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.
Sunday, 10 June
15:45–17:00, Boat trip on the Binnendieze: leave Hotel Centraal together
On this fifty-minute boat trip through the underground waterways of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, you will see all aspects of the Binnendieze river (the river that flows through and underneath the city). Travelling along the small waterways you can admire the finest spots of the historical city centre. The skipper-guide will tell you about the history and restoration of the walls, underpasses and arches. After passing through the Kruisbroedershekel you will leave the fortified city and arrive at the Singelgracht. The boat will then take you through the Grote Hekel and you will continue the tour within the city walls. We have reserved three boats for our group and have requested English speaking guides, though this cannot be guaranteed.
Departure point: Voldersgat: on the corner of Zuidwal – Oude Dieze (within walking distance of Hotel Central)
Price: €12.50 per person (non-refundable, including bottle of water).
Maximum 16 people per boat, if we fill up one boat, we will open registration for a second boat.
Saturday, 9 June
10:00–12:00, Guided tour of ’s-Hertogenbosch : starts from Hotel Centraal
The tour will take you to the city highlights and is timed to arrive back at Hotel Central by 12:00, when registration opens for the conference. You can leave your luggage at the hotel before the walking tour starts.
Price: €7.50 per person, (non-refundable, including bottle of water)
Friday, 8 June
10:00–12:30, Visit to Van Gogh Village, Nuenen
You will experience Brabant hospitality at the SENSE 2018 conference. The sightseeing tour on the Friday will also give you the opportunity to tread in the footsteps of a native of Brabant, and one of the most famous painters of all time: Vincent van Gogh.
To see genuine Van Gogh paintings you’ll have to stay in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, because you won’t see any on this trip to the village of Nuenen. What you will see is where Van Gogh’s career as a painter began: where he produced his first masterpiece and a quarter of his work, all in the space of two years.
PROGRAMME FOR FRIDAY 8 JUNE
Travel to Nuenen, by car or public transport. It’s about a half-hour drive from ’s-Hertogenbosch. Parking is free in the village centre. Arrive at Café Restaurant Comigo between 09:00 and 10.00. Four activities are planned:
Vincentre museum: this exhibition opened eight years ago and is about Vincent van Gogh’s life from birth until the day he left Nuenen for Antwerp in 1885. It details how he painted his first masterpiece The Potato Eaters in the village. The museum provides an audio guide in English (or seven other languages) and has a shop and small café. The visit will take about one hour.
A walking tour of the open-air museum with an English-speaking guide. Nowhere in the world has more locations with a connection to Van Gogh than Nuenen: 22 buildings or sites that he painted or lived or worked in. These include his parents’ house and the church which was the subject of the painting that was stolen in 2002 and recovered last year. The walking tour will take about one hour.
Nune Ville, the home of Vincent’s lover Margot Begemann, was renovated last year. It usually only opens on Saturdays, but the owner has agreed to let us visit on the Friday. It is still a private home, but one room has been restored in authentic style and there is an interesting attic. The tour, which the owner will give, will take about 30 minutes.
If you don’t have to travel back to ’s-Hertogenbosch for workshops in the afternoon you can enjoy a typical Brabant lunch at Opwetten Watermill. Van Gogh painted this working watermill, because he often passed it on his way to buy paint in Eindhoven. Lunch will include soup, sourdough bread with various fillings, meat or vegetarian croquette and one drink (beer, wine or soft drink). Special dietary requirements can be catered for if you let us know in advance. Lunch will finish at about 14:30. You are then free to explore the village or make your way back home – or to your hotel.
VAN GOGH VILLAGE NUENEN is offering SENSE members and conference delegates a 50% discount, the price for our tour is:
Full tour including lunch: €30.00 per person
Full tour without lunch: €15.00 per person
(Travel to and from Nuenen, coffee on arrival and extra drinks at lunch are not included in the price.)
You will receive details of public transport to Nuenen and where to park in the village at a later date.
In association with:
Sunday, 10 June
12:15–13:15, PLENARY TALK
Sarah Griffin-Mason, Trends in translating and interpreting to 2050
Editing, translating and interpreting are professions on the move as the dual challenges of globalization and mechanization extend ever deeper into the language service sector.
I will present messages on key issues likely to affect practitioners in their professional lives in the coming generation on the basis of information gleaned from the International Federation of Translation* (FIT-IFT) conference held in Brisbane, Australia in early August 2017.
The aim is to encourage debate on key current issues such as artificial intelligence, the visibility and value of language service providers, the shortcomings of the gig economy, and the absence of right to title. An understanding of these issues and how they might develop over the coming years will empower practitioners to prepare for the forthcoming disruption, to adapt appropriately to the challenges, and to resist the more pernicious potential impacts of changing professional practices.
* FIT is an international grouping of associations of translators, interpreters and terminologists with more than 100 affiliated professional associations and training institutes, representing more than 80,000 translators in 55 countries. The international triennial conference therefore provides a broad and in-depth overview of the language service sector worldwide.
About the presenter
Sarah Griffin-Mason is the current chair of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting and senior lecturer in Translation Studies at the University of Portsmouth, where she mostly teaches Spanish-to-English specialised translation and professional aspects of translation. She trained as a translator and editor in the InterPress Service in Montevideo, Uruguay in the 1990s and also runs a business as a freelance translator and editor for clients. These include NGOs and international entities such as UNICEF-TACRO, Plan International and the European Training Foundation.
Sunday, 10 June
11:20–12:00, PRESENTATION SESSIONS 5
Jackie Senior, Joy Burrough, Carol Norris, Nigel Harwood, Panel discussion: Putting the Dutch practice on editing texts for doctoral theses/dissertations into an international context
For the four panellists involved in the editing (or proofreading) of student writing in one way or another – two from the Netherlands, one from Finland and another from the UK – SENSE Conference 2018 presents a unique opportunity to share and compare their approaches to the correction of student work in their respective countries and contexts. What promises to be a lively and wide-ranging exchange of experiences, approaches and views should give conference delegates a good idea of how academic editing in the Netherlands stands internationally, and perhaps some food for thought for their own professional practice. Questions and shared experiences from the floor will be welcome too!
About the panel
Jackie Senior works as an editor and webmaster for an ambitious international research department (Dept of Genetics, University of Groningen/UMCG). Nowadays she works mostly on biomedical texts but she started as a geologist at Shell, later working as an editor for Shell Research and an international investment bank. She has been editing and translating for more than 40 years but, with the Dutch retirement age becoming a moveable feast, is exploring options for later. She was a founder member of SENSE in 1990, has served twice on its executive committee, and was appointed an honorary member in 2010.
Based in the Netherlands but having edited and researched in various countries, Joy Burrough-Boenisch edits and translates for Dutch academics and scientists, teaches scientific and academic English, and gives workshops for translators and editors. She is a founder and honorary member of SENSE. She has two degrees in geography and a doctorate (on Dutch-scientific English). Her academic and professional publications include Righting English that’s gone Dutch (Kemper Conseil, 2013) and contributions to the book Supporting Research Writing: Roles and challenges in multilingual settings, (Chandos, 2013), edited by Valerie Matarese.
After completing a Bachelor's degree in pre-medicine at Duke University but lacking funding for medical school, Carol Norris conducted research at Duke and Oak Ridge National Laboratory before undertaking an MA in rhetoric and then teaching university writing courses for seven years. Her PhD thesis at the University of Maryland concerned the physician in literature. Carol also holds an Applied Linguistics MA from Birmingham University, UK.
In 1985 she began the University of Helsinki’s first English-language writing course for scientists and became a university medical author-editor. In addition, she writes for the European Science Editors’ European Science Editing and presents at conferences. She is a member of Nordic Editors and Translators (NEaT).
Nigel Harwood is a reader in Applied Linguistics at the University of Sheffield. He has previously published three co-authored journal articles reporting findings of an interview-based study of the profiles, practices and beliefs of proofreaders who work on student writing in the United Kingdom. He has also published research on English for academic purposes and teachers’ use of EFL and EAP textbooks; his most recent monograph focuses on students' experiences of dissertation supervision. He is co-editor of the journal English for Specific Purposes (Elsevier).
Sunday, 10 June
11:20–12:00, PRESENTATION SESSIONS 5
Maria Sherwood-Smith, Outreach and research communication in English: Opportunities for language professionals
Certain trends in the research climate in the Netherlands – especially the growing emphasis on the societal relevance of research and the tendency towards large, multidisciplinary projects – open up opportunities for those language professionals who support researchers. Researchers increasingly need to communicate about their research with non-specialists, whether the general public or their project partners from other disciplines. The majority of this communication occurs through English. For English-language professionals, these trends are reflected in a wider range of research-related text types for translation or editing. The texts serve different communicative purposes and span a variety of registers, ranging from informal written texts such as blogs or tweets and texts for oral production (TED-talks, presentations) to more formal texts such as funding applications. In addition, language professionals are needed to teach researchers the skills they need for research communication in English.
In my presentation, I will discuss how the developments outlined above affect the language support and courses I provide at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences in Leiden. We will look at examples of the different types of texts I translate and edit for researchers. On the teaching side, I will discuss the Research Master’s course on ‘Presenting Your Research’ that I teach together with lecturers in Psychology, and how we have adapted this course to focus more on presenting to a broader audience. The central objective is to draw attention to the trends identified and to explore some of the opportunities they open up.
My presentation should be of interest to all language professionals who provide language support to researchers, whether as editors, translators, or teachers of academic or scientific English.
About the presenter
Maria Sherwood-Smith is a lecturer in Academic English in the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences in Leiden. She holds a BA in French and German from Trinity College Dublin, and a DPhil. in Medieval Languages from the University of Oxford. Her research focused on vernacular authors’ use of a Latin source text. After temporary lectureships at the universities of Manchester and Oxford, she moved to the Netherlands in 1999. Since 2003, Maria has been employed as a translator for the Dutch police. She also works as a freelance translator and language editor, mainly for academic publications.
Sunday, 10 June
11:20–12:00, PRESENTATION SESSIONS 5
John Linnegar, Garnering those usage and style gremlins: Revealing the contemporary even-handedness of GMEU
Language practitioners nowadays have to grapple with many English grammar, usage and style issues when improving texts, and cannot do so authoritatively with at least one vademecum to hand. But which authorities to consult? Most of the available references are either outdated and a bit stuffy (eg Fowler’s MEU, Partridge, Treble & Vallins) or biased in favour of either AmE or BrE (New Hart’s Rules, Chicago Manual of Style). Yet others are avowedly either prescriptivist or descriptivist. So if one needs information on either or both Englishes, accessing it can be a problem.
In this respect, Bryan Garner’s magnum opus – Garner’s Modern English Usage (GMEU, Oxford University Press, 2016) – is an answer to many practitioners’ prayers, for four main reasons: first, the text and content are based on an analysis of a massive corpus that determines many of Garner’s observations and recommendations on contemporary usage; second, while he tends to favour a descriptivist approach to usage, he does not shy away from sound prescriptivist conventions when necessary, even if only to present a balanced view on the status quo (which sometimes goes about the difference between AmE’s conservatism versus BrE’s more ‘liberal’ approach); third, he presents what is currently the most balanced account of both AmE and BrE usage. (Remember GB Shaw’s witty ‘England and America are two countries separated by the same language’? Garner shows us how in some respects it is the case, in others it ain’t.) Finally, and perhaps most importantly for us 21st-century mortals, the text is written in the plainest, most accessible English (unlike many of the guides of the last century).
Being a recent addition to the literature (June 2016), GMEU is relatively unknown among, let alone used by, practitioners who have to grapple with contemporary English usage – whether AmE or BrE – and make decisions about which is appropriate. This session attempts to reveal (almost) all.
About the presenter
Until 2010, like many other editors, John Linnegar had little idea of how to distinguish between the nuanced three levels of editing (and that after 30 years in the game!). Then he began researching the subject, only to find that less than a handful of authors had written about it! It’s their ideas — plus his own guide on how possibly to quantify the levels in specific editing tasks — that he will be sharing and workshopping, using a set of real texts.
John has been a text editor, proofreader and indexer of school and academic textbooks, reports and journal articles since the 1970s. For almost 20 years he has trained generations of editors, proofreaders and indexers. During this time he has published several books on aspects of language usage and editing, including Engleish, our Engleish: Common errors in South African English and how to resolve them (NB Publishers, 2009) and Text Editing: A handbook for students and practitioners (UPA, Brussels, 2012). Now based in Antwerp, Belgium, he is a member of a number of professional associations, including SENSE, MET and Australian and South African societies and a regular presenter at conferences. His postgraduate research is on the mentoring of language practitioners online.