This past Saturday I attended the local ATA chapter’s first regional conference, “Translating Today’s Trends into Tomorrow’s Successes.” It far surpassed my great expectations. Over 130 language professionals filled the beautiful Arlington Artisphere, lots of new faces amidst the more regular local meeting attendees. The caliber of translators and interpreters asked to speak blew me away. Nataly Kelly of Common Sense Advisory kicked off the day, followed by panels of the capital’s senior translators from the IMF, World Bank, FBI, State Department, and other institutions. Non-government professionals rounded out the program, I was happy to note. Here in Washington, it’s easy to forget about the importance of private/civilian companies and people.
Here are just some of the highlights:
- Translation is now a $33 billion industry.
- While demand for translation continues to grow, the ability to meet this demand is stagnating. Quality output per professional translator hovers at roughly 2,600 words per day. Translators are more open than agencies to try out machine translation (MT), but it isn’t always effective: 60% of the words and phrases in an average translation project are brand new.
- Most language professionals agree that beginners should forget about specializing. Focus on developing the best technique, glossaries, and resources possible. Be a great generalist, then narrow your options.
- Not all companies care about quantifiable output (even at the top government agencies).
- Mentoring just might be more important than formal education. Language does not occur in a vacuum.
- A lot of high-level translators advocate developing and sharing glossaries with colleagues. Language itself being collaborative, it makes sense that collaboration and flexibility are key to your continuing language education.
The ideas thrown around at this conference made me think of translation as different than the typical isolated, kitchen-table task. Developing a sense of community, establishing real working ties to colleagues, and embracing challenges together seem to be most important to most pros. Translation is a craft meant to bring people closer through shared understanding. Not even the stresses of high-profile, high-pressure positions can push that out of focus.