte into ‘a characteristic surface’, for example, does not work!
Peter Smethurst presented the next talk I attended, titled ‘Translating for fun and profit’. He made us privy to his workflow and provided us with a number of useful tips: do not fill in more than 90% of your time, have the computer read the text to you when you are done (to check for errors), and prove to the client that you add value by pointing out mistakes and querying anything that is unclear.
After a traditional Dutch lunch that included kroketten and milk, it was back to business with a presentation on estimates: Jenny Zonneveld and John Linnegar urged us to take our entire workflow into account when preparing our quotes. We discussed the different ways in which we charge for time spent on admin and communication. John mentioned a handy word-count tool called PractiCount which helps editors and translators estimate how long their job will take.
Next up were Jackie Senior and Dr. Kate McIntyre, with a fascinating and hopeful presentation on the role of language professionals in academia. Higher education in the Netherlands is increasingly English-speaking, which creates many language needs. Language professionals in academic settings are not only providing editing services for grant proposals, journal articles, and dissertations, but also helping draft universities’ internal communications in English and teaching writing courses.
The final lecture was by Dr. Mike Hannay on flow, rhythm and balance in writing. He told us the key to writing that flows is variation. Good writing is attractive, clear and coherent, genre-faithful and accurate. He also discussed prosody and the study of rhythm, meter and intonation in poetry. Mike’s handout provided many examples of problematic copy, and it was great fun working through them with other language professionals.
The day ended with the announcement of the location of next year’s conference (which was delivered through a game of Hangman) and a lovely borrel (of course accompanied by bitterballen). This gave me the chance to finally meet some people I had interacted with only virtually, and to make some new friends. I am definitely looking forward to attending next year’s conference in Maastricht!
Historical map of Zwolle (from Wikipedia)
One drizzly afternoon in downtown Zwolle, Eastern SIG’s autumn borrel took place in the cosy confines of Winebar OAK. Billed as an informal ‘catch-up’, it wasn’t all-play-and-no-work that made this meeting such fun. We talked shop, of course, whilst tucking into plates of delicious snacks and knocking back (but not over) a glass or two of a somewhat tart yet surprisingly good Spanish red, ordered no doubt to train our palates for METM20 next year.
Among the tabled topics were ‘winding down working hours once you’ve hit retirement age’, and a perennial problem for zzp-ers: ‘chasing defaulters’. This reminded a superb storyteller of when she was a novice translator/feisty detective and tracked down the real home address of a con-man/client, whose letterhead stated ‘with offices in London, Paris and Emmeloord’ (she should have been warned) and, assisted by the Fraud Squad, managed to get paid. In full.
Talk of payments turned to the price of things in general, like the cost of booking a venue for a network of medical and science writers. Amsterdam Public Library, it seems, is conveniently close to Central Station and quite an affordable établissement when ten or so people turn up. Somewhere for SENSE to think about? This suggestion inspired a spate of word-perfect Français on the juste rewards of living and working in France (I think).
Dwelling on the good things in life brought us to the SENSE dinner, being held this year on the good ship Ooster-Schelde. Built in 1933 and originally a ferry for the Provincial Steamboat Services in Zeeland, the ship is moored in Zwolle, an understandably glad fact for local members who seem keen to welcome this SENSE event to their town. Despite its dozy reputation, Zwolle is anything but dull, not even in damp October, judging by my walk along the picaresque vesting and winding lanes to the venue. This peppy town has a long and glorious history, indeed a history so long its Golden Age (oops) predates the rest of the NL’s by a century at least. Take that, Hollanders!
But I digress. It seems that most of the eight or nine members present are coming to the dinner, most with partners in tow, and we’re eagerly looking forward to the chance to mingle with colleagues, talk shop and simply have fun chattering in English, just as we did at this social.
Co-working: does it make SENSE?
Have you heard of co-working? Did you know the concept has been around for 15 years? The thought of co-working may either excite or terrify you: excite you because of the prospect of getting out of the office once in a while and meeting your colleagues or other professionals to collaborate, om mee te denken. Or terrify you because you possibly became a freelancer to avoid interacting with anybody face to face.
What is co-working?
Co-working is essentially about doing what you already do, but with others, in person. On 11 October in Amersfoort, SENSE member Lloyd Bingham will outline the mental health benefits of having some company and a change of scenery. He will argue that co-working can increase your productivity, while offering a space to share knowledge and ideas with your contemporaries, which could ultimately produce a better result for your clients.
Co-working with fellow linguists or other professionals?
Lloyd will explain the differences between working with fellow language professionals and working with professionals in other sectors. Both models offer their own benefits, and one might be a better fit for you than the other.
Co-working or coworking?
Perhaps the most important question is: with or without a hyphen? Supporters of no-hyphen include the esteemed Garner’s Modern English Usage. Supporters of retaining the hyphen include many of our esteemed SENSE colleagues. We know who we’d rather trust.
We hope to see you in Amersfoort on 11 October, so you can find out whether co-working makes SENSE for you!
This Free Lecture is open to SENSE members only. Not a SENSE member yet? For a mere €40, you can benefit from SENSE membership for the remainder of 2019! Sign up for your Free Lecture ticket + discounted 2019 membership here.
Members of the SfEP Run On Group (photo by Kate Wright)
On 14 September, editors worldwide gathered in Birmingham for the 30th annual conference of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). Lured by the interesting programme and a desire to finally meet all those SfEP members I know so well on social media, I decided to join in the fun.
I immediately felt right at home. Within a few minutes I bumped into long-time member Helen Stevens, who was just as friendly and supportive in real life as she is online, introducing me to fellow academic editors and recommending my blog to others. First-time conference goers were invited for a welcome drink with the SfEP Council before dinner, which gave us the chance to break the ice (with the help of alcohol).
The opening lecture turned out to be a free comedy gig. Chris Brookmyre entertained us all with stories about his relationship with copyeditors, the perils of getting his work translated, and how readers are very good at telling you what’s wrong with your work (we enjoyed hearing a selection of his one-star reviews). Chris had warned us that he may have to resort to ‘infantile filth’ to make us laugh so early in the morning. He did his job well.
There were more laughs at the gala dinner. Rob Drummond talked about the relationship between linguistic knowledge and linguistic pedantry, explaining why language isn’t about right or wrong. So what about those annoying errors that bug you? Rob’s son has the answer: ‘Mate, let it go. It’s just nonstandard.’
SfEP director David Crystal closed the conference with a witty talk about the challenges his team faced getting the third edition of the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language published. The encyclopaedia needed fifty extra pages to incorporate massive linguistic changes and cultural differences – who knew a traffic light is called a robot in South Africa? We also enjoyed David’s hilarious parody of a Donald Trump speech: ‘make the SfEP great again!’
Of course, there was also quite a bit of professional development on offer. The sessions tackled a variety of relevant topics and we all had problems choosing which sessions to attend.
To help our writers get their message across to the reader, we editors sometimes need to query things with the author. Knowing when to query can be tricky, so I was grateful to Gerard Hill for offering a workshop on The art of querying. He explained why querying may be necessary (omission, inconsistency and ambiguity) and how to handle notes and queries to the author (get the author on your side, be concise but thorough and keep your notes error-free). Gerard also provided a useful tool to help us decide what to do when we want to restyle something but aren’t sure why: check if it is wrong. If it is, then decide whether to silently correct or amend but flag. If it may be wrong, then decide whether to let it stand, query, or query and suggest an alternative.
Learning new things
I decided to dip my academic toes into the world of fiction editing at Louise Harnby’s seminar on Switching to fiction editing. (To be honest, I was a bit star-struck. I couldn’t resist seeing Louise in action – her resources for editors have helped me immensely.) Louise told us what to look out for when editing fiction. Some of these points were specific to fiction, like keeping an eye on the narrative viewpoint so that the plot and chronology run smoothly. Others also crop up a lot in academic writing: unnecessary adverbs, needless repetition and endless description. Louise also generously gave all attendees free access to her new online course Switching to fiction editing. Thanks, Louise!
Marketing tips: be engaging
Effective marketing is important for every business. I’ve been dabbling in content marketing for a few years and was looking for ways to make my strategies more effective. Cathy Wassells explained how to use social media to market your business. Take-home messages were to post different types of content in your posts and to keep them engaging and personal – videos and selfies are particularly effective (time to leave my comfort zone, it seems). To increase engagement, Cathy also recommended posting content when your clients are online.
Have you ever thought about offering training – maybe to your clients, or to other editors? Hilary Cadman has developed online training courses for editors and shared her experiences in her workshop. She told us about teaching platforms that didn’t work for her (OptimizePress) and those that did (Teachable). She also showed us how easy it is to make a short screencast and explained how to do it right: keep it short, talk slowly and invest in a decent microphone and software. Her helpful workshop made developing an online course seem doable.
Keep on running
Conferences can be pretty overwhelming, so I was happy to escape the conference centre for an early morning run with the SfEP Run On Group – a lovely group of editors who like to run. Some of us run for miles every day, while others are happy with a short jog every now and again. Anyone interested in joining the group can check us out on Facebook where we discuss all things related to running. It was great to finally get together in person for a run – thank you Cathy Tingle and Shannon Humberstone for organizing it.
A toast to the SfEP
There was also stuff to celebrate. Chair Sabine Citron announced at the welcome address that the SfEP is now a chartered institute, thanks to the initiative of Gerard Hill who convinced the SfEP council to make a bid for chartership back in 2016. There were standing ovations for Sabine and Gerard at the gala dinner – and rightly so, as chartered status will raise the professional status of copyeditors and proofreaders all over the world.
All good things must come to an end. The conference closed with a raffle (where I won Louise Harnby’s online Blogging for Business Growth course – as if the conference wasn’t brilliant enough already!) and we all said our goodbyes.
I am often struck by how supportive the editing community is. I left academia five years ago and now I have an editing business that I am very proud of. But I would not be here without the support and guidance of my colleagues from SENSE and the SfEP. To all those lovely editors: you are my people.
On 6 September, 11 SENSE members attended the freestyle UniSIG meeting at which attendees introduced the topics. The wide range of topics included those listed below.
Mention of this movement defending the interests of university education led into a broader discussion about the cuts to university funding that fuelled the ‘red felt squares’ protests by academics at the start of the academic year.
University language centres and their influence on our work
Language centres are also providers of work but do not always pay good rates. Since they are now often independent services rather than part of a university, we wondered how they manage to avoid charging BTW for their internal (university) clients. Here the point was also raised about the need for the editor/translator to have direct contact with the client/author and how third parties and agencies discourage or do not permit this.
Most attendees did not have such insurance, but one said it gave her peace of mind; several said that clients required them to have it. An indicative price of about €600 per annum was mentioned.
Expected rates for someone embarking on a career as a translator but working mainly for agencies
These are generally rather low, but it takes time to find your way and acquire independent clients.
The editor’s role as a teacher
Most editors of academic texts consider at least part of their role to include acting as a writing coach, pointing out mistakes made in style, terminology and grammar, and even content for those who are also subject experts.
The pros and cons of taking on pro bono assignments
These can sometimes lead to a fee-paying client, but it is often a case of being caught in the moment and just saying yes to such work! We agreed you often do not know what you’re getting into at the start of such projects, so the advice is to clarify as much as possible.
Using academia.eu and researchgate.net (see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academia.edu and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ResearchGate) to keep abreast of relevant research (eg on editing student texts)
Once you’ve registered and indicated your interests, you can search for papers and chapters and upload any of your own work to share with the community. Both sites will also suggest literature on topics that could be relevant to you. The documents can be downloaded from links on their websites, or the author(s) can be contacted via the form the website provides. For ResearchGate, you need to register with an institutional email address.
Whether students benefit more from courses that are based on writing across the curriculum or from courses focusing on writing within a discipline
Over half of the attendees also teach academic or science writing. There was no consensus as to what type of course is more effective, as much depends on factors such as group size and students’ linguistic, cultural and disciplinary backgrounds. A biomedical editor suggested consulting the guidelines on science publishing practice and writing available on the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research (CORR) websites. See https://www.bmj.com/about-bmj/resources-authors and http://tools.clinorthop.org/author-guidelines
SENSE Guidelines for Proofreading Student Texts
Are they being circulated and referred to? Why is the ethics of editing student texts not a hot topic in Dutch academia? We concluded, regretfully, that there is little interest among academics here.
Plans to revamp language teaching in Dutch schools, so that pupils are made more aware of the power of language for expressing ideas and are better equipped to express themselves in writing when they reach university
Dutch schools have so far not placed much emphasis on learning to write well. New approaches are on the horizon.
Our meeting was held in a room on the first floor of Restaurant Se7en in Utrecht. The facilities were not as modern as those of Park Plaza, but the general opinion was that this is a convenient and pleasant venue for meetings and serves good and reasonably priced food. Unfortunately, it does not have a lift.
It’s almost time for our biennial Professional Development Day! Join us in Amersfoort on Saturday 21 September for a full day of interactive learning. This year's programme will include two great plenary talks as well as presentations by some of the society's best translators, copywriters and editors. Attendance at the SENSE PDD will entitle you to 5.75 PE points.
Talks to watch include Anita van Adelsbergen’s presentation on Cornish history, culture and languages, which will dive into how much influence the Cornish have had worldwide. For example, did you know the American state of Pennsylvania was named after a Cornish family?
If you’ve been thinking about taking up copywriting, be sure to attend Cathy Scott’s talk. After walking you through the basics of copywriting, she’ll discuss different approaches for different media, talk about how to attract clients, and leave you with some useful tips for background reading.
It’s not all sitting back and listening, though. Mike Hannay’s interactive plenary about the importance of rhythm and flow when writing will involve quite a bit of audience participation! If you have an example of a particularly well-flowing text – or the exact opposite – be sure to bring it along.
Of course, the programme will allow you plenty of time to catch up with other members and compare notes on different break-out sessions, either during the buffet lunch or over drinks and nibbles after the official part of the PDD concludes. Be sure to stay until the closing session for your chance to win some interesting prizes during our very first SENSE raffle!
Can’t make the PDD? SENSE will be offering several other CPD opportunities over the coming months, including a free lecture on co-working by Lloyd Bingham and a tax workshop to help you get all your financial affairs in order by year-end. Stay tuned for more!
On Sunday 14 July, a group of nearly 40 SENSE members met in lovely Deventer for an afternoon of leisurely fun. We started with a guided walk around the historic Bergkwartier. Over the course of an hour, two knowledgeable guides showed us some of the city’s centuries-old sights (did you know Deventer is over 1,250 years old?) as well as its more modern gezelligheid. One of them even switched to English to accommodate us – very thoughtful!
We ended the tour back at our starting point, then split into groups for the other afternoon activities: a Brain Art Workshop at Atelier ARToMoNDo, a beer tasting at local brewery and taplokaal Davo or a look at the Charles Dickens Kabinet.
The ARToMoNDo group was welcomed by Marianne de Bakker, who explained that people use both hemispheres of the brain to draw. The left and right hemispheres control different functions: the left half is for rational activities like language and reasoning, as well as maths and science, while the right half controls art awareness, creativity, intuition and insight. Marianne showed the group a fun way to access their artistic and creative abilities, by not looking at the paper as they were drawing. One attendee said: ‘The hardest part for me was to remember which bits I had already drawn and – when I had taken the charcoal off the paper – where to start drawing again! So one of my subjects ended up without any hair!’
The beer tasting took place at Davo’s own proeflokaal, located in an old factory. The café was buzzing with activity, and the beer garden in the back was nearly full. Clearly, this is the place to be for Deventer beer lovers! Attendees were shown into a private room, where one of the brewers told them all about how to brew different kinds of beers. The tasting involved three different beers: their most popular ale, a dark beer that was a cross-over between a double and a stout, and a tripel that was deceptively doordrinkbaar. He also shared the story behind their brand, talked about the challenges of scaling up and offered a sneak peek of what the future will bring. After a quick tour of the actual brewing facility just across from the bar area, it was time to head to De Fermerie for drinks and nibbles. Several of the attendees made a detour past the gift shop on their way out…
The Dickens group was big and had to be split in two, with one half being guided through the Dickens Kabinet on the ground floor, being fed titbits of gossip and fun facts. One British attendee said, ‘any snobbish feelings of “What the dickens are these Dutch people doing with our author?” disappeared immediately’ at the sight of the pure enormity of the collection and at the knowledgeability of their guide. The other half went upstairs to be charmed by Emmy Strik, who led them around her enormous collection of costumes – some custom-made, others rescued from imminent destruction, some made by the townspeople who wear them to the annual Dickens Festijn. One member said: ‘It really wasn’t my thing, any of it, and yet it was! Loved it!’
Once the breakout activities were concluded, everyone met up at café De Fermerie, where SENSE picked up the tab for the first round of drinks. We had the whole space to ourselves, which made for easy conversation and plenty of seating opportunity. Attendees swapped stories about their chosen afternoon activities over a drink or two, as the owner made the rounds with several types of tasty vegetarian borrelhapjes. All in all, a great way to welcome summer!
Nine of us gathered at John Alexander’s place in Amsterdam for an excellent sparring session over a glass of wine. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun discussing taxes!
Rob Bradley took the title of his presentation from Jean Baptiste Colbert, a French Minister of Finance under Louis XIV, who said that ‘the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least amount of hissing.’
Rob described what it’s like working in this market niche:
We then discussed Rob’s handout (content available to SENSE members only), which followed a hypothetical company as it grows and starts to form a group – first domestically, then internationally. After that, we talked about what facilities and arrangements the company can use to optimize its tax situation, and how it interacts with the tax authorities. The handout provided attendees with Dutch and English terminology relevant to each stage in the company’s development.
Rob explained the many finer points brilliantly, like the difference between a vrijstelling and an aftrekpost, or between loonbelasting and loonheffing. He also explained base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) and the arm’s length principle.
Rob helped us understand how tax rulings used to work: the national government and the company negotiated the total tax bill the company would have to pay. Today, the company and its tax lawyers propose a specific corporate structure, and the country’s tax authorities provide advance certainty on its tax treatment. A ruling is far more tightly controlled and above board. Its validity is limited to four years. During that time, changes in legislation can override agreements in the ruling.
There was a lively discussion on the shift in public opinion on tax planning by companies. In just a few years, this has gone from ‘smart’ to ‘immoral’. Then and now, the object of tax planning is 100% legal tax avoidance, rather than illegal tax evasion. Let’s face it, none of us want to pay any more than we have to, whether we’re multinationals or freelancers! Though as one member remarked, it is some consolation to see your tax money relatively well-spent, as it is in the Netherlands.
One member said: ‘I thought the speaker was very knowledgeable and I will certainly use his handout in future as a reference. His understanding of his field and his craft are impressive.’
We wrapped up with a big thank-you for Rob and our host and convener John. Alison Gibbs has offered to present at our next meeting after the summer. Topics buzzed round, but she’ll let us know nearer the date. Watch this space!
For further reading, see the International Financing Reporting Standards (IFRS) as adopted by the EU (multilingual display optional). Individual language versions of more recent IFRSs are also available in English and in Dutch.
It was a fairly early start in Zwolle for the Eastern SIG meeting, but fortunately there was a Nespresso machine to help us wake up. The topic of the meeting was ‘levels of editing’, an idea that had arisen from a discussion at a previous meeting where Sally and Kumar had mentioned how different their editing styles are. Before the meeting, Kumar and Sally both edited a 300-word text (taken from a medical journal, though not too specialized). The text was also sent around beforehand, so that other members could have a try too.
The intention was that Sally and Kumar would compare their edits at the meeting and discuss them with the other SENSE members present. Why would you choose whether or not to change something? Are the changes justified? Unfortunately, Kumar had to leave almost immediately, but Sally was so well-prepared that this was no problem at all! For each sentence, we compared and discussed the changes that the two of them had made and compared them with our own edits − it was very interesting to hear the different approaches taken. We also discussed the assumptions that we made when editing the text, some of which were not always correct! (As also discussed in this thread on the members-only forum.)
Besides discussing the actual edits made, we also talked about what the editor’s job should/could be, and how this depends on the time available. We then went on to talk about client acquisition and contact with clients.
All in all, a highly informative and certainly well-attended morning!
I’ve been a loyal PerfectIt user since 2015, when I was faced with a 100+-page document with a style guide that required both odd hyphenation and the use of numerals for all numbers, even at the start of a sentence. Back then I was still trying to prove to myself that I was a good proofreader, but that document was the final nail in the coffin for that idea: I do have a keen eye for typos and grammar errors, but variations tend to slip under the radar. Noticing that there are ‘3 policymakers’ on page 12 and ‘three policy-makers’ on page 86? Not a chance.
I heard of PerfectIt through SENSE and it was just what I needed. The time I saved on that last read-through of that initial document paid for the licence three times over. These days, I run everything through PerfectIt and I have PerfectIt styles set up for all my regular clients. So I was thrilled when I got to take a sneak peek at the upcoming edition, PerfectIt 4.
No more ups and downs
The one dislike I had about PerfectIt was the inefficiency of mouse movements. Run a test, click on a highlighted sentence, move your mouse down to the bottom of the window to click on ‘Fix’, move your mouse up to select the next sentence, move your mouse down again, repeat for all the sentences in all the tests.
Of course, this is a minor niggle, because PerfectIt has had a robust keyboard shortcut system for years. Still, I am delighted that PerfectIt 4 gives each individual sentence its own Fix button. It may only save you half a second per fix, but that adds up over long documents and long work weeks. Not to mention avoiding the short, jerky, repetitive mouse movements that can be the most aggravating for RSI.
More elegance and speed
PerfectIt 4 is more elegant in other ways as well. You can now directly create a new style based on an existing one. The user interface has a more polished look. The initial scan time is reduced considerably, though I always liked to take that moment to stretch and pour myself a cup of tea.
All in all, should you subscribe to PerfectIt? My answer to that has always been ‘yes’, although I am enough of a dinosaur to miss the one-time-purchase option. Even if you have perfect hyphen sensitivity, PerfectIt will help you save valuable time. And with the upgrades in PerfectIt 4, you will be able to increase the consistency of your documents in a way that feels effortless, intuitive and elegant.
In 2009, the Expertisecentrum Literair Vertalen (ELV), the Centre of Expertise for Literary Translation, published a plea entitled ‘Overigens schitterend vertaald’ ('Great translation by the way'), to maintain a flourishing translation culture in the Netherlands and Flanders. This plea motivated the universities of Utrecht and Louvain to collaborate and set up a literary translation master’s programme. Now, ten years later, the ELV is ringing the alarm bell once again, owing to a developing threat to the translation culture in the Low Countries, and has produced another plea, 'VerTALEN voor de toekomst’ (a play on words that roughly translates as 'Translation and languages for the future', not yet available in English).
Internationalization and ongoing globalization have increased the level of English speaking, reading and writing skills in Dutch and Flemish society. But they have also put other languages, including Dutch, under pressure. European languages are disappearing from the curricula of universities. These days, a mastery of English is often regarded as being sufficiently multilingual. The traditional Dutch openness and curiosity about foreign languages, which led to commercial and cultural success in the past, is giving way to a monoculture that focuses on English. We all admire the language skills of Frans Timmermans, who switches effortlessly from French to Italian to Russian to German, but he finds few followers in that regard. Whether on holiday or business in France or Germany, we expect to be able to get by with our knowledge of English.
The dwindling interest in foreign languages other than English is also affecting the supply of a new generation of translators, working both from and into Dutch. Add to that (or because of that) the poor compensation literary translators receive, and we see a declining number of students opting to study language or translation. The financial prospects are simply not good enough. This is reflected in the general lack of interest in literary translation among SENSE members, and their focus on language products that are financially more worthwhile.
An article by Abdelkader Benali, born in Morocco but now a leading Dutch author (Bruiloft aan zee, Brief aan mijn dochter), recently appeared in NRC Handelsblad. ‘Save the literary translator!’ he calls out, because the shortage of translators is a cultural disaster. Just like bees, they do their work in silence, away from all publicity, but without them an entire ecosystem falls apart. Without them, the possibility of contact with other cultures disappears. To get to know a country, Benali says, read its literature. Read the characters it creates, the stories that originate from its history, its silent tragedies. If Fjodor Dostojevski, Franz Kafka, Primo Levi, Albert Camus and so many others had not been translated, it would have proved impossible to gain the other’s perspective and to discover what has shaped the European landscape.
According to Benali, the translator risks becoming an extinct species because fewer students decide to study language. The low financial reward may be fatal to the translation profession. The ELV therefore calls upon the Dutch and Flemish governments to initiate a campaign: Kies voor taal (Choose language), analogous to the Kies exact (Choose science) campaign of some years ago. Likewise, it calls upon publishers and other clients to respect the standard amount mentioned in the Model Contract.
Could this be an opportunity for those of us working as legal, medical, financial or technical translators and editors?
For the Utrecht SIG, the 8 May meeting marked a return to the Park Plaza after a long remodelling period. The upstairs bar was an excellent new addition, but we all thought the large workshop space was a bit much for only five participants.
The translation of the evening was an analysis document about a company struggling with an unfavourable work culture. The company, historically Dutch but with a large contingent from a specific other country, was recently purchased by an American company. The Dutch consultant who had written the document needed it translated into English as a starting point for conversation with the American management.
Despite a few odd turns of phrase ('de juiste maat en modus vinden', 'deze notitie vormt de onderlegger voor het gesprek'), the text had very few grammatical issues. But boy was it vague. The consultant firmly refused to put their finger on many of the actual pain points and left a lot to be read as subtext. This is fine for an 'onderlegger voor een gesprek' – you can clarify the finer points during the actual conversation – but it makes life difficult for a translator. Instead of translating what it says, we ended up trying to find the right translation for what it didn’t say. That required extensive mindreading.
If something 'doet iets met het al dan niet vertrouwen hebben in mensen', does that mean lack of confidence or lack of trust? Especially if some people then 'koppelen dit aan de [other country’s] versus Nederlandse cultuur'? You get the sense someone is being racist, but who? And are they implying that they’re sick of some people showing up late or being stiff and judgemental, or that they’re afraid to leave their wallets out in the open?
We spent some time going round and round with this. With a text like this, the nuance is very important. Still, the client was very happy with the original translation, which was not all that nuanced because it had a really tight deadline. I guess the fact it was an onderlegger works both ways.
As usual, the main conclusion of the evening was: ‘If we could do all translations in a group, like this, all our clients would think we’re brilliant.’ Also want to feel brilliant? The next Utrecht SIG meeting will be held on 10 July at the Park Plaza Hotel in Utrecht. With a fancy upstairs bar!
In 2020, it’ll be 30 years since SENSE was founded. Is that not a ‘pearl’ of an anniversary worth celebrating with an international conference?!
Well, the SENSEConference2020 team certainly thinks it is, and it has already begun planning for the June 2020 event. While the search for a location and a venue is well underway, it’s still too early to even hint at possible candidates. Nevertheless, you can be sure we’ll find somewhere just as special as the venues of the previous two conferences…watch out for our next blog post!
Of course, to secure a venue and keynote speakers, you also need to know when the conference will be happening. And that much we know: Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 June, probably preceded by workshops. We’ll be following the well-received format of the 2018 Conference. If you have any suggestions for workshop topics and presenters, please email email@example.com – the team will welcome your contributions.
We’d also welcome your suggestions for sponsors of the conference, whether individuals or businesses.
What we can also share with you are the makings of a conference theme: ‘20/20 (Re)Vision: Honing our skills to meet market challenges.’
We’re looking forward to attracting a stimulating range of presentations in response to this theme, so look out for the Call for Papers in August 2019. And if you’d like to offer your services as a peer reviewer during September and October this year, do send an email to the conference team.
Talking of the team, we are indeed fortunate that essentially the same players who contributed to the success of the 2018 SENSE Conference have volunteered their services for the jubilee conference: Jenny Zonneveld, Theresa Truax-Gischler, Nigel Saych, Ken McGillivray and John Linnegar. The continuity that this will provide bodes well for the next conference. But it certainly won’t be a case of ‘same old, same old’, thanks to an injection of fresh new blood in the form of SENSE CPD coordinator Erin Goedhart-Stallings and someone who hails all the way from Wales: SENSE and ITI member, Lloyd Bingham. Both have already made their mark on our deliberations, so welcome aboard Erin and Lloyd!
Pearls, it is said, symbolize wisdom acquired through experience: how appropriate, therefore, for SENSE to provide an enriching experience through which both its members and other professionals will be able to share their collective wisdom in June 2020.