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?

Then glance at a few translation blogs and conference programmes, and you’ll see that precious little of the content (around 10%, I’d say) explores how we translate. Contrast that with, for example, the worlds of marketing and copywriting. Articles, conferences and podcasts abound with tips and ideas on how to do better marketing and write better copy.

Why, then, are we so shy about standing up and discussing our craft?

Are we fearful of criticism from more experienced peers? Scared to set out our stall and inadvertently reveal how little we know? Jealous of our hard-won expertise and competitive advantage? Maybe it’s just easier to talk about side dishes than the main course. Perhaps we assume that everyone knows this stuff already and isn’t interested. Maybe we just have nothing to say about core translation skills.

Surely not

It’s great to be outward looking, as the last ITI conference certainly was, but there is a limit. If we don’t discuss translation issues among our community, then we deny ourselves a vital source of professional-development insight. Which is crazy when many of us work alone without frequent feedback.

I’d love to hear more from colleagues about knotty translation problems, original solutions for unusual linguistic challenges, and intelligent ideas on how to write tighter. Besides being mutually enriching, it couldn’t hurt to do it publicly, to show the rest of the world what translators do and why it’s important. Come to think of it, isn’t that precisely what they call, er, content marketing..?

Come on, then, guys and gals, let’s be having yer. There are some virtuous examples out there,
like thisthis or even (ahem) this. But we need more.

So I look forward to savouring your next article on translation technique, punctuation tips, style skills, comparative translation, or whatever interlingual oddity takes your fancy.

It’s time to flex our core.