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Workshop report: ITI Scottish Network Summer Workshop in Aberdeen, 15 June 2013

(Continued from workshop report 1)

The second weekend of the double CPD trip took me to Aberdeen, in the Northeast of Scotland, for the summer workshop of the ITI Scottish Network (ScotNet), one of the regional groups of the Institute.

I attended a number of events organised by ScotNet when I was a member, but that was a long time ago. So I wasn’t sure what to expect when I turned up (late) at the pre-workshop dinner on Friday. I was certainly not expecting the huge group of people spread over three long tables that awaited. It seemed that ScotNet had grown considerably since I let my membership lapse, and the partners of workshop attending members further boosted the scale of the weekend’s social programmes.

The Saturday started with coffee and biscuits (which I certainly needed after the salsa night that went on till 2am, but this time thankfully just next door from the dinner venue and around the corner from the hotel). Then the day’s proceedings commenced in a packed hotel meeting room. The topic of the workshop was “Translating Culture”, and the day’s programme was divided into two parts: a talk by Dr Jean-Pierre Mailhac on how to deal with cultural references, followed by practical activities.

Full house
Full house

Cultural references crop up all the time when translating text, and not just in obvious places like literary works (someone gave an example of a cultural reference being used in a scientific article). Dr Mailhac, an academic specialising in  theoretical linguistics as well as a practising translator, suggests a framework of clearly defined strategies, procedures and parameters for handling cultural references. Three strategy options, 14 procedures and 21 parameters to be precise. That’s quite a lot to consider, but the talk, using many examples (mostly from “Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4” and its French translation) kept us engaged despite the not-so-ideal conditions of the overcrowded, airless room.

After a lunch break (soup and sandwiches), the concluding part of the talk was followed by a couple of practical activities, where we looked at different texts (and a video), identified culture-specific elements in them and considered how they could be translated. Managing discussions in such a large group was not easy, and this part of the workshop — and also the Q&A session — felt rather slow and hard-going in the afternoon slump. Still, the workshop as a whole was useful in that it gave us a framework that could aid our decision-making when faced with the familiar problem of rendering cultural references for the consumption of readers who did not share the culture on which the original text was based.

There was a couple of hours to spare after the workshop, so I went out for a stroll to make the most of the beautiful, warm day before going back to the hotel and the dinner and the ceilidh, held in the same room we spent the day. Ceilidh is a traditional Scottish dance party, with a live folk band providing the music as well as instructions for the dances, and it is a tradition of ScotNet to have a ceilidh at the annual summer workshop. The meeting room tables and chairs were out and large round dinner tables were in, with a portable dance floor at the end. The hotel served a good three-course meal, but I found it a bit difficult to mingle in the setup, and when the band started playing, we quickly found that the dance floor was far too small for such a large group.  I gave up after one dance (the obligatory Gay Gordons) and watched the seasoned dancers of ScotNet brave on…

ScotNet organises regular professional development events. For information, go to http://itiscotland.org.uk/.

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