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Workshop report: J-Net Summer Workshop in Nottingham, 8 June 2013

J-Net, the Japanese-language network of the ITI, holds two workshops each year, one in January and one in June, alternating between locations in the south and north of the UK, and the summer workshop this year took place in Nottingham in the Midlands. By coincidence it was to be held a week before the annual summer workshop of the ITI’s Scottish Network, and I also discovered that a person with whom I needed to meet and discuss a project was going to be in London in between these two weekends, so I decided that two CPD events and a meeting would make a nice trip back to the UK.

A few weeks before the trip, I learned that one of my favourite salsa parties in the UK was going to take place in Manchester on the Friday I arrive, and that one of my salsa friends living in Nottingham was going to the party (and was able to drive me back to Nottingham) — it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. So I landed at Birmingham in the afternoon, got the train to Nottingham  (two changes), checked into my hotel and got the train straight out to Manchester. I arrived at the venue around 11pm, danced the night away and got back to my hotel around 5am. I think I got about 2 ½ hours of sleep.

On Saturday, the morning session started at 10am following a much needed (for me anyway) cup of coffee and a quick round of self-introductions. The session was about quality assurance, and  it consisted of three short presentations by J-Net members coming from different fields — one in-house QA checker and two freelance translators, one specialising in pharmaceutical translation, the other in legal — on their experience and thoughts on translation quality assurance, followed by a talk by Dr Joanna Drugan of the University of East Anglia, the author of  the book “Quality In Professional Translation: Assessment and ImprovementQuality In Professional Translation“.

Jo’s talk, based on her book, looked at how and why a gulf exists between academic research into translation quality and real-life practices of quality assurance in the translation industry. Academic theorists and industry practitioners look at the quality of a translation from very different  sets of needs and goals. In the world of practical translation, the key drivers are client satisfaction and the return on investment, which require different approaches to quality assurance from the sort of quality assessment theory models devised by academics.  This does not, says Jo, mean that the approach to quality in professional translation is (as the academic theorists believe) “atheoretical” or “impressionistic”.

Jo spent a great deal of time visiting a wide range of industry players in the course of her research and explains that, broadly speaking, approaches to quality can be split into “top-down” and “bottom-up”, with various hybrids of the two in-between. We were then split into two groups and asked to look at two extreme examples of “top-down” and “bottom-up” quality assurance — “maximalist model” and “crowdsourced model” and consider the advantages and disadvantages of each model in terms of quality assurance. The maximalist model is where the aim is a total control of quality throughout the (mostly in-house) translation process with numerous checks along the way, whereas the crowdsourced model relies on the participating volunteers to control quality themselves in a continual and organic manner through peer discussions and user feedback.

The oversized cheese and antipasti board
The oversized cheese and antipasti board

We were all ready for some refuelling after this exercise, so off we went,  shivering in the cold wind (the balmy summer day the weather forecasters promised us didn’t materialise), to a nearby pub for lunch. The lunch consisted of a big cheese-and-antipasti board, which made an impressive sight as it entered the room.

The afternoon session is always tricky with a dangerous combination of full stomachs and tired brains all around the room. What we needed was some practical group work to keep us awake and engaged, and that’s exactly what we got. J-Net holds an annual translation competition, with a short text each for Japanese-to-English and English-to-Japanese translation. This year, we decided to use these texts for a practical translation session at the workshop, which I think was a great idea. We were split into groups of four, each with Japanese and English native speakers, and set to work on the two competition texts. The idea was for each group to take on a chunk from each text to translate, then put them together, polish up with input from all the groups and enter the finished results in the competition. I suppose this was not unlike the crowdsourced TQA model presented earlier in the morning session. We are now waiting for the results of the competition to be announced. Will the crowd beat individual entrants? We shall see…

The last programme of the day was, of course, the post-workshop networking dinner. The venue was an atmospheric restaurant called Marrakesh (no prize for guessing the style of food offerred). We shared a huge “Marrakesh Mezze”, which was delicious and a good value for money. We spent hours eating, drinking, catching up and swapping stories until it dawned on us that the restaurant had filled up and there were people waiting for tables to be vacated. There was an option of continuing the chat at a nearby pub, but I decided to go back to my hotel for the night as I was in serious need of sleep by then (so serious that I even decided to miss the local salsa party!). There was also a Sunday programme, a walk around the Newstead Abbey, which I was unfortunately unable to join as I had a train to catch.

This year’s summer workshop was a departure from the norm. Getting an external speaker, using the annual competition as part of the practical session and adding a Sunday social programme were all new ideas that came up at the AGM, and I think they all worked very well. The next workshop will be held in January 2014, and I’m looking forward to it already.

(Continued to workshop report 2)

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