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. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="423"] Full house[/caption] 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

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 Improvement". 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. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="300"] The oversized cheese and antipasti board[/caption] 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)

IJET-24 promotional videos

I've just discovered (thanks to @terrysaito) a few video clips promoting IJET-24. What is IJET? The IJET (International Japanese-English Translation) conference is an annual two-day conference hosted by JAT (Japan Association of Translators), which consists of twenty to thirty sessions and a banquet. The purpose of IJET is to provide a place for professional and personal improvement, information exchange, networking, profitable discussion and socializing for many translation and interpretation industry members. IJETs are held alternately in Japan and an English-speaking country, and this year the conference takes place in Hawaii, which means the event could be combined with an extended stay to make a nice early summer holiday on the Pacific islands. Unfortunately it also means it would be a big trip from Europe, too big for me to make, but I certainly hope to attend the event next year, when it returns to Japan. Interested? Read more about it and register at:

My article in the ITI Bulletin

The March/April issue of the ITI Bulletin carries an article I've written about the project to publish a Japanese version of "Translaton: Getting It Right — A guide to buying Translation". The booklet is available from the ITI website in a variety of languages.

J-Net Bulletin is 25 years old!

The Spring 2013 issue of the J-Net Bulletin is out — and this issue celebrates 25 years of the publication, which began as typewritten copies titled the Japanese Network Bulletin in 1988, when the Network had only five members. These days the J-Net Bulletin boasts a circulation of over 160, delivered electronically as a PDF full of colour photos. The latest issue of the J-Net Bulletin contains an article looking back on the early days of the Network and its Bulletin. Translation can be a solitary occupation, with much stumbling around in the dark with nobody to guide you through, especially if you (like me) "fell into" the job rather than set out to make a career as a translator. J-Net provided a supportive environment that gave me a chance to meet, discuss (online and in the flesh) with and learn from fellow translators for the first time in my working life.

J-Net Workshop, 19 January 2013

J-Net is the Japanese language specialist network of The Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) in the UK. There are currently around 160 members in the network, consisting of ITI members, associates and "friends". The day-to-day activities of J-Net is centred around its mailing list, where you can pick the brains of fellow linguists on subjects ranging from obscure technical terminology to Japanese restaurant recommendations. We also organise professional development workshops twice a year, where you can put faces to the names you see on the mailing list and swap stories as well as learn the skills of the trade. If you are a Japanese translator or considering career in Japanese translation and are interested in joining J-Net, please contact

Welcome to my new-look website

Welcome to the WayToJapan Translations. If you have been to my website before, you have probably noticed a few changes I have made. All the information is still there - only differently organised. One new addition to the site is this "News and Thoughts" section, where I plan to blog in Japanese and English (and maybe even in Dutch at some point in future!) about what's happening at WayToJapan and in the translation industry, and also about cross-cultural and language issues. Your comments are welcome!