When is a translation done? (ITI Day 2018)

[This is the text of a 5-minute talk with a difference that I presented at the ITI One Day in … event on 16 June 2018 at Gray’s Inn in London. The presentation took the form of a “recital” of a pre-recorded text using my smartphone, but the experiment wasn’t a complete success, partly because the quality of the sound system at the venue, despite my sound check beforehand, wasn’t up to it, and apparently most of the audience struggled to hear any of it, annoyingly. The presentation was preceded by a warm and generous introduction by star organiser Anne de Freyman.]

It’s wonderful to be with you all this afternoon – isn’t it Oliver …?

… Indeed it is.

Hello folks.

Don’t be alarmed, but in a packed programme this afternoon, I shall be breaking from protocol in not one but two ways. I think you’ve grasped what the first one is going to be: in a tribute to the fabulous Lost Voice Guy – you know him? The comedian who was once in a disabled Steps tribute band called … Ramps – I shall be experimenting with some technology in what is something of a walk on the wild side for me. And second, I shan’t be speaking about what Anne thinks I’ll be speaking about, as I had a better idea a couple of days ago while waiting in Ciampino departure lounge.

So. I shall be asking the question:

When is it done?

Continue reading

Writing – when it simply has to be right

What’s the most important thing you’ve ever written?

A couple of weeks ago, I had to craft what for me is probably the most momentous collection of words since I started, at my mother’s knee, to put crayon, pencil or pen to paper. Or loops and whorls to keyboard, now.

In recent months, I’ve been banging on about incisive, zestful writing and how to choose your words to better effect – as ITI Bulletin readers, BP17 conference-goers, and the lovely attendees of my own wee clear-writing course may recall.

It was time to put my freshly flexed penman’s muscles to the test. Continue reading

The serial comma – all you need to know

Ah, the serial comma. If there’s one topic that can be relied upon to polarise opinion among language lovers, that’s it. Yet for most people, its niceties are something of a mystery. Also known as the Oxford or Harvard comma, it’s that little flick of the pen or keyboard that some use between the last two items in a list:

Tom, Dick, and Harry

as opposed to

Tom, Dick and Harry.

Some insist that you should always use it; others, that you should never. But, if you look closely (and dispassionately), you can see that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Here’s why. Continue reading

How to crack those tough translation nuts

You know those expressions that are a pain to translate to/from Italian? Awkward words that don’t behave, that stubbornly resist your best attempts, that never seem to come out nicely first time. Or second time. Those.

Ever wondered if your lovely colleagues have found a quick and elegant way to crack some of them? Well now there’s a chance to find out. The upcoming ITI conference in Cardiff will feature a session for Italianists and Italophiles on the Saturday morning (20 May 2017), where you can compare notes and tap into the collective wisdom of your compagni di viaggio. Over a cup of proper coffee. What could be finer?

So till then, make a note of any of your “favourite” troublesome words or phrases, and pass them on to me at, ideally as example sentences with a bit of context. I’ll collate, add a couple of my own, and we can all pit our wits against them in Cardiff.

Sign up now:

Illuminiamoci d’immenso!

Instagurus and faking it up

So. I hear you’re diversifying?

That’s right. It’s all the rage these days, you know. Everyone’s got an online course, a membership programme, a coaching scheme or some sideline or other. It’s about time I got in on the act. I mean, how hard can it be? Sounds like a nice little earner.

Sounds like you’re becoming an instaguru, then.

A what now? I don’t think so; I don’t go much for social media.

Not Instagram, you lummox. Instaguru. An “instant guru”. A shiny expert with all the answers* available for a great-value price (hurry while stocks last!).

* The actual experience and expertise underpinning these answers may vary from that implied.

Hang on a sec –

– Because if you are, you might find yourself in hot water. Continue reading

Peer training, peerless value?

Translators need continuous professional development (CPD), and the best people to provide it are often other translators. You might look to a wine expert to add zest to your oenology specialism or turn to an accountant to learn about your tax system. For many other topics, though, peer training can be your best bet, especially if you need help applying the knowledge to your translation business, or simply if the subject is purely translation- or language-related.

e-learning is one of the latest big things, and more and more professionals are getting in on the act. Increasing numbers of translators are providing teaching, training and learning opportunities for other translators, from webinars to workshops and from blog posts and courses to conference speeches. Which is great, right? Continue reading

METM16 in a nutshell

As a translator, what do you expect from a good conference?

A variety of thought-provoking and entertaining presentations and workshops; some productive networking; lots of convivial socialising with friends old and new; cementing bonds with online buddies and teammates; a translation slam (yes, a translation conference with an actual translation slam! Why don’t they all do that?); a beautiful, interesting conference venue; a beautiful, interesting host city; good food; gorgeous weather; the giddy, nerve-jangly highs of getting up there and giving a presentation; and finally coming away with lots of notes, things learned, ideas to implement in your work and business, and the feeling that it had all been a right good old experience?

Well that – apart from the weather at the start – was METM16 in Tarragona. Did you miss out? That’ll learn ya. See you in Brescia 2017, then 🙂.

[shamelessly reblogged (with acknowledgements, etc.) from the METM16 Facebook page]

Cut the coy act, translators!

The other day, the UK Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) re-opened the call for papers for its prestigious 2017 conference, because not enough submissions were “on topic”: honing and toning our core translation skills. It seems we’re keener to talk about marketing, technology, pricing, agencies, ergonomics, social media, or whatever – all pressing and worthy matters, of course – than about what we actually do. Hard to believe? Continue reading

More quality, less speed: translation buyers beware!

Pick any two, they say, from price, quality and speed. Two, not three. Because you can’t have a top-quality translation for an urgent deadline without paying a premium, for example.

It’s true that translators can produce a sublime piece of work in a big rush now and then, when a valued client needs it, but it’s not a sustainable approach. And it’s dangerous to imply that it might be. In the long run, speed and quality are not reconcilable. Continue reading