Make 'em laugh

The ITA conference is over. I have a bag full of brochures, colleagues' business cards, and a folder with notes taken during lectures, all of which I intend to go over carefully then file appropriately.

As always, it's good to see friends, exchange "what are you up to these days?", eat too much cake, and attend lectures & presentations.

Ah, about lectures and presentations. It is often quite difficult to choose from the three lectures taking place at the same time. Obviously, not all are in one's sphere of work; not all are relevant to me; and not all will be interesting.

Unfortunately, lectures on some subjects that are truly interesting turn out to be a dull experience. A certain professor, for example, said eminently sensible things in a tone of voice that lulled his listeners to sleep.

The "make 'em laugh" principle always works. Be entertaining, and your listeners will enjoy your lecture; give them something useful to take home, and they'll appreciate it even more.

Extemporaneous humor is a rare gift. No one expects (I hope!) you or me to be like those witty, side-splitting guys and gals that appear on Stephen Fry's QI. Only last night I watched an episode that dealt (among other topics) with the question "why did it take 300 years to give giant tortoises a scientific, Latin name." I shan't tell you the answer, in the hope that you will watch the episode. But once the guests hit on the gist of the answer, they all came up with demonstrations, explications and elaborations that were so funny, they could barely be heard over the roaring laughter of everyone – audience, cast, and my family on the sofa in front of the TV.

Okay, so we've established that a presenter does not have to be a clown. That's a separate occupation. But we should be lively, enthusiastic, and if possible – inject a bit of humor into our presentations.
The easiest thing, perhaps, is to laugh at ourselves. We take our work seriously, but that doesn't mean we have to take ourselves too seriously. My lecture got its biggest laugh when I presented one of the silliest mistakes I ever made… Luckily, it wasn't for a client, it was for my own family.

The slide preceding the Silly Handout was as follows:



Then I handed out copies of the card below, which I had printed for my son's wedding, so as the young couple could send thank-you notes to their guests:



Of course, I would like my lecture to be remembered for more than that blunder… So I also handed out the useful glossary mentioned in my previous post.

As for a review of lectures I attended – my colleague Ruth Ludlam provides a fairly comprehensive review on her blog.
One lecture she apparently didn't attend and which I found fascinating was Shoshana Kordova's Inverting the Pyramid: What you need to know about Journalistic translation. I haven't been following the English edition of Haaretz, and so wasn't aware of what the paper's [English] editors were up against.

Can't complain, though… if everyone produced perfect translations, what would be left to entertain readers and listeners with? I might be reduced to learning how to tap dance…

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3 comments:

Miriam Deutscher said...

Nina, I attended your lecture and even though I have been translating for a number of years, I came away with many useful tips. It was really one of the most useful and well presented lectures at the conference for me.

Thank you.

In total contrast, I also attended a lecture given by an owner of a translation agency. If someone in such a position conveys what was virtually contempt towards freelancers, I wonder if such lectures have a place at an ITA conference?

Nina R. Davis said...

Many thanks, Miriam. I think all -- or at least most -- lectures should be useful. I avoided R.N.'s lecture - heard it before and it annoyed me, too.

Hagit said...

Nina, that card is a such a wonderful example :-)
It reminds me of a translator who once wrote "june" instead of "july" on an invitation he translated. The company sent it to be printed without editing, and he then had to pay for the reprint when they realized the mistake. He used this story to explain why we need professional insurance.

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