ITA Conference 2020 - Day 2

Day two was good, too (pardon the obvious pun.)
The only problem is, that I waited too long to write this post, have forgotten much of what I heard, and must now rely on my skimpy notes. On the positive side, this might turn out to be a shorter post, and less time-consuming for you guys to read! Always look on the bright side, etc etc.

On the second day I made my life easier by deciding to skip the first session, which meant I could get up at 07:00 instead of 06:00 (sheer torture for me). I didn't mind missing Moshe Devere's talk about MemoQ for newbies, because I don't intend to get into CAT tools; (of course I can always change my mind!) and I didn't mind missing Liron Kranzler-Feldman's session about developing translator-client relationships because I'm not looking for clients. Ah, the privileges of being retired!

So once again I was in ZOA's Marlen Hall. This entire session, until lunch break, was in the hands of eight capable and interesting speakers representing the Israeli Union of Literary Professionals. Sounds better in Hebrew: איגוד אנשי הספר - Igud Anshei HaSefer - people of the book. (Sorry - the site is only in Hebrew. Someone should probably suggest that it be translated into English and other languages, hint hint, nudge nudge.) Each speaker was limited to ten minutes.

The first speaker was Yinon Kachtan, committee member of the above Union. If you're not in the field of writing, translating, publishing etc, you have no idea what we're up against, how underpaid these professions are, and how important it is to unite, achieve solidarity, and together strive to improve our rights and terms of work. So we should all be thankful that Kachtan and his colleagues have picked up the glove. His professional website is fascinating; pity it's only in Hebrew.

Next was Yaniv Farkas, a freelance English>Hebrew translator. Unfortunately, the cryptic title of his talk, "Mapping Israel's book market players onto Game of Thrones' finest", was lost on me, because I don't watch Game of Thrones. Luckily, my son read A Song of Ice and Fire (by George R. R. Martin), on which the TV series is based, and explained Yaniv's Hebrew title -- שוק הספרים בישראל: בין בנק הברזל להולכים הלבנים. So now I get it: Yaniv used the Iron Bank and the White Walkers as metaphors for the powerful, ruthless elements which we, the people of the book, must deal with in order to make a living.

Asaf Bareket, owner and chief editor of Ocean Publishing House had the brilliant idea of creating the Adventure series, which is dedicated to beautiful new editions of children's and young adult classics. Nostalgia had me qvelling in my seat, as I re-lived, for a few blissful moments, many happy reading-hours: Bambi, The Glass Slipper, The Prince and the Pauper, Black Beauty, Tarzan of the Apes, Oliver Twist, Pollyanna, Peter Pan, Around the World in Eighty Days, and many more.
Thing is, most of these books had been translated into Hebrew ages ago. As we know, the Hebrew language has developed and recent translations sometimes sound to us (old timers) a bit too "modern". In many instances, we're emotionally attached to the old version. The trick is to retain the feel of, say, 19th century England, yet make the text fluent and accessible to today's youngsters. I got the impression that the Bareket brothers chose their translators carefully, and hope to god that they did a good job. Once my grandkids get their hands on some of these books (with my encouragement and help, I hope) I will find out for myself. (Yes, I know I can find them in the local library! But who has time to go to the library?...)

Dr. Hamutal Ben Dov, co-manager of Bear in Mind publishing, spoke about the desirable cooperation between publishers and the Union of Literary Professionals. The company's online shop, with its selection of educational books and games that feel more like fun than like "learning" or "studying", is very attractive. It reminded me of the [defunct] educational software company LOGAL, whose software at the time was groundbreaking, fascinating, and fun. (Worked there for 10 years!) Anyway -- I regret to say that I didn't take any notes during Dr. Ben Dov's talk, and have nothing more to say... Except that I wish the site was available also in English.

Much-needed brief coffee-break.

Next: The Odd Couple ;-)  Just kidding - they're not odd, they work really well together, and are both entertaining and edifying: Rachel Halevy, editor; Yaniv Farkas, translator. The first time I saw them "perform" was at the 2005 conference, in their joint talk/presentation about their Hebrew translation of Huckleberry Finn. I must have been busy enjoying the show, because I didn't take any notes. Besides, I have worked with Rachel Halevy once, on a novel. I don't usually translate from English to Hebrew, so felt a bit insecure, and having Rachel as editor was a blessing. Every few days I'd send her a Word document with a table: on the left was the problematic sentence/s in English, on the right my question or suggestion. She'd get back to me with clear, super-helpful replies. The book in question was The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares.

Hamutal Yellin, a literary translator and editor, and active board member of the Literary Union mentioned above, accomplished a helluva lot in her allotted 10 minutes. She gave a wonderfully succinct and clear presentation of the current literary-translation market in Israel, from our point of view. "Our" meaning us, professional literary translators and editors, who work hard for every shekel. The situation sucks. Publishing houses don't pay well, don't give raises over time, aren't fair or consistent in their methods of calculating the payments due, and overall do not treat us fairly. Which does not bode well for the future of this profession, for the future of people practicing it, and the future of translated literature in the country.

Implications of the current situation

What can we do about it?
We join forces!

We join forces, that's what; we unionize. Together we're stronger.
We share information; it's easier for publishers to get their way when we don't have the full picture.
We negotiate and haggle, for better rates, better terms of payment, all reflecting our true worth.
We support and help each other.

Inbal Sagiv Nakdimon, with a track record of over 160 translated books, plus more on the front and back burners, needed to find a subject she could squeeze into 10 minutes, and chose "Measure for Measure". How do we decide when to change miles into kilometers for the sake of Hebrew readers, the feet into meters, the ounces and pounds into kilograms? Surely Jane Austen's heroines didn't think in kilometers-per-hour, when discussing the time it would take their horse and carriage to trot from their "humble" home to the next town?
And while I'm at it: Inbal gave another presentation later on, dedicated to Gideon Toury and his essay about optimal translation. This is top-notch academic material which I shall not go into here. You can read it in Hebrew on Inbal's website, and watch her presentation on YouTube.

Back to Yaniv Farkas, solo this time, with 30 translation hacks. Sharing one's tricks and tips with fellow translators is a mitzvah. Farkas began his talk with technical stuff like his preferred computer screen ("portrait" as opposed to "landscape" orientation); preferred keyboard (a certain Lenovo, with the red dot - TrackPoint); then went on to essential work-habits such as making backups. Last but not least: Take a deep breath before answering annoying clients ;-)

Below are links to a few work tips I wrote and spoke about in the past:
Lunch break!

Yael Sela, my longstanding fave translator and speaker, has been [Hebrew] Language Manager  at Google since 2014, helping Google improve its Hebrew capabilities. She spoke with her usual vim and vigor about Goliath -- the project of making light of Google's Hebrew. In my professional past,  I had the displeasure of trying to edit and improve the Hebrew UI of various [educational] software, usually written quite badly by programmers, may they forgive me for this generalization.
Yael's task is to make Google's Hebrew, as it appears onscreen to the average Hebrew speaker, more inclusive, friendly and accessible. Their guiding motto is "Google is for everyone"; its instructions, commands, messages should all be understandable and friendly towards kids, golden-agers, and women everywhere. You can easily read more about Google's Diversity approach.
As it happens, I don't use Google in Hebrew, so wasn't aware of these specific changes. But the project is still going on strong, and I'm curious enough to try the Hebrew version and see for myself.

Vicky Teplitsky Ben-Saadon, of the Hebrew Language Academy, is terminology coordinator in the science section of the Academy, and very aware that a living language is constantly changing by its speakers. When it comes to scientific terminology, most scientists are not linguists. The Academy believes that language should serve all spheres of life. This implies that there's no point in creating words that make sense only to a small, limited sector. Also, there's no point in artificially creating Hebrew alternatives to foreign words which have become part of our everyday life, e.g., pizza, sushi, pop, rap, hip-hop, blog, blogger, etc. My notes mention that the word סימלון, simlon, has been suggested for emoji. I don't know whether this was a serious suggestion; I suspect not -- I think emoji is here to stay. The same goes for the much "older" word -- date, as in "I asked her/him out on a date."
How the Academy decides on creating a Hebrew term
Though I was thoroughly enjoying Vicky's talk, I left before it ended, since I'd intended to switch to the Academia room, where Shirley Finzi Loew was speaking.
So imagine my disappointment when I reached the room only to realize that Shirley was at the tail end of her talk. She was discussing the challenge of translating Italian dialects into Hebrew. Most of us, whose Italian encompasses the basic ciao, bellissima, arrivederci, buongiorno, and perhaps a handy expletive or two, aren't aware of the dialects, let alone coped with explaining their nuances. If I'm lucky, I might get another opportunity. If you'd like to read a brief summary of Shirley's talk, you can scroll down my colleague Ruth Ludlam's blog-post about the conference.

Inbal Sagiv Nakdimon's second talk, which I mentioned above, was the last on the agenda. During the ensuing break, many said their goodbyes. Those who stayed spent a relaxed hour or so enjoying a musical performance by Ronit Ophir and her accompanying musician, singing old favorites with lyrics by Natan Alterman, Natan Yonatan, and Natan Zach.

Until next time -- Arrivederci, folks!


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