Translating Europe Forum: the importance of mentoring and (social) networking for professional translators

This colourful conference, organized by the EU Commission, took place in Brussels on 29 and 30 October and brought together almost 500 translators, interpreters and linguists of all ages and nationalities to discuss and debate the issues that are impacting the sector today. The reigning atmosphere was one of optimism and enthusiasm, which was resonating in the beautiful amphitheatre provided by the Commission for the event in the Charlemagne Building.

The conference kicked off with a lively speech by Joy Ogeh-Hutfield, who underlined the importance of standing out and striving for being the best rather than just staying good or average. The programme continued with a panel discussion on career paths for young professionals. Some of the most important takeaways were the need to specialise in order to stand out and the importance of respecting deadlines and of perseverance in the face of difficulties when taking the first steps into the translation market. This was followed by another panel discussion with presentations of interesting projects in the field, among which the game localization contest Locjam and a project developed by the University of Trieste in collaboration with Google to familiarize translation students with the concept of localization, which yielded surprising results, as a very high number of master-level students were not familiar with the concept at all before entering the programme.

During the second half of the day, the participants could choose between a number of workshops to follow, some targeting young students and professionals while others attracting more seasoned professionals and potential mentors. Just after 6, Jose Castro wrapped up the first day of the conference with a funny overview of some of the most memorable quotes and tweets of the day. None of the attendees will forget Jose’s hilarious urge for translators to get out of their pyjamas and “take a shower”.

The second day started with a presentation by Valeria Aliperta on branding and its importance for building a successful business. She discussed the main aspects that should go into the selection of your company name, the design of your logo and your brand identity.  The audience then split again into groups to take part in workshops on various subjects, among which tools and platforms for the digital age, terminology and revision and the mentoring of young translators.

The conference was concluded with a panel discussion attended by Director-General of Translation Rytis Martikonis on food for thought and what should be the main takeaways of this conference. One of the hottest topics was translation studies and mentoring for young translators; many experienced translators noted the numerous deficiencies of translation studies, which, if not corrected by academic institutions themselves, should be tackled by professionals acting as mentors for their younger colleagues.

Our favourite quote was one by Jose Castro: “Translators must assume their responsibility as cultural actors”. We couldn’t agree more: we translators should never forget the important role we play in the evolution of language. Billions of words are translated every day, entering the public sphere and affecting, to a greater or lesser extent, the way people speak and the way they think about language.

All in all, Translating Europe Forum was a thoroughly enjoyable and well-organised conference. Here’s hoping to an equally interesting and well-attended Translating Europe Forum 2016!

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