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!

ITA Conference 2020 - Yes, it was worth it!

Yep, the bottom line is that it was good.
Why was it so good?
- Ah, I'm glad you asked.

I was nearly late for the first session, having forgotten what public transport is like during morning rush hour. So I barely had time to hug and/or wave at colleagues before settling in. From the corner of my eye I glimpsed the very-colorful round buns (=sandwiches) on the bar next to the entrance to Marlen Hall, but had to forgo them. (Temporarily.)  The event took place at ZOA House in Tel Aviv, like in 2017 and 2018. The interior design has undergone noticeable refurbishing, or redecorating, without major changes that could have altered the venue's character and "vibe". The chief annoyance at ZOA remains the lack of a place to hang one's coat!

Day One. The keynote speaker was writer and translator Assaf Gavron. I haven't read anything by him; but I have now added him to my reading "wish list", and fervently intend to actually make that wish come true. Thing is, by now I'm also wondering what the English version of his books sound like... So whichever book I choose, I'm likely to get it in both languages, and end up comparing the two. Which is what I did with Dror Mishani's crime novel, The Missing File, for example, after hearing his talk at the 2016 ITA Conference.

Mind you, I'm not sure I'd be up to translating Gavron's novels and stories -- they seem quite complex (in the good sense of the word) in terms of plot, characters and language. Those of us who've had some experience in translating Israeli novels into English are aware of the many hurdles. And not just because the IDF lingo, slang, missions, atmosphere and so on are nothing like that of the American or British armed forces.  Gavron provided many amusing and edifying examples of the problems and pitfalls involved. Luckily, Gavron's command of English is far better than the average Israeli's, having been brought up by British parents in an English-speaking home and has lived, inter alia, in the U.S., England, and Canada. He himself even translated one of his novels -- the intriguing Tanin Pigu'a (= Almost Dead for the U.S. market and Croc Attack for the British) into English, with the help of British editor/writer James Lever. Gavron said that he thinks the English version ended up being even better than the original. I am not surprised; understanding and collaboration between author and editor or translator can work wonders.

While on this subject, do you remember Amos Oz's talk at the 2017 ITA conference, on translating A Tale of Love and Darkness into English? Oz collaborated with his translator, Nicholas de Lange, and gave him the go-ahead to leave out several sections of the novel, which were either of no interest to the American reader or too difficult or cumbersome to explain. And a propos A Tale of..., Gavron also translated into Hebrew the its English script written by Natalie Portman. As well as the script of one of my fave movies, Pulp Fiction. I don't suppose the script included the "Quarter Pounder with cheese" dialog...

May the god-of-translators forgive me for patting myself on the back, but I believe that I, too, have improved a few books and short stories while translating them from Hebrew to English. In my case it was relatively easy, once I had the consent and collaboration of the author. As we know, much depends on one's client and his/her attitude. I once had a client who hit the ceiling whenever he saw that my [English] sentence was not a 100% match with his [Hebrew] sentence; whereas another client has full confidence in me, is very flexible, open to discussion and appreciative of my suggestions and contributions to his original text.

Gavron translated a good number of books, scripts and short stories into Hebrew, and as far as I know had very good editors, such as Aliza Ziegler. I could go on and on, but I recommend that you  simply go to Gavron's website. Have fun!

As usual, the plenary was followed by a break. The colorful buns were a bit weird-looking but tasty, the cookies were very moreish, the coffee was bleh, but for 12 shekels you could get a half-decent latte. Then came the usual difficulty of choosing which track to attend. Briefly, here's what I listened to:

Nathalie Haddad, managing director of Transtitles, spoke about -- surprise, surprise -- translating subtitles. I think she did a good job of explaining the challenges involved. Most of the TV series I watch are in English, with no subtitles. But when I do watch TV with Hebrew subtitles, I am always acutely aware of both brilliant solutions and amusing or ghastly failures.

Next was Yael Valier, an experienced and talented speaker, as I discovered during her presentation on translating children's poetry at last year's conference. The emphasis this time was on translating texts designed to be heard -- an aspect most of us don't deal with on a regular basis.

Lunch break. Baby-bourekas instead of confectionery. But for those who wanted something more substantial, there are plenty of good cafes and eateries within easy walking distance. As stated, the main inconvenience was having to schlep one's coat and bag while simultaneously balancing a small, recyclable plate of food & drink and trying to find a temporary resting place. Meileh -- lo nora! (= Oh, forget it, no harm done; we survived to tell the tale...)

Break over. Back to Marlen Hall:
Avi Stainman basically told his audience what his company, Academic Language Experts, does, and why it's important. I totally agree that Israel's academics are, for the most part, in need of the services offered. Translating, editing, and formatting academic papers can be a huge headache which I for one was glad to stop doing. IMHO, most of what Avi said was plain common sense. But a little common sense can go a long way ;-)

Yael Cahane-Shadmi, a versatile translator and experienced lecturer, gave a short talk about an important aspect of our work: What do you do when a text you are asked to translate revolves around a subject, or promotes an issue, that is morally or ethically contrary to your principles. Obviously, if you can afford to pick and choose, you simply turn down any texts you dislike for whatever reason. But when the issue at hand is more serious, and you need the money, where do you draw the line?
Yael's presentation is available on her blog; but note that it is only in Hebrew. You can also enjoy an earlier presentation of hers, on assertiveness, which comes in handy when you want to turn a client down. :-)  This presentation, too, is in Hebrew.

Ruth Ludlam's presentation was about the process of publishing an academic book. This is something I would dread, and have done my best to avoid. But if you must do it, it's good to know what you're getting yourself into. For example: every publishing house has its own guidelines and demands, so if you get turned down by one publisher, you don't give up in disgust -- you try a different one, or two, or three... And even once you've established an understanding with a certain publisher, your contact person might suddenly be replaced by someone else, kicking you out of your comfort zone. You can read more about it on Ruth's blog.

Liath Noy spoke about the state of translation studies in Israel. A touchy subject, it seems. Once upon a time, like fifty years ago, there were no "Translation Studies" in Israel. I studied English Literature, Linguistics, some French and Spanish; and later a few courses in Comparative Literature, and a two-semester workshop in play-writing -- all interesting and fun, but not exactly geared towards translation. At present, my alma mater, Tel Aviv University, no longer has a translation department.
Translators' work often calls for an acquaintance with (or education in) a wide field of knowledge --  linguistics, modern language studies, comparative literature, cultural studies, philosophy, creative language, and more. But in day-to-day reality, that's not enough. The late Prof. Miriam Schlesinger believed in translation studies that prepared its students for the real world. (Which is why she invited me to give a guest-presentation in 2005. More about that in a separate post, I hope.) Today's academic programs are trying to adapt to the 21st century, with more emphasis on hands-on practice, technological aspects and business aspects. Among other things, Liath teaches how to use MemoQ - a successful translation software. If I were still working full-time, I'd definitely try it.

Last coffee-break for the day, followed by two brief talks:

Haddar Perry spoke about excess words in translation. I've been following Haddar's blog (in Hebrew, duh!) for years; her knowledge of the Hebrew language, past and present, is amazing in its breadth and depth. Her talk was a short version of the blog post mentioned above. The blog post contains no less than 47 examples of the way Hebrew-speakers use lengthy, often superfluous phrases when translating from other languages, including English. As we know, Hebrew is, by nature, a succinct language. In many cases the translator or editor looks at the tiny Hebrew (translated) sentence, which seems to him/her somehow insufficient, not respectable or impressive enough... and immediately pads and plumps it up with a few unnecessary words.

Micaela Ziv's two most important projects for the ITA over the past few years have been the Recognition project, and representing the ITA at Lahav - "the NPO whose goal is to lobby for and protect the rights of freelance and self-employed workers". Many of us have been asked by a prospective client to provide proof of our expertise, a professional certificate. And no, a university degree is not enough; it says nothing about your experience. But I can attest that my Certificate of Recognition does the trick.
- Anyone here up to being our new representative at Lahav?
- Anyone here willing to become a mentor for translators into Hebrew? If so, contact Micaela.

That's all for now. I can hear you sighing with relief... One day, I'll report about Day 2.
To see photos from the conference: