MEMT16: learning, inspiration and fun!

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Last weekend, Oct 13-15, we had the METM16 conference in Tarragona. As usual, I had my mind blown. But it was a fair price for what I got out of it: lots of fun, a few ideas and even some inspiration.

Readability

One highlight for me was John Bates’s workshop on readability. John gave us some sensible and non-dogmatic advice on how to apply, or not, those oft-touted rules you hear on good writing, like “always use the active voice” and “get rid of nominalisations”. How far do you take these rules? Well, John gave us a framework for working that question out. In particular, I found the idea of the “character of the narrative” very useful. I also went out and ordered one of the books that John referenced, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph Williams, which promises to be another piece in this puzzle, much like this workshop.

The spider and the tiger

I also enjoyed the two talks I saw on marketing, Simon Berrill’s and Jo Rourke’s. Simon revisited the idea from Graham Cross’s presentation at METM15 about the spider versus the tiger approach to marketing. After reviewing his marketing efforts and some reflection, Simon decided that he was a spider. Why? Because he caught most of his clients in the marketing web he had spun, i.e., they came to him via referrals, associations, social media, etc. And then, straight after Simon, we had Jo Rourke, a real live tiger before our very eyes! She talked about identifying your ideal client, basically, how to work out what to hunt.

So we got an excellent contrast in these two talks. Most people seemed to think that you need to work out which camp you fit into and go with that. I, like Simon and most people I spoke to, fall firmly into the spider camp, but probably just because it’s easier. The problem Simon found with the tiger approach was getting little or no reward for a high cost. Jo’s talk even gave a glimpse of what kind of cost we are talking about. Just identifying your prey seems a big job, and that’s only a small part of bringing down an antelope on the plains. However, I wonder whether a barbell strategy might be the way to go. I.e., build a good spider web and expect it to get you most of your clients but also place (small) tiger bets because any single return — although less likely, particularly for us novice tigers — could change everything.

A lawyer and his tale

Another highlight was the talk by Christopher Lee, an English, international lawyer based in Barcelona. What a fantastic speaker! Apart from keeping us entertained, he talked about words typically messed up in translation, terms like procurador and fiscal, mainly because of non-equivalence. He made it clear that lawyers prefer descriptive and maybe clunkier renderings for non-equivalent terms. Because regardless of how linguistically appealing we may find a neat one-word translation, it helps no one if it means nothing in English or, worse still, misses out some important element of meaning or confuses the concept with something different in English. In any case, fantastic to see someone from industry coming to talk to us. (My industry at least!) So well done to Mary Fons i Fleming for inviting him.

Inspired three times!

Oliver Lawrence also gave an entertaining talk. He got us laughing with his many examples of ambiguity and even gave us a few tips on how to avoid them. Oliver also gave a presentation with Helen Oclee-Brown and Phillippa May Bennett about their virtual co-working team. I was looking forward to this talk and wasn’t disappointed. Hearing about what sounds like a great arrangement has inspired me to at least think about trying to do something along the same lines.

I was also inspired by Elizabeth Garrison and Margaret Cargill in their presentations. If Elizabeth — a digital nomad who told us about her translating travels — can work from all corners of the globe, I can at least learn how to translate on my laptop so I can get out of my office occasionally. In the same vein, I found Margaret Cargill’s speech fascinating. Not so much because of the content, which was interesting although not entirely relevant to me (although the form and content notion was ringing some bells!), but because of hearing about her professional trajectory and the niche she has carved out for herself over the years. Very inspirational!

I also gave a workshop on translating contracts, the same topic I did a presentation on about at METM15. I liked the longer three-hour format, although I somehow managed to not get everything in. Anyway, I’ll talk about some of my thoughts coming out of the workshop in a separate post, where I’ll also provide a link to the slides and references.

Thank you MET!

So congratulations to the METM team for putting together another excellent conference at a great venue. As always, it was also fantastic to catch up with people from other years and meet new people. Hopefully see you all next year in Brescia!

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Written by Rob Lunn

Rob Lunn is a freelance translator based in Spain. He translates from Spanish and Catalan into English and specialises in legal translation.

2 comments
  1. Thanks very much Rob for a great summing up. I also got a lot out of the wide range of topics and ideas from the conference, even how to apply yoga stretches at my desk! Lovely to meet you in person and looking forward to Brescia,

    • So very nice to meet you too, Rhona! I also wanted to do to the yoga class, but unfortunately you can’t go to everything. See you next year!

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