Braving the icy north-easterly winds, a gritty bunch of seven SENSE members gathered last Friday afternoon at Café de Beurs in Zwolle to raise a glass (and enjoy a few bar snacks) to put the world – of editing, translation and whatever else we do – to rights. Discussion topics ranged from ‘how to get more clients' (a SENSE-wide topic) to coping with MemoQ, via a large-scale English-to-Dutch medical terminology database project over the coming two years, finding good facilities for children with special needs, English (and Dutch) book clubs and where to find them, what happens when translation clients promise work which they then hand to others, not to mention getting to grips with the A–Z of the Eastern provinces!

Informal meetings are a great way of getting to know other members and hearing all about what their work involves, plus the cross-fertilization that this often brings; not to mention a great way of introducing new people to SENSE!

The Eastern SIG is officially out of hibernation. And the second formal meeting of the season was appropriately held just before the first day of spring. It was a good turnout with seven participants, and the morning’s topic was Brexit. Or is it Breggsit? Even its pronunciation triggered a discussion. Although Brexit is undoubtedly a divisive topic, our meeting was a model of harmony. We covered a range of Brexit-related topics, kicking off with a newsletter from the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) and later moving on to letters to the editor of the Dutch quality daily paper Trouw.

It was difficult to tell whether the newsletter had been written directly in English or translated from the Dutch. We had fun trying to figure out which. One thing no-one had any doubts about was that the author was a non-native speaker, considering perplexing headings such as ‘Visitors open Brexit meetings pleased with IND presence’ and the references to ‘British’ when referring to Britons. It also got us talking about the (non)sense of embedded brackets and why it’s ‘Brexit’ in the UK and ‘de brexit’ in the Netherlands.

But we were not only there to linger over language. We had more important issues to tackle. Brexit itself. So we looked at the merits of solutions to Brexit submitted by readers of Trouw, one by our very own convener. Her suggestion was to set up a citizens’ assembly, similar to the one held in Ireland. Just as we had finished talking about this sensible course of action, several of us happened to receive an email from the IND. Attached was their second newsletter and, believe it or not, this one contained none of the errors we had just been discussing. We suspect that the IND is keeping tabs on us. In which case, we might be able to solve Brexit after all!

One new member of SENSE commented: "I felt very welcome during my first presence at a SIG meeting. As a starting translator into French and English (a native Dutch speaker), it was very useful for me to hear about the experiences of others – translators and otherwise – working in the field of languages. I was impressed with the thorough comments made by the native speakers in the group on an English text from a Dutch organization, which we analysed during our meeting and which, at first sight, seemed okay to me! I learned a lot, and look forward to more networking within SENSE."

Cafe photo 14 December 2018

On Friday 14 December, six Eastern SIG members, one ex-member and a potential member all braved the pre-Christmas crowds in Zwolle to enjoy what turned out to be a very jolly ‘happy hour’ gathering.

Despite best efforts by Sally Hill and myself, the table we had bagged and hoped to hold for the group gradually filled with café regulars. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however, as we were forced to find extra chairs to ‘expand the circle’ (as in a full-blown traditional Dutch birthday party) so we had no choice but to get even more up close and personal.

The venue – café De Hete Brij – lived up to its fifth place in the Dutch café top 100. Credit to Elles Hetebrij, the owner and creative brain behind this small but gezellig café. I think I can speak for all the attendees when I say it was refreshing to meet and talk with fellow wordsmiths in an informal atmosphere without a pre-set agenda. It’s amazing what a convivial setting and the Christmas spirit can do.

Once the supply of bitterballen had dried up, five of us plus one member’s husband, who joined us later, went in search of a place to have a meal, but could we find a table in the centre of Zwolle? No way. Until someone suggested heading to a shoarma restaurant close by that they'd been wanting to try for a while. And as if by magic, there was just enough space for the six of us. The broad selection of lahmacuns on offer proved to be too tempting for the majority. Washed down with a cool Efes beer, it was just what the doctor ordered.

It must have been around 20:00 when we all went our separate ways – convinced that an Eastern SIG tradition had been born. See you all in February for the next regular meet-up!

SENSE has a number of special interest groups (SIGs) which meet regularly throughout the country. They are open to all members, and guests are welcome to attend one or two meetings before deciding whether they would like to join SENSE. See the events calendar for more details.

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