In the table below you will find the links you need to request access to the SENSE 2020 Online Jubilee Conference recordings.
Click on the link for the session you wish to view, enter your Zoom credentials, and click register. The SENSE Zoom Master will approve your viewing registration request as soon as possible. Once your request has been approved, you will need the Access Password to view the recording.
Access will only be granted to those people who registered for the conference.
|Session||Request viewing link||Access password
Be(a)ware of (round) brackets (especially ‘Dutch’ ones)!
“I just moved on.” – Museum translations
Future competence profiles of EU translators
How much time does quality require?
|Jennifer de Beyer
Making reporting guidelines more useful in biomedical science and beyond
Using your network to branch out into new areas
Fair Trade Translation in an unfair world
From whining to shining
Honing skills through near-peer exchange
Editing in the era of digital nomadism: How I look after my mental and physical health
Setting up shop: newcomer perspectives on the translation industry
Language interference: Forewarned is forearmed
Writing effective comparisons in scientific articles
|Ashley Cowles et al
Panel: Maintaining productivity as your family grows
The plain truth: Applying Plain English principles to improving texts
4 June 2020
The SENSE 2020 Conference celebrates the Society’s 30th anniversary and has been months in the making. Maastricht was to be our host city and the Amrath Grand Hotel de l'Empereur our venue, but fate had a different idea in store for us. Nevertheless, thanks to the efforts of the conference team, the show must go on(line) – no mean feat with such little precedent having been set for online conferences in our sector.
SENSE Chair, Mike Gould, opened the conference with a reminder of the tough market conditions that freelancers face, which we often feel are beyond our control. He shared a pertinent statistic: 40% of the Dutch workforce consists of freelancers, a stark reminder of the vital part we play in the economy. Mike sees a role for SENSE in this context, namely as a society that offers opportunities for its members to up their skills to match demand.
Joy Burrough-Boenisch delivered the first session, contrasting the way in which brackets are used in Dutch and English and offering strategies to translate phrases dominated by brackets from Dutch into English. In English, we use brackets to add information without which a sentence would still make sense. In Dutch, however, brackets can also be used to mean ‘or’: ‘a (folding) bicycle’ describes a bicycle that either folds or does not. The problem is that this difference is not always translated accurately into English, particularly if the translator is not a native speaker of English.
Joy showed us some creative examples of similar bracket usage in English by native speakers in newspaper headlines, such as ‘the li[k]es of Facebook’ and ‘Big(ot) Brother’, despite these going against the authoritative sources on bracket usage. In essence, writers must be aware of misapplying the Dutch bracket convention in English, and translators and editors must not simply ignore bracketed material or transpose it directly, but identify what the author intended by it and translate it accordingly.
Tony Parr led the second session on translating texts for museums, as iconic places with very visible, public-facing translations. Despite institutions such as the V&A issuing and following guidelines for museum texts, a number of Dutch museums are producing substandard texts for exhibition spaces and individual exhibits. This is possibly owing to different approaches adopted by curators (who want to include a lot of detail in exhibit texts) and communicators (who seek to keep texts short and sweet). Regardless, the lack of sound language practitioner intervention seems to be a contributory factor.
Tony proceeded to show us examples of poor layouts of museum exhibit texts and their translations, like using the same font and colour for multiple languages with little space in between, or texts where the translation font is miniscule. He also presented mistranslations such as ‘entrance disabled’ and instances of misused tense, as when the present tense is used in a text referring to a historical event (a clear influence from the Dutch language). Tony also stressed the importance of offering additional information in museum translations; a Dutch speaker, for example, would know that ‘het IJ’ refers to a body of water in Amsterdam, but a non-Dutch museum visitor, not necessarily a native English-speaker, is unlikely to. However, after carrying out surveys that revealed how few people actually read exhibit texts, the crux of Tony’s message was that a shorter, summarised translation might actually be a better fit.
Emma Hartkamp gave an interesting overview of the European Commission’s DG Translation (DGT) work. MT is used at the DGT under a neural and deep learning-based system known as eTranslation, available in all official EU languages and Norwegian & Icelandic (650 combinations), including to public administrations in Member States. Great investments have been made in eTranslation within the Commission’s wider role of creating a Europe fit for the digital age. The European language industry survey 2020 confirmed trends regarding MT, and identified AI as the strongest newcomer. Technological change is not seen as a major stress factor, yet the survey revealed that there is not enough adequate training for translators in technology.
The DGT is collaborating with a network of Master’s programmes in Translation (the EMT network) to improve the quality of training and helping young graduates enter the translation job market. The EMT Competences Framework 2009-17 served as a leading reference standard for translator training and competences:
These form the basis for the updated competence profile for future EU translators, which will also see a sixth area added on terminology and data management, and the translation area expanded to include revision and editing. New tasks will be integrated, notably PEMT and project management, as well as new roles, such as that of language technology coordinator.
It was interesting to learn, too, that only groups of freelancers may pitch for EU/EC tenders, because it is felt that individuals will not be able to cope with translation jobs of any magnitude. The alternative is for them to continue working through the translation agencies that win the current round of tenders.
In his session, Brian Mossop outlined how we can define the amount of time that quality requires. He referred to the problem of not spending enough time to achieve quality (caused by over-confidence, distractions and not taking the job seriously) resulting in errors, literal translations and failure to identify ambiguities. Spending too much time, on the other hand – owing to either a lack of confidence or perfectionism – can produce synonyms that are no better, too much of a focus on minor aspects to the detriment of major ones and ultimately a loss of income.
In practice, translators and editors do not have much of a chance to influence the deadline, so our time must be used wisely, and we must develop a realistic concept of the quality achievable within that time. However, there is no agreement on how to define good quality. Brian shared ten criteria on how to define a good-quality translation, summed up nicely by his last point: the output is fit for purpose. This naturally hangs on the accuracy of the text, which can be interpreted differently in different contexts. Sometimes an approximation will do, sometimes omissions are appropriate and sometimes intelligent guessing is perfectly suitable. Equally, universal advice on good writing – avoid the passive, be concise and avoid noun strings, among others – should not be applied without discrimination.
Brian presented a table of four levels of quality: intelligible, informative, publishable and polished. Each has its place depending on the situation, so not every text needs to be translated to the highest level. In order to save time, Brian’s advice is: don’t get hung up on a phrase, come back to it. Use the first word that comes to mind and don’t search for synonyms for no good reason. When checking, the focus is on reading, not writing: don’t make a change for the sake of it. Check monolingually if you’re confident about the accuracy but not with the formulation, and seek to make small changes, not re-write. Ultimately, we should ask ourselves ‘why do I need to change this?’, not ‘how could this be improved?’. Brian affirmed that that we cannot spot every mistake or eliminate every chance of a misinterpretation.
Jennifer de Beyer of the UK EQUATOR Centre gave the last talk of the day. She spoke about the utility of reporting guidelines, which provide the minimum information required in an article for a reader to understand it. The aim of these guidelines is to improve writing quality and ultimately forge better research. No official body has been appointed to oversee the formulation of these guidelines, and reporting quality is inadequate – many authors have never even heard of them, choose not to use them, or do so infrequently or inconsistently.
The EQUATOR Centre teaches academic writing skills and embeds good reporting in the writing framework. That results in a clear process for writing manuscripts and an understanding of what reporting constitutes, to the extent that students can then apply these standards to other texts. Essentially, she argues, they should be applied from the get-go of research design, not only from the writing stage, when it is usually too late to apply them. Also, researchers who have shaky academic writing skills need to polish those first, when interpreting the guidelines tends to become more meaningful. Speaking to a group of language practitioners, though, she admitted that the development or fine-tuning of the reporting guidelines – or their pruning – has fundamentally lacked the input of copy-editors, translators and other wordsmiths.
5 June 2020
SENSE Online Conference Day 2 Highlights The six sessions on today’s programme dovetailed and complemented one another wonderfully – themes such as networking, fair rates for quality (fit-for-purpose) work, trust transfer and being transparent with clients all came shining through the shared experience and wisdom of our presenters.
Sally Hill – Networking to obtain new work opportunities
Sally began her talk by emphasizing that, as a starting-out freelancer, you should not rely on just one or two clients for work; this simply increases your vulnerability. Rather, put your eggs in a number of baskets by diversifying your business. This may mean using or developing other skills in addition to editing or translating. So consider your innate talents or interests: copywriting, web design, SEO work. To diversify, you need two key things in place: transferable skills plus what is known as ‘trust transfer’. This latter term entails developing in others a trust in your knowledge, ability or expertise, or simply in you as a person. Then, word of mouth tends to kick in and you might receive a request through a totally non-work-related connection – typically from a friend of a friend – for editing or translation services.
Sally both joins groups (‘tribes’, as she labels them) and has even created her own tribe – the ScienceMed Writers Network – to help her to obtain and pass on work through trust transfer.
To illustrate how both volunteering and skills transfer can help us to move (unwittingly) into new fields, Sally shared three case studies – all of SENSE members. Through volunteering for the Society and/or learning technical or management skills, or both, they prepared themselves either for full-time positions or a completely new field of expertise and services, with great success.
Her concluding points were:
Nigel Saych – Fair Trade in an unfair world At the outset of his presentation – a real breath of fresh air, especially in these post-Covid times – Nigel quoted the World Free Trade Association’s statement that Free Trade is ‘a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equality’. This formed the golden thread through his talk, the key words of which he returned to in his concluding remarks.
To Nigel, Fair Trade means three things: being fair to his company’s clients, to his cohort of translators and to the Fair Trade team itself. This involves clients choosing either an hourly or a per-word rate, not levying surcharges for urgent work and no minimum charge, charging the same rate for all language combinations, a maximum price guarantee and full GDPR compliance.
For his translators, Fair Trade means paying everyone the same rate and expecting the same quality from them, not looking for the cheapest service provider and providing prompt payment (they even have an Advance Payment Scheme for those who are used only infrequently). There’s also a no first-come-first-served policy in his business model, and every freelancer signs a clear, concise and honest working agreement up front.
Being fair to the company itself means having no hierarchical structure, having linguists as decision-makers, being successful without making excessive profits, encouraging (positive) feedback from clients and translators, as well as being socially responsible by supporting charitable and NGO causes or campaigns.
Unfair trade, on the other hand, means carrying out discriminatory practices (whether based on race, gender or disability), and paying unacceptably low wages or rates that are not commensurate with practitioners’ worth.
One concern raised about the post-Covid environment is that some translations businesses are either forcing translators to cut rates or to accept delayed payment – which flies in the face of Fair Trade principles.
Tiina Kinunnen – From whining to shining
A teacher and translator (primarily of film scripts), Tiina shared her professional thoughts on how to portray a professional image (publicly versus privately) and how productivity lies in your comfort zone (find the types of text you are either best at or enjoy most). She also made the point that practitioners should make informed decisions on matters such as rates (don’t make a habit of offering clients discounts and know implicitly what you need to earn to pay the bills) and on matters such as the quality of our deliverables: should we be aiming at perfection or fit-for-purpose end products? In all these, she advocates transparency in dealing with clients. This sometimes entails explaining to (sometimes difficult or demanding) clients that for rate A you can deliver certain products or services, but for rate B you can offer more. That way, the client gets to choose the service they require based on information.
Her take-home message was twofold. Firstly, make yourself the go-to person for your client, having made yourself part of their solution, not part of the problem. Secondly, find trusted colleagues with whom you are able to network, network, network.
Wendy Baldwin – Honing skills through near-peer exchange
This session introduced us to an innovative way of online co-working: a kind of hybrid between conventional co-working and a writing retreat. In it, the participants – usually paired language practitioners and academic writers – set aside a time and space in which to work on agreed-upon chunks of current work in blocks. It can, of course, take time to build such a co-working relationship, but as a practitioner herself Wendy recommends starting with academics you know, agreeing on a session structure and boundaries, and being flexible when engaging with potential co-workers.
At the start of each session, the partners in such a Language Practitioner and Academic Co-working (LPAC) partnership set (writing or editing) goals. They then set a time (usually 75 minutes) for achieving those goals, checking in to assess progress and plan their next steps. The overlaps and complementarity between co-workers include discipline, language, locality and skills, which means that a diversity of co-workers can engage in LPAC sessions. One of the major benefits of such sessions is that they provide a safe, social space in which to work productively.
Marieke Krijnen – Editing in the era of digital nomadism COVID-19: How I look after my mental and physical health
For her presentation today, Marieke adeptly adapted her title to cater to the conditions we’re all having to live under since the outbreak of COVID-19. In accordance with her title, she divided her presentation into ‘physical health’ and ‘mental health’ issues and solutions. And each topic was further subdivided into ‘at home’ and ‘other’ suggestions for coping under the present acute conditions.
So far as promoting our physical health is concerned, she suggested that, failing gyms and swimming pools, some exercise and ergonomic solutions are necessary substitutes. These could include exercising while working (with a treadmill or a desk-cycle) and changing your position during a day – for instance, moving from your desk to a sofa and then to the garden or a park as a routine practice. This movement and postural variety is considered very important when you’re restricted to your home environment.
So far as mental health is concerned, as homebound digital nomad we have to introduce a work–life balance and also tap into communities of some sort, including virtual/digital meetings, to break down our isolation. Other disciplines include blocking access to your laptop and mobile phone when you really do need to switch off from work, taking regular breaks during the day, taking a shower (!) and taking weekends off to give your brain some relief. Marieke’s sound advice, based on her personal experience, had many a head nodding in agreement. C’est la vie.
Panel discussion – Setting up shop: newcomer perspectives on the translation industry
Relative newcomers to freelance translation Jasper Pauwels, Branco van der Werf and Louise Wetzels were joined by more seasoned translators Lloyd Bingham and Nigel Saych in raising a number of questions relevant to those starting out as freelance translators. How and where to get started? How to market yourself and make contacts with clients or agencies (and what are both good and bad strategies to do so)? Is it better to specialize or to be a generalist in the translation services and the disciplines or areas you offer? And, inevitably, the question of rates: which model to adopt, hourly, per word or per page? Another question that arose was whether membership of a professional association improved one’s chances of making contact with clients and obtaining work (not so, they thought).
Considering that in their audience was a large contingent of students of translation, the points they made back and forth, positive and negative, were likely to be keenly received. But there were no hard and fast solutions on offer, largely because the panellists agreed that providing translation services is such a personal thing (for both translator and client) and the permutations of genre, subject and discipline so great that each case has more or less to be judged by its own merits. For instance, Jasper specializes in legal translation and marketing materials: Branco has a wider range, including film scripts and educational texts. And while some clients are happy to pay by the hour for certain services, others tend to stick to the good old per-word rate. But one thing they agreed on: when approaching clients or agencies, online is the best way to go to get the greatest reach, but it means you’ll have to have to differentiate yourself from the rest (to stand out from the thousands of other hopefuls) and be specific about the translation service niche you have to offer. And, as Branco reminded us, there’s no harm in calling a potential client or agency so that they actually hear your voice and can interact with you in a more personal way: that’s precisely what helped to get him a foot in the door!
Also, Jasper pointed out that as a starting translator, you should learn to say no when jobs you’re offered are either beyond your capability or when the rate is ridiculously low – in the latter instance, you’ll find it hard to charge a higher rate with the same client. Is there a right way when it comes to choosing between specialist or generalist? Not according to the panel; largely because each individual will have an offering that might be dead right for them or their client, or not. In the result, it’s possibly best to specialize in something you’re really passionate about, whether it’s marketing materials, video games or contracts.
6 June 2020
SENSE Online Conference Day 3 was a whirlwind of sessions and a panel discussion on maintaining productivity as your family grows.
Joy Borrough-Boenisch: Language interference: Forewarned is forearmed
This session was an absolute must for those of us working as translators or as editors of texts written by non-native speakers of English. Using a wide array of examples, Joy showed us how the native tongue of an author interferes with their written English. Native speakers of English who have lived in another country for a long time may be similarly affected.
After discussing the different kinds of positive and negative interference (also called language transfer), Joy offered a range of fascinating examples and comparisons that showed us just how short Dutch sentences are on average and how much translations from Dutch to English are influenced by this.
Language professionals should educate themselves so they can recognize this interference when translating, editing texts written by non-native speakers of English or when they’re based in a non-English-speaking country themselves.
David Barick: Writing effective comparisons in scientific articles
Next up was David Barick, who treated us to a fascinating session on how to write good comparisons in academic articles. Through his work as a language editor, he often encounters clumsy comparisons that are difficult to grasp or simply ineffective.
David took us on a tour of different examples of ineffective comparisons, showed us that double comparisons can easily be fixed by using “than” and reminded us of grammatical parallelism: only items of a similar nature and category should be compared.
To round off his talk, David let us attempt to decode a few examples of badly phrased comparisons, which was great fun and very instructive.
Ashley Cowles et al.: Panel discussion: Maintaining productivity as your family grows
Becoming a parent can greatly change the way you run your business, and each stage of your child’s development comes with its own challenges. Today’s panellists touched upon a number of these challenges, and dealt with some of their own: due to personal circumstances, several of the originally scheduled panelists were unable to attend at the last minute!
Lloyd Bingham, Ashley Cowles and Cathy Scott shared their own experiences with the audience and answered any questions raised by attendees. The discussion was divided into four subjects: coping with work, balancing the mental load, raising children bilingually and navigating Dutch society as a parent.
Other issues that were raised involved how to deal with lockdown and how to make sure you maintained a healthy relationship with yourself and your significant other. All in all, a lot of interesting viewpoints were shared. The conclusion? There is no one-size-fits-all solution to parenting, but we’re all in this together. For more support from your peers, consider joining the Parents Who Are Freelance Translators group! (https://www.facebook.com/groups/285604754958708/)
John Linnegar: The plain truth: Applying Plain English principles to improving texts
The final session of Day 3 and of the SENSE 2020 Conference was an extensive introduction to plain-language principles: putting the audience’s needs first. That means avoiding unnecessary words: short sentences without jargon, technical terms or ambiguous phrasing. The idea is not to ‘dumb things down’ but to do away with fancy language, letting the reader understand the message at first reading.
Partly basing himself on the wisdom of George Orwell, John provided an extensive overview of the different principles of plain English and the problems of ‘unplain’ English. As a rule, if you can cut a word out, do so.
John reminded us to avoid sentence complexity; ideally, they should not exceed 20 words. Overly complex sentences can often be cut in two. For clarity’s sake, writers should avoid using noun strings or too many subordinate clauses. The same applies to writing in the passive voice and using negative statements.
To round things off, John advised us to develop a sense for ‘unplain’ English by asking:
Queries can go a long way in making authors understand the reader’s perspective.