Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Property law for translators at City University, London

I treated myself to a 4-day intensive course from 10 to 13 June focusing on the terminology and translation of property documents. It was run by the City University in London, actually as part of the MA in Legal Translation, yet also open to other translators keen to add property law knowledge and translation practice in this field to their CPD portfolio.

First of all, because of the 2-day London Underground strike action, which had brought almost all tube services to a halt on the evening of my arrival, I found myself walking from Victoria to Islington, where the university is located. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk, which surprisingly took me just about an hour and 40 minutes. Walking (or alternatively cycling) usually in fact is my preferred option of getting from A to B when the distance is manageable. (And is not one of the nicest aspects about working from home that you hardly ever have to go by car? Some translators do not to even have to own a car because of that.)

City University London

In the Wednesday and Thursday workshops, Richard Delaney explained and illustrated the key principles relevant in property law as it applies in England and Wales, whereas the afternoon sessions were dedicated to comparative document analyses. What among other illustrative materials that we looked at was quite interesting was a comparison of two stylistically contrasting assured shorthold tenancy agreements. The first text drafted in plain English, with all the typical features such as plain syntax and less use of legalese, turned out to be actually more difficult to navigate. As for its substantive content, it provided more room for disputes or less legal certainty than the second text, which was drafted in traditional legal English. It was also pointed out to us that, in terms of drafting techniques, there is a noticeable tendency in German contracts to provide in express terms that certain things are allowed. This is because in the German legal culture prohibitions are assumed to apply to the subject matter in need of contractual regulation. By contrast, this works exactly the other way round in English contracts.

The Friday lectures for those of us working with German were given by Dr. Mike Wienbracke LL.M.. He presented us with a summarised, yet at the same time very detailed and excellent overview of German property law. We also looked at the structure of relevant documents, such as a property sales contract, a gift deed, a will, an inheritance deed etc., as well as noteworthy concepts and typical language contained in them.

On Saturday, we continued with hands-on sessions concerned with the translation of property documents. The English to German course was run by Angela Sigee, and with her help we put our newly acquired knowledge into practice. It was noted that in the translation of land law-related documents especially, it tends to be tricky to deal with the pervasive incongruence of the two legal systems involved. The translation exercises also were a goldmine of translation techniques, workaround solutions and other useful tips that Angela had in store for us to take home.

At the end, we all went away armed with new knowledge, skills and confidence, ready to sink our teeth into translation projects in this field that might come up at some point in the future.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Finding a work-life balance crossing America

One of the highlights of this year’s ITI conference was the inspiring and gripping presentation given by Phil Goddard (who has been a freelance into-English translator for over twenty years) on his 3,000-mile walk through America in 2006. The journey that took him from New York to Los Angeles was in memory of his wife Jayne, who had died of colon cancer at the age of 49, and aimed to raise money for cancer research. A fond walker in general, Phil explained that to him walking represented the only real way of experiencing the landscape and of meeting locals. When he set off, apart from essentials like a tent and a sleeping bag, he also took his laptop so that he could share his experience with other people by blogging, and also continue translating in order to finance his journey.

"Walking is Man’s best medicine." (Hippocrates)

The presentation also included photos illustrating Phil’s account of his amazing journey, on which he also met Pam, his new wife-to-be. New Orleans at the time gave the impression of a war zone because of the flooding following Hurricane Katrina. It was amusing to hear that Phil also used a pushchair, which he had found and in the end pushed for 700 to 800 miles to transport his belongings. Admittedly, this did feel a bit silly at times, and he was stopped several times by police alerted by bewildered locals or tourists. Occasionally Phil met other people, even other translators, who like him were walking through America, albeit mostly for other such as religious reasons.

Phil Goddard

Phil wrapped up his presentation, which had without doubt managed to capture the audience's attention, by quoting Hippocrates' aphorism “Walking is Man’s best medicine“ and mentioning some interesting statistical data concerning his walk. For example, he had been on the move for a duration of 11 months; he had walked for 3,091 miles overall and about 7 million steps; the number of dogs that had barked at him amounted to around 970; he had lost 15 pounds; the number of boots worn amounted to a total of 3; etc.

Check out Phil’s walk blog and the New Orleans blog.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Work-life balance for freelancers

Here is a round-up of what to my mind were particularly relevant points made by Siobhan Soraghan, business coach and director of Active Insight Consulting Ltd., during her presentation at the recent ITI Conference. Her presentation set out to uncover the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance throughout one’s career as a freelancer. Freelancers (and not just freelancers of course) are constantly faced with the challenge of adopting a disciplined and balanced approach to managing their time. Developing this skill is very relevant to them, especially if they also have second jobs, or (like me!) juggle work and family commitments.

Siobhan Soraghan: "Deliberately build in slack in your everyday life."

I am presenting these points in a bullet point format as I have just picked out a few precious "golden nuggets of advice or fact" from Siobhan’s presentation:

- It is vital to set yourself limits, instead of constantly wanting to push them.

- It is a fact that job burnout is a growing phenomenon in our society, as involvement tends to give way to cynicism.

- It is another fact that most diseases are caused through stress.

- It is worthwhile thinking about which activities give us energy and which tend to drain us (also taking into account whether you are an introvert or an extrovert), and consequently adjust our daily activities accordingly.

- We should focus on what is within our control, and not worry about things that we cannot control.

- It can make a huge difference to your well-being if you decide to deliberately build in slack in your everyday life.

- Even doing too much of what you love doing can have adverse effects on the work-life balance.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

ITI Conference 2009

Last weekend I was among the delegates attending the 2009 ITI International Conference at 1 Birdcage Walk in London (the “Institution of Mechanical Engineers”), just a stone’s throw away from famous tourist sights such as the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. There were networking opportunities galore, both on the night before at a fringe event at the Old Star Pub at 66 Broadway in Westminster and of course during the conference itself. The event was themed “Sustainability in Translation“, offering a stimulating and extremely varied programme of sessions and presentations, all of them centring around the buzzword “sustainability“ to a greater or lesser degree.

The Old Star Pub in Westminster, London

Environmental issues specifically in relation to translation and interpreting were covered by Cat Akana, who runs a translation company specialising in this field. She named climate change and “peak oil“, which will mean the end of cheap transportation of goods, as the greatest challenges facing us all, and in particular sectors such as the government, businesses and civil society. As a consequence, there is a constant need for materials to be translated or interpreted, not least because sustainability issues are becoming more and more mainstream. Generally, as major changes are lying ahead of us, working towards a positive vision of the future will be required.

Institute of Mechanical Engineers, London

The session on contingency planning covered a wide range of topics: Dr. Suzanne Kirkbright briefly discussed client-work issues by juxtaposing a negative and a positive model, the latter comprising so-called “survival“ strategies, such as finding a niche market for yourself, maintaining professional links or having an effective marketing plan in place. She also emphasised the importance of enhancing communication with clients, noting that as translators we tend to be brilliant communicators, although we often underestimate that! Jana Kohl talked about combining the different requirements of translation/revising at home with interpreting away from her office, and how different technical devices help her support the mobility and flexibility inherent in her work life. Mahersh Shah concentrated on the IT side of contingency planning, as did Marc Prior, who for example recommends netbooks for working on the move or as a backup PC.

Philippa Hammond, a London-based freelance translator, and Sarah Dillon, an Australian-based translator presenting from her home office in Brisbane on this day, offered an inspiring insight into the world of social media tools, which are commonly associated with the web 2.0 concept. Philippa stressed that interactive sites such as document collaboration tools, blogs, micro-blogging sites (e.g. Twitter), social networks and communities (e.g. Facebook), unlike static websites, provided the advantage of a global reach, which is an important feature as, in the end, as translators we are all global businesses! She added that, from a marketing point of view, they were effective tools for growing one’s professional network and for raising one’s profile organically. Sarah then talked us through the most relevant features of LinkedIn, which offer an easy way of having an online business presence.

Philippa Hammond and Sarah Dillon

The panel discussion afterwards focussed on "where to draw the line" in terms of how business relationships can be placed on a proper footing. It also touched on good and bad practices in drawing up terms for work assignments. Paul Appleyard highlighted the ever so important role of the translation brief, which in his opinion may even be considered the most important part of the whole translation process and should therefore usually be clearly defined. Nick Rosenthal had valuable tips in store on how to offer good customer service and build and foster client relationships.

For more information on these or other conference sessions which have not been covered by my own blog entry, you may follow the links below:
ITI Conference website:
Nicola Bottrell’s blog:
Sarah Dillon’s blog:
Philippa Hammond's blog: