Port, cod, Springsteen, Mox and more

Having become something of a regular of the ProZ International conference in the last few years, it was with great anticipation that I had been waiting for the June 2013 event about to be held in Porto, following on from Rome and Barcelona. The weekend looked promising: enjoying southern skies, catching up with long-standing Prozian colleagues and getting to know new ones, and seeing a valued old friend living locally… and last but not least, I was about to set foot in Portugal for the first time, long-standing admirer of the country and its beautiful language, probably thanks to so many childhood and adolescence friends, and now, relatives, of Portuguese descent… Porto, here I came!

Dom Luís Bridge

Dom Luís Bridge

By the time I landed at the airport on the Friday afternoon, a treasure-hunt round the city kindly designed by Paula Ribeiro, Maria Pereira and Rafaela Lemos, the 3 translators in charge of organising the event locally, was already in full swing. I gladly joined a couple of unknown colleagues met in the airport shuttle, who were also new to Porto and, armed with a map from the conference hotel, we set off through the picturesque cobbled streets to try and locate our treasure-hunting fellow translators and interpreters. Although too late to take part in this informal discovery of the Portuense sights and attractions, we miraculously made it on time for its last leg: a tour of the Burmester historic wine cellars situated in the heart of Porto, under the iconic Dom Luis and Dona Maria bridges, rounded off with a Port- tasting session: most definitely a welcoming start to the social programme!

With our local guide and colleague João Roque Dias

With our local guide and colleague João Roque Dias

After a scenic walk along the Douro, a meal in a historic local restaurant, a good night‟s sleep and a hearty breakfast, Saturday morning was upon us, and it was now time to get down to work and find out what the two days of the “New demands on translation” themed conference had in store. Its format of 15 sessions per day, with 3 simultaneous presentations per slot incorporated an extensive and versatile programme for over 200 attendees from various continents enjoying as many different skills and degrees of experience as could be expected. This time, an extra half-day workshop by Konstantin Kisin on how to use certain psychological skills and techniques to negotiate with clients and manage workload had also been added to the weekend, and scheduled for Monday. Some CAT-tool practical events such as SDL Trados training sessions were also available on the Friday of the conference, and the event sponsors were present with product demonstration stalls throughout the weekend.

Some of the technology presentations offered insights into the latest versions of large CAT tools such as SDL Trados Studio, memoQ and Wordfast, but also useful information on other process and terminology tools such as ApSIC Xbench, WordFinder, TO3000, or Interlex, the in-house program used by Interlex Language Services. Some presentations, such as the ones provided by Xose Castro, Nicola Beedle or Natalia Betleja- Gruca and Karolina Kwiatkowska offered general business advice, some with a technological edge. Others were specialisation-focused and dealing with topics such as new trends in the pharmaceutical industry and their impact on the translation processes, tips for scientific and technical translation beginners, or smart advice such as “Translating technical manuals: telling people how to press a button” by João Roque Dias, a local translator doubling up as a guide for the touristic moments of the weekend, and whose gregarious personality definitely succeeded in attracting even its less technically minded colleagues!

The 2013 ProZ conference also widely dealt with personal branding and online image, which I found personally very useful at a time when it had become undoubtedly relevant to redesign my website and my CV, and improve my general online presence. Abundant knowledge was on tap at the conference, its content presented in as many different ways as could be wished for. From the do‟s and don‟ts of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Social media presence, to personal branding achieved through drafting a business model and learning about web design trends, it was all there to be heard and tentatively digested, whatever content or speaker was chosen.

The first fully-fledged day over, we were back at the Burmester cellars for more socialising at the traditional Saturday gala dinner, where we feasted on more local delicacies. To end the night, I tagged along with other regular Prozian attendees, and, as has become somewhat of a tradition, discovered some of the night life of the host city with some very enjoyable live music and a night cap.

Before we knew it and after a few hours‟ sleep, it was already time for the second professionally fulfilling day, which would, later, predictably wind up with a warm closing ceremony, a tricky (due to the large numbers) but fun-filled group photograph session in front of the hotel, and the first sad goodbyes!

Overall, I could decidedly say that the following presentations were my favourites, for their particularly reflective, inspiring, insightful or entertaining flavour: Fantastically original in its content and highly inspiring, Marta Stelmaszak‟s presentation was also truly brilliantly delivered. Involving psychological reflective exercises, the aim of which was to define ourselves and our work, referring to what could be defined as “self- help” methods and leading to new ways of how we think about ourselves and our work, it was definitely one of the highlights of my weekend.

My other favourite sessions were Henry Jansen‟s intellectual, rhetorical and philosophical talk entitled “The Cyborg invasion and the Springsteen response”,

which looked at how creativity and imagination are defined, amongst other places, in the translation business (as a Bruce Springsteen fan highly intrigued by this session name, I was determined not to miss it!), as well as the compulsive roundtable discussion organised by our valued colleague Attila Piroth (which nearly saw the small allocated room burst at the seams) that kicked off around the ALS interpreting scandal, and intently focusing more generally on the lack of fit-for-purpose regulatory frameworks in our profession.

Finally, I made a special new friend in Mox, to whom I was introduced at Alejandro Moreno-Ramos‟ casual session on how his fabulous cartoon character came to be. For those who don‟t know him yet, Mox is a fictional (but definitely based on the daily life of a typical contemporary translator!) character whose translation (often mis-) adventures I highly recommend to any colleague needing cheering up when overworked, undermotivated or generally feeling misunderstood and isolated during their most “interesting” situations! He certainly kept me entertained on the flight home, and prolonged the feeling of understanding and sympathy that only a gathering with other translators can bring…

Final meal with colleagues

Final meal with colleagues

Back to the social activities, with the weekend drawing to a close, most people had registered to attend the last “PowWow”, traditionally the most relaxed time of the conference weekend, as all the work is over. It once again truly lived up to its reputation, with the help of the most delicious food of the weekend enjoyed in the friendliest and most authentic of venues. The very hospitable owners insisted on literally “winefeeding” some of the bravest “volunteers” with a typical Iberian wine gourd in true Portuguese style! Needless to say that the effects of this enterprise on most of the audacious diners gave the night an even more informal and entertaining edge, and perfectly rounded off a great conference weekend which had once again fulfilled my expectations – touristically, socially and professionally!

My only regret was having to leave so soon and flying back home on the Monday to a busy work and home schedule, as I do wish I could have stayed an extra day or two to see more of the city… Nevertheless, as always after an excellent professional event, my batteries were recharged, I felt inspired, full of resolutions and new ideas, and, as a Twitter newbie, more than ever convinced that as translators, we thankfully have become much less isolated professionals. Our colleagues are only a click, a tweet, a post or a Skype call away, even if nothing beats meeting them in the flesh and spending some great professional and social moments together. So, roll on the next event!

The next international conference on my calendar will be the Budapest 2014 (BP 14) Conference organised by Csaba Ban which will be taking place on 2 and 3 May, with a full programme including an ATA examination.

Cultural and touristic links:

Post Porto conference links (with some very good articles and perhaps new blogs for you to discover!):
www.mtmtranslations.com/4/post/2013/0 6/sketches-from-the-porto-conference.html
anmerkungen-des- uebersetzers.com/2013/06/16/proz-conference-in-porto/