ITA conference, Jerusalem, Feb 2015

The Israeli Translators Association organized their annual conference in February 2015 in Jerusalem. I decided to submit a proposal for a talk, which was approved.

European conferences have developed an expected schedule, the Israel conference has developed its own. As a seasoned attendee of European translation conferences I enjoyed noticing differences, some of which cannot be implemented elsewhere.
First of all, the organization of European conferences is carried out by the organizing translators (and the organization behind the conference, if applicable). The ITA conference is organized with the aid of an event-organizing company who has contacts at many museums, restaurants and catering companies. Two evening events included a guided tour in a museum, after hours, exclusively for conference attendees. Also, two days of the ITA conference cover different ground: the first day technical and miscellaneous, the second literary.
Generally speaking translators enjoy visiting new places. Part of the attraction of conferences is visiting new cities and going sight-seeing with other translators. The sight-seeing is often organized for the day prior to or after the conference itself. At the ITA 2015 conference the guided tour was on the workshop day. As I will be holding a workshop with Marek in Warsaw in a month, I attended his workshop and could not do the whole day sight-seeing tour. I heard it was absolutely wonderful. The guide knew the best spots, the right people and could answer all questions. What more could anyone want?
The workshops on the first day of the conference were well attended, and from what I heard, the participants enjoyed them and felt they had learned, which is, after all, the point of a workshop!
The workshops and the presentations were held in English and Hebrew, about half in each language. Four sessions were held simultaneously during the two conference days. This means no-one is able to see all!
The Gala Event at the Bible Lands Museum after the workshops consisted of a reception, a special tour, in English or Hebrew, followed by a delicious dinner during which the ITA Chairman welcomed everyone. After dinner Simcha Jacobici spoke about his book (The Lost Gospel) that claims to be based on the discovery of a lost gospel in the British Library proving that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. I was impressed with the way the audience listened to this controversial issue.
Before the conference I had stated I could do two presentations, but as the program was already complete I did not prepare a second topic. During the Gala event one of the organizers asked if I had a second presentation ready as one of the presenters was ill. That night I wrote a presentation on interpersonal relations and how being nice can land you the job.
I missed the morning presentations on Tuesday as I made some changes on my presentation on file preparation and conversion and added to the second presentation. I arrived at the conference just before lunch. After lunch I was scheduled for my first talk. I had prepared a talk on converting a PDF file into a Word document ready to be imported into a CAT tool. I indicated that a file can be processed manually, automatically or using regular expressions and macros.
The presentation after mine was in Hebrew, so I left the room. The other presentations were already underway, so I spent the next hour talking to people in the hallway and checking out the booths.
Next I gave my presentation on how providing a small service or just asking questions from the customer can ensure you are asked to do the translation. I started with two of my own anecdotes and asked the floor to contribute. It was a very interesting and lively session!
After a coffee it was time to listen to David Canek, the Memsource CEO, on industry trends and Joao Roque Dias on the all too common practices of scammers.
After dinner at the conference hotel we could either go on an excursion to the Burnt House and the Herodian Quarter or listen to Tamar Katz speak in Hebrew. I went on the excursion. We visited the Burnt House and another museum after hours, where we learned about Jerusalem during the fall of the temple. We were a small group consisting of the European attendees and a few of the Israeli attendees. It was a wonderful evening during which some of us sang beautifully and others danced gracefully!
The Israeli writer Liad Shohan and his translator Sara Kital talked to all attendees on Wednesday morning. They spoke in Hebrew but headphones and an interpreter were made available to foreign attendees. Liad Shohan talked about how he had become an author, first writing about his life and later turning to crime fiction. It was an interesting presentation followed by a talk by his translator on how she researched for the required terminology to make conversations sound plausible.
Due to a traffic accident, Avirama Golan was late. The coffee break was started early and we returned to the main room once she had arrived. Avirama Golan talked about earlier world literature translations in Hebrew by well-known authors and poets. These translations had not always been based on the original books but were often based on Russian translations. Some of these earlier works are now being reviewed as the style is much more descriptive than the original books.
On Wednesday morning I heard Tony Berris talk about Kaniuk, an author I am not familiar with. Tony had been a fan before becoming Kaniuk’s translator and he told us about their meetings and discussions.
I next selected a presentation on the impact of Iberian and Latin American literature in Israel. Ruth Fine told us that the magic realism of Latin American authors has influenced many Israeli authors. Latin American culture influences Israeli culture through its literature which is quite popular but also through the popular ‘telenovelas’ (soap operas from Spanish-speaking countries) which are aired 24 hours a day. Various Latin American authors have received the Jerusalem prize for literature.
I had talked to Stephen Rifkind at a meal and decided to go to his presentation. His talk was about the decision of moving from being a part-time translator to become a full-time translator. He clearly stated many issues that may influence the decision. I have been working as a full-time translator for twenty years, and the information was not new to me, but he did indicate issues clearly and thoroughly.
After lunch I heard Shoshana London-Sappir and Moshe Devere talk. The presentation was called Technology for Technophobes: A Discussion between a Techie and Non-Techie. I had expected a dialogue but it consisted mainly on information on the combination of memoQ and Dragon Naturally Speaking, which according to Moshe should be supplemented by a higher quality microphone. They provided data indicating that a CAT tool increases productivity by at least 26%. This means that the return on investment is after only a few months!
I took a break and then went to see Marek present on Terminology management. Marek presented clearly on the various options for monolingual or bilingual terminology extraction and the advantages of working with terminology lists (consistency, QA options, etc.).
The last talk of the conference was to be given by Dorit Rabinyan, a best-selling author. As this was to be given in Hebrew, I did not attend. I joined a group of foreign attendees and visited the Wailing Wall and the Western wall tunnels. Another very interesting outing.
A snow storm was announced for Thursday. Travelling to Tel Aviv one day early was recommended to ensure I would not have trouble reaching the airport on Friday. I followed this advice. I met a German man in the train to the airport. He had stayed in Jerusalem. He told me that on Friday only police cars and a handful of other cars rode on the roads of Jerusalem....

Differences between European conferences and the ITA conference:
Higher quantity and quality of food (meals and coffee time snacks)
Talks by known authors, not only fellow translators
Dinner at a museum
Excursion to a museum outside opening hours
No end-of-conference party
Many attendees attended only a single day of the conference

Authors gave a talk, but their books were not for sale nor was there an opportunity to have the author sign books. In Europe we would have expected this to be organized.
Wine and beer were not served during meals.
Water and lemonade was available on the tables during the talks in both large rooms. The smaller rooms had chairs, no tables nor drinks.
Lemonade and water was available at all times in the hallway.
Average age is higher than at European conferences.