The ITA Conference -- Other measures of success

By now many of my learned colleagues have posted their impressions of the ITA conference on their blogs and websites. For example, you can read Linda Yechiel's report (English); Inga Michaeli's story (Hebrew), Ruth Ludlam's very comprehensive report (English), and several others, which, if they're not actually available yet, doubtlessly will be within the next few days. So you don't need a blow-by-blow description of the lectures from me.

Which lets me off the hook, freeing me to address the conference from a different angle.

1. From a woman's point of view, one of the main measures of success or failure is: Have I gained or lost weight? No matter if a woman is stick-thin and told by her physicians that, for her own good, she'd better gain a few kilos, or if she's perfectly average weight-wise or bulging from her clothes, it's always the same: have I managed to gain/lose?...

2. Sifting through the business cards. Sorry to say that this year I gathered only a small number of cards, and gave away very few from the big, heavy bundle I brought with. Then again, this could be a direct result of the happy circumstance that I already knew many of the people there and they know me and we know how to get in touch with each other! The one person whom I really wanted to meet – a distant cousin I last saw years ago – didn't seek me out and introduce herself! I kept my eyes peeled, but didn't see her. Hey, cousin M – where art thou? Then there was a young woman whose name (on her name tag) seemed very familiar, but I couldn't place her. I thought of walking up to her, introducing myself (that is, pointing to my name tag), and waiting to see if any light of recognition dawns on her face. But I didn't, and I'm sorry, because once at my desk-top at home, I realized she's one of my mentees! Shame on me. I apologize.

3. What did I learn? In less-than-useful terms, I learnt:
  • Being a famous professor does not necessarily mean that you can hold a tired audience spellbound
  • Being "an actress" doesn't mean you can act; I suppose just as being "a translator" doesn't mean you can translate
  • Being timid-looking and soft-spoken doesn't mean you can't be engaging and pleasant and informative
  • Many translators seem scared stiff of the idea of having to take an exam (to become certified)
  • There are lots of companies out there who want to sell me expensive stuff, be it a subscription to a work-providing spot (no thanks) or a thingy to rest my forearms on as I type. (I'll ask the raffle-winner if she likes it before even considering such an expensive contraption.)
  • Jonathan Franzen has a way with words
  • Rami Saari's command of languages is amazing
  • Managing your online presence, web content, and online self-marketing is a full time job. I guess we're expected to do the actual translation/editing work as overtime…
  • Some people become better and better speakers with experience.

4. In truly useful terms,I learnt:
  • Mitzlol means alliteration
  • Tamsir means handout
  • "People-first language" is a pain… an example of a creditable idea gone overboard. See, for example, the helpful(?) chart provided by The National Inclusion Project. Yeah, some of it is sensible and civil. And some of it is, well, come on, people!
  • But at least my assisted-living client knew what he was talking about when he insisted I refer to the residents as "older adults" (as opposed to "elderly", "senior citizens", "golden agers" and so on.)
  • In your blog or website, if quoting a source, limit it to under 250 words, or else Google will hold it against you.
  • There are some charming people whom I only get to see once a year, at these conferences. Which as far as I'm concerned, is in itself a good enough reason to continue coming to these conferences.
  • Whoever you are – the person who donated his copy of The Light Fantastic to the used-book fair – Thank you, thank you, thank you! Our copy has been missing for years, and our Terry Pratchett collection was incomplete without it.
  • In terms of my own presentation – careful preparation pays off; an appreciative audience is a blessing.

Joking aside, it was – like all my blogging colleagues pointed out – a wonderful conference, and left me in utter awe and admiration of the organizers, especially the unpaid ones, the ITA volunteers who worked hard to make it happen. Thank you all.

You don't have to take my word for it…

My two blogs have been sorely neglected recently, what with me being preoccupied with pre-conference work and conference-related work. I've been spending half my [pure-work] time trying to make some headway on a big project that (surprise, surprise) is turning out to be more difficult and time consuming than I thought; and half my time preparing my talk and presentation for the ITA conference.

For various reasons, the time-slot allotted me is only 30 minutes. In previous years I had 45 minutes to talk. It's tough to squeeze everything I have to say on my topic into 30 min or less (leaving time for questions). The speaker before me has a whole 60 minutes. But then, she'll be speaking on the attractive subject of Facebook, whereas I'll be speaking on the touchy issue of customer complaints.

Assuming that there won't be time left for Q&A – unless I really zoom through my examples – I've designed my penultimate slide to compensate for that lack, and am suggesting to my audience – those who have not yet fallen asleep or run off for coffee and cake before the closing session – to drop me a line, and I'll answer their questions here on my blog. This seems to me an excellent solution. Will give me time to think carefully rather than shoot from the hip. I, for one, can think of lots of pertinent questions.

Now, the easiest way to give listeners my email address and blog URL is to hand out my business card. It carries my slogan – Take Nina's word for it – which, when Googled, directs you to my blog. Simple, right? No need to memorize or write anything down.

This reminded me of a colleague's objections to my slogan. She said it sounded smug or haughty or something like that. Her comment took my by surprise. I never thought of it like that. I was actually thinking of the more literal meanings of the phrase, not of its idiomatic import. As in-house chief editor of Hever Translators'Pool, I definitely wanted Hever's translators to take "my word"; my monthly Editor's Letter, with proposed and recommended solutions, was my way of establishing a sort of House Style Guide. Later, as self-employed, I wanted prospective clients to take "my word" rather than someone else's. I never meant it to mean, "listen, folks, believe me, I know best." I like giving my opinion, sure; but, being a skeptic, I applaud skepticism. In fact, I was actually considering opening another blog, entitled Don't Take My Word for It… but decided against it.

In brief, I urge you all:
  • Do come to my talk; I really don't fancy talking to myself. Besides, it should be fun.
  • Send me questions.
  • Read my blog for answers.
  • Keep an open mind. Be critical. Be skeptical. Consider my suggestions. Then take them or leave them.

See you soon in Jerusalem!