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…


Putting my presentation in your hands

"A poem is never finished, only abandoned," said French poet Paul Valery, and I bet it sounds much more poetic in French.

Same goes for most everything you write, except mundane pieces like letters to the authorities complaining about the recent mistake they made in your taxes.

But when it comes to a paper you have to submit or a presentation you have to give, there's a deadline, and at some point you say "this is it", save the file, and let it go.

That's the point I have reached with the presentation I'll be giving at the ITA conference in Jerusalem, on Feb 10th, 2010.

The presentation, called First Aid for Translators & Editors, is aimed at beginners in this field. In 40 minutes or less (leaving time for Q&As, ) I want to tell them as much as I can in order to make their lives in this profession easier, point them in the right direction, help them avoid pitfalls, and give them a few ready-made solutions to common problems.

That's a lot to accomplish in 40 minutes. I know I don't have to do it all myself. My lecture is the first (along with two others, in the same time-slot) on the third day of the conference. Several of my colleagues will be speaking on subjects similar to mine, from slightly different perspectives, giving more information, more advice. So it's not as if this effort is all up to me. Nonetheless, I want to impart to my audience as much good stuff as possible. And I mean really handy stuff. The nuts and bolts. The hammer, nails and pliers, as my friend and colleague Vered Mosenzon would put it: the hammer and nails to drive in the right words, the pliers to pull out the superfluous or the crooked ones.

I've done my best, considering that one can always do better given just a bit more time to go over one's presentation one more time…

To supplement my presentation, I've prepared a basic Hebrew/English glossary of 200 entries painfully -- and I mean painfully -- chosen out of many hundreds of entries in my personal glossary built over years of work. My intention was to save new translators the agony, headache and puzzlement over awkward Hebrew words and expressions such as tofes 17, tofes tiyulim, teken, rosh gadol, etz sendvich, mashkiaan, legabesh, and many more. As an in-house editor, I used to cringe at some misunderstandings and mistranslations. This is my opportunity to help diminish similar mistranslations in the future.

Two qualifications:
1. Context, context, context. While I personally may favor "as part of…" as a translation of the ubiquitous "b'misgeret", sometimes "framework" is exactly what's called for. Nothing is carved in stone.
2. The glossary contains many suggestions made by my fellow translators over the years. Some were sent as a response to my monthly Editor's Letter; others are to be found on the various translators' lists and forums. So though this list is mine in the sense that I compiled it, the information in it has been contributed by many. Thank you all.

See you at the conference!