ITA international conference, Jerusalem, Feb 2016

The ITA international conference is organized annually by the Israeli Translators Association. I attended last year and this year it was a completely different experience. This year the number of translators in Orthodox attire was much lower as was the average age of the attendees.
The evening before the conference a small group of foreign translators and the organizers went to a restaurant that claims to base their food on the Bible (The Eucalyptus). The food was great, and all our questions on Bible references were answered. We had a very enjoyable meal full of linguistic fun!

I did not attend any workshops on Monday but went on a tour instead which was the other available option. We went to Ein Karem, the Old City and our guide, Eran Tearosh, explained it was impossible to make facts, hearsay and tradition match and that even though it is not possible to prove what did and did not happen, or exactly when certain historical events happened it is interesting to hear the stories that have been passed down through time. Our guide had studied history...
The only thing I disliked during the tour was having a security guard accompany us. The fact that this was deemed necessary scared me. He even received a call that there was a situation, but we were too far away for him to intervene (he was also a medic).

The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is owned by five different religious groups, the Greek Orthodox Church being the main owner. These five groups have to agree on any renovations and changes, thus everything happens according to the strict schedule. Our guide knew exactly where to stand to see the Roman Catholic Church representatives take ownership and then return it to the Greek Orthodox Church. An impressive ritual that is based on the "The Status Quo of the Holy Places" agreement of 1863. Any change means you forfeit your rights, so everyone adheres very strictly to the agreement.

On Monday evening we had the gala dinner. It started with drinks and bites outside the main hall. During the reception a photographer took pictures. After dinner we noticed these pictures had been converted into magnets. These were available for free for the people on the picture. The number of magnets with each picture was the number of people on the picture, so we could all take these home. I also took the picture of a friend, with her permission, as she was on it with her partner! I really loved the idea. The magnets are now on the microwave at the office!

After dinner we had a speaker, I saw five minutes of his presentation and decided I had seen more than enough. It was not about the language of terror but about how Internet spreads pictures for propaganda purposes.

The technical conference day began with keynote speeches by André Lindemann, who talked about the importance of associations in English (his first presentation in English as far as I know!), Stefan Gentz on the future of translation and Andrew Morris on Standing Out.

We then had four tracks to select from. I attended Alessandra Martelli's presentation on how to write an effective "About" page, she included many useful tips and warnings. Next I attended Temima Fruchter's presentation which was insightful and very interesting. I was intrigued by the title of Marcelo Neves' presentation on the benefits of acting lessons on interpretation. Interpreters should not talk in a neutral voice but copy the emotion of the speaker. He also said that many interpreters move their arms and make all sorts of other movements while interpreting in a booth. When on the stage next to the speaker one should make sure not to take centre stage, in short how one should find a middle ground between being too neutral and too attention-seeking.

Jeffrey Green presented on "Translating Creativity". His presentation started with three Jazz musicians who had played the same song, but although the first two were similar enough albeit by a white and a black musician the third was so different that one would not recognize the song unless one knew it was "Body and Soul". Next he showed us the beginning of "The 2000 year old man" by Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. He then proceeded to discuss his translation of a Hebrew text by S.Y. Agnon.

After the coffee break Daniel Goldschmidt talked about the Internet of Things, how all devices will be linked to each other in a not-so-far future. He gave at least one non-Microsoft example ;-)

I heard the presentation by Albert Gabay, a film critic, was interesting but as it was in Hebrew I decided it was time for a power nap if I was going to last through the dinner and the excursion and make it to the Wednesday 6:30 a.m. tour.

The guided tour of the Western Wall tunnels was next. I had gone last year but still went as it is at these occasions that one learns more about the fellow attendees and forges lasting relations. We had a Canadian guide, which added another mother country to our international group of tourists.

At 6:30 (in the morning!) we met in the lobby for a linguistic tour of the market in Jerusalem. Guy Sharett is an interesting guide with his own style. He teaches Modern Hebrew in the streets of Tel Aviv by looking at texts on the street, be it graffiti or signs. He took us to the market and explained the reason why some texts were in Hebrew only and others in multiple languages. And what the various other text on signs meant. He also explained that the plural of boureka used to be bourekas, but as the Turkish usually referred to the plural of Börek the Israeli mainly heard bourekas, which was later pluralized as bourekasim based on Hebrew grammar rules.

It was soon time to return to the conference where the first speaker was Guy Sharett. He showed us signs he and others had photographed in Tel Aviv. One street sign claimed to be named after the `sofa of Esperanto` instead of the founder. After Guy posted this picture online the municipality contacted him to correct their mistake. He had many other wonderful examples of text which included levels of understanding or a play on words.
I will try to join one of his guided tours in Tel Aviv next time I am there!

Next we had Ronaldo Wrobel, the author of Translating Hannah and the German translator, Nicolai. The Hebrew translator was also scheduled but had been unable to join them. The two men sat on couches and chatted, reminiscing about their discussions during the translation process. I felt as if I was eavesdropping...

It was once again time to select tracks. I decided to join Avi Staiman for a talk on Academic publication review and translation. The added value is in knowing the journals and other publications and the corresponding publication rules and regulations with which to ensure the format is correct. Specialist knowledge is often required to provide quality.

My interest in Speech recognition guided me to sit at Tiago Neto's presentation on the subject. He provided information on combination of apps and devices that can increase productivity and, at the same time, decrease the need to sit at our desks typing away. His presentation slides will hopefully be published soon.

During the next time slot I went upstairs to retrieve my materials for my presentation just after lunch.
Geli introduced me warmly (she had met me last year). I much preferred this to the reading of my blurb. My presentation focused on the Donald Duck magazine and how the translations differ depending on the translator. I took Erika Fuchs as an example on excellence. She managed to include quotes from the German classics in her translations. Her brief was to make the German version more erudite and she did this well. My learning point was that translators are not as interchangeable as people think.

I meant to go to another presentation but I met too many interesting people on the way.
After the coffee break we had a presentation on detectives based on the author's own experience, which started with the Hound of the Baskervilles in the children's section at the library and continued with all Agatha Christie's books which were available in the adult section. The librarian then informed him there were no other similar books, and pointed him towards spy novels, which did not interest him as much. It was only at the Sorbonne that he was informed that there were many more and that reading these would do wonders for his French. He was amazed that a learned institution would stimulate the reading of this type of literature. I will look for a book by Drof Mishani (in translation).

Jost Zetzche told us to talk to people outside the industry to make a difference, to ensure new developments took our needs into account. He gave a lively closing presentation.

All speakers received a hamsa. It is a palm-shaped amulet (open right hand) said to protect against the evil eye! We all received one, but the colours differed. I really appreciated the fact that this gift was also a social statement, the hamsas came in a box with the following text:
"This artifact was made by autistic people from the art workshop of Alut. By choosing this gift you have the opportunity to reach a hand to a world that is closed, yet full of colours and emotions".

On Thursday Eran Tearosh was once again our guide when 7 foreign translators went to the river Jordan, Masada and the Dead Sea to cover ourselves in mud and float. Another very informative day!

A note on the food, not an unimportant matter at a conference:
We mainly ate at the conference hotel. The side dishes were varied and of very good quality and each meal had different main dishes to choose from.
As usual the meals were kosher, which means dairy and meat were not provided during the same meal. The non-dairy desserts this time consisted of a wider variation than adding chocolate to non-dairy products.
During one coffee break we had crepes with dulce de leche, Nutella, etc. During another we had very tasty juices. This year we could order coffee at any time during the conference and not only during the coffee breaks. This was great as I often have interesting discussions and totally forget to order a coffee in time!