No one likes us – I don’t know why! TM-Europe, Warsaw, 3-4 October 2012

My Impressions from Translation Management Europe (TM-Europe)
Warsaw, 04-05 October 2012

Many translators believe that their work is not sufficiently appreciated. But so do many multinational digital publishers who don’t understand why the rest of the world doesn’t speak English. I used Randy Newman’s now 40 year old song Political Science as an opener for my reflections on Trends in Localisation. Its lyrics reflect, in a humorous way, how ambivalent the views of many publishers are in relation to the rest of the world: while foreign countries provide new markets on one hand, they cause a lot of trouble and headache on the other. Borrowing the words of Newman, this is how the publishers most likely see the situation:

Now Asia’s crowded
And Europe’s too old.
Africa’s far too hot,
And Canada’s too cold.
And South America stole our name.
Let’s drop the big one; there’ll be no one left to blame us.

The solution Newman proposes (and the publishers might be dreaming about): Pax Americana.

Well, boom goes London,
And boom Paris.
More room for you
And more room for me.
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town.
Oh, how peaceful it’ll be;
We’ll set everybody free.

With one exception:

We’ll save Australia;
Don’t want to hurt no kangaroo.
We’ll build an all-American amusement park there;
They’ve got surfing, too.

Luckily, and according to the Wall Street Journal, one of the world’s most influential business thinkers and other experts see the world in a much more positive light: Resulting from recent social movements, they are observing a shift

TM-Europe, Warsaw, 3-4 October 2012

from control to out-of-control, from corporate to social, and from compliance to engagement. Gary Hamel (‘The elites no longer control the conversation’), Marc Benioff (‘This is about corporate spring’), Daniel Pink (‘Control leads to compliance, autonomy leads to engagement’), and Clay Shirky (‘ One trillion hours of participatory value are up for grabs.’) all support the argument I made in my presentation on ‘Trends in Localisation‘ for Social Localisation in Warsaw at TM-Europe this week.

In fact, TM-Europe was all about the future, to a point where Peter Reynolds, with a wink in his eye, did not allow panel contributions on MT describing it as a 50 year old technology. TM-Europe, organized for the 5th time by Peter Reynolds, supported by a dedicated conference committee, attracted around 80, incredibly diverse and colourful translation professionals from all around the world to Warsaw. Some, no doubt, had come because they wanted to discover the beauty of Poland’s capital city; some openly confessed that they were not really sure what had brought them to TM-Europe; but the majority, clearly, had come because of the impressive line-up of keynote speakers and contributors, ranging from Chris Durban, one of the world’s best known practicing translators, Mark Childress, SAP’s eminent terminology expert and world-leading practitioner, to change management expert Stefan Gentz, translator and self-confessed philosopher Kevin Lossner (referring to Common Nonsense Advisory), US-based Westpoint graduate Doug Strock, Polish translator and climber Michal Tyszkowski, process optimization expert Alain Chamsi, and, maybe, also myself reporting on Social Localisation as the industry’s biggest opportunity for growth.

There were no surprises in Chris Durban’s talk. She is not a person that pulls any punches. She just fires the customer. Not all clients can live up to the high expectations this practicing translator-powerhouse has of her premium customers. If you want to buy bulk at wholesale prices, you won’t get it from Chris Durban. I had met her for the first time in April 2011 at a course at the Universidade do Minho in Braga, Portugal, where we both had been invited by Prof Fernando Ferreira Alves to contribute, and had been looking forward to her keynote at TM-Europe. Chris was in true form and didn’t disappoint any of us who had come to hear this translator (‘I translate every day!’) with attitude (‘I like money and like to be paid premium fees for premium work.’), and to learn from her about how to deal with customers who want to buy commoditized words, rather than professional services.

Although announced as a keynote about the ‘Future of Terminology Management’, Mark Childress rather shared with us some of the lessons he had learned during his long and successful career as SAP’s terminology guru, serving 25 industry sectors in 45+ languages. For some strange reason, Mark’s and my ways had never crossed, at least not knowingly, but I had heard so much about him that the possibility of listening to this calmly speaking gentleman with a unique, deep voice about a subject that few if any practitioners understand better than him, would have been enough reason for me to attend TM-Europe. Mark focused on how terminology work is being affected by a constant increase in complexity, immediate access, lightening speed, and interoperating systems. I very much liked his remark that terminology, at times, is also (ab-)used to demark territories and to keep ‘ordinary people’ out of professional conversations. To illustrate this point, he told the amusing story of an Englishman speaking in German to a doctor about his ‘Appendizitis’ (he had ‘translated’ the quite common English term ‘appendicitis’ directly into German) and the German doctor asking him whether he was a colleague – ordinary Germans would have called the condition ‘Blinddarmentzündung’, while the ‘latin’ term ‘Appendizitis’ is the term preferred by the medical profession. It triggered off the memory of a similar experience a Spanish friend of mine had had in Ireland when he had talked to an Irish priest about the Epiphany and had to clarify that no, he was not a priest. Mark’s contribution was not just a master lesson in terminology management, his presentation was also a refreshing reminder that listening to words, rather than looking at powerpoint slides, requires a level of concentration that these days we are rarely expected to contribute anymore as an audience.

In addition to the main programme, the event also offered the opportunity to join a professional workshop on Project Management Workshop prepared by Martin Beuster and Daniel Zielinski, and to network at the conference dinner and during extended coffee breaks. The exhibitors, among them Plunet, SDL, and Kilgray will most likely not record a dramatic increase in sales as a result of this event, but they did have the opportunity to take part in a specially organized Translation Technology Showcase.

I met some old friends and made new ones; I learned about interesting ways to tackle common and not so common translation challenges; and I smiled at and sometimes laughed out loud about some of the witty and to-the-point remarks from some of the strange, wonderful, and highly engaged participants. Australia-based Tea Dietterich (‘I know nothing about translation, but I understand the requirements of my clients and can serve them better than any of my competitors’) worked her magic like no-other; Larissa Ekonoja (‘I work with more than 60 language professionals.’) will one day decide whether she is running an enterprise (she is) or whether she is ‘just’ collaborating with colleagues; Susan Starling, now based in Florida, had driven all the way to Warsaw from Berlin providing a lift to colleagues and friends; Monika Popiolek, being herself, engaged in passionate debates about standards in the translation industry. I had good and interesting conversations about Social Localisation with Valerij Tomarenko (Freelancer, Hamburg), Anton Soldatov and Yulia Akhulkova (ITI Global Vision, Russia), Iwona Maj (Oracle, Poland), Diane McCartney (Freelancer, The Netherlands), Steven Sklar (Freelancer, France), Sonia Lopez (Spanish Solutions, Miami), Bastian Enners (Plunet), Paul Filkin and Wesley Budd (SLD).

Among the really interesting and provocative statements, from my perspective, were some of the following: Standards are just defining the lowest common denominator, not more; the best quality standard to follow is to put your name under every translation you deliver; how do you explain the disconnect between what is paid for translation and what translation generates in terms of value and revenue (>60% of overall revenues in the case of many digital publishers); make yourself a real part of the client’s team to avoid bulk vs. premium discussions; don’t engage with low-level procurement, talk to strategic-level COO; can traditional change management and best practice approaches really still be used to deal with the speed of change we are experiencing today; having access to knowledge before your competitors do can make all the difference for your business; it’s about value and opportunity, not the ‘best’ price for a word.
Some of the wittiest and provocative statements quoted at TM-Europe were those of Miguel Llorens who had planned to participate in the Warsaw Pact Debate at the event but who had sadly passed away unexpectedly just a few weeks ago. There is no doubt that his free spirit will stay with the translation community and us for a long time!

The Rosetta Foundation made an appeal during TM-Europe 2012 to attendees and friends watching our tweets to sign up as a Friend of The Rosetta Foundation, donating €5 per month to support their work. On behalf of The Rosetta Foundation, I would like to thank Tea Dietterich and Larissa Ekonoja who both signed up since yesterday. There is still time and opportunity to follow their great example.

The closing words of advice of one of the panelists in the Warsaw Pact Debate were very much along the lines of what Miguel would have said: ‘work harder than the other guy; gamble, occasionally; spend some time doing ‘good’, engage with clients, go on a training course. But above all: don’t be afraid, the future is good.’

You can follow some of the people mentioned in this blog on Twitter, for example Peter Reynolds (@peterrey), Susan Starling (@sustarling), Stefan Gentz (@stefangentz), Monika Popiolek (@monikapopiolek), Larissa Ekonoja (@fluidtranslatio), Tea Dietterich (@2mlanguages), Wesley Bud (@LocaliseMe), The Rosetta Foundation (@TheRosettaFound), Social Localisation (@SocialLoc).

Websites relating to this blog: TM-EuropeThe Rosetta Foundation,
Miguel Llorens’ blog  and website, and Chris Durban

Programme Committee TM-Europe 2012: Mark Childress, Kevin Lossner, Monika Popiolek, Peter Reynolds.

Become a Friend of The Rosetta Foundation by donating $5/month and encourage your friends to do likewise!

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9 Responses to “No one likes us – I don’t know why! TM-Europe, Warsaw, 3-4 October 2012”

  1. Kevin Lossner (@GermanENTrans) Says:

    Reinhard, I think you’ve confused me with the late Mr. Llorens, who was not only a philosopher in fact, but had read philosophy at Cambridge. I don’t know what the term means myself, and given some of the daft fellows to whom the label has been applied, would never use it as a self-description or confession 😉 We don’t need philosophers or gurus to do our thinking for us.

    I loved your choice of that Newman song and the many excellent examples in your talk and presentation here. What’s missing for me a bit is the connection to the real world of commerce on which we as service providers depend to pay our rent and feed our children and pet rabbits. It’s all very well to talk of trillions of minutes of free time to be harnessed or of gentlemen-at-leisure under grants to dabble as they like for the Greater Goode of Mankynde, but the best way to get ordinary men and women to save the world is to make their garden the most relevant part of it.

    Let’s find a harness for every horse in the team, not just the ones nibbling grass in the pastures and wondering what to do with their boredom of sunshine and flowers 🙂

  2. ReinhardSchaler Says:

    Hello Kevin, thanks for your comment. οἶδα οὐκ εἰδώς, your remark that you don’t even know what the term philosopher means only confirms what one of the TM-Europe participants said to me about your contribution being philosophical and you being a philosopher 🙂 I wouldn’t worry too much about the label, you don’t have to have studied in Cambridge, nor do you have to do all the thinking for the rest of the world, nor do you have to be daft to be one (or to be labelled as one).

    I think we agree that we all need to find a way to make a living, first. But once I’ve looked after my garden, paid my mortgage, fed my kids and pets, I look around and see a lot of inequality, injustice, and exclusion. Part of my human condition is that I love my neighbour as I love myself. Which is why I have decided to do something for the real life of real people living in a real world of real inequality, real injustice, and real exclusion. In the area that I understand best, which is that of language, translation, and localization.

    In the meantime, I am enjoying the scenary, watching horses nibbling grass in the pastures, wondering what to do with my boredom of sunshine and flowers, talking as a gentlemen-at-leisure under grants, dabbling for the Greater Goode of Mankynde. Although, I really liked Mark’s words of advice too: ‘work harder than the other guy; gamble, occasionally; spend some time doing ‘good’; engage with clients; go on a training course. But above all: don’t be afraid, the future is good.’ 🙂

  3. Kevin Lossner (@GermanENTrans) Says:

    I think “don’t be afraid” is the best part. Too many people worry about giving away secrets or looking stupid or God knows what else. Waste of time. I manage to look stupid no matter how much I worry about it, so I won’t.

    I think it’s useful to keep things focused on the practical and not to forget that in the real world, some of the best potential contributors might not be in a position to cast their alms like rose petals on the path. I’m personally offended by examples like TWB, which encourages professional translators to donate their work to NGOs who often can and should pay for it. I donate my own work when and where I like when I find it appropriate to do so, but organizations which pay their administrators for a fat lifestyle or waste fortunes on glossy brochures don’t deserve it. If you want to feed the poor, go make some sandwiches and walk Skid Row with a bag full of them. Cut out the middleman where you can; there are plenty of local opportunities waiting.

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the mobile messages for pharmaceutical DFUs… seemed like one practical way to deal with that problem of English labels, etc. you mentioned. But for God’s sake, pay the ones making the messages.

  4. ReinhardSchaler Says:

    I agree with the ‘don’t be afraid’ bit too.

    You (probably) wouldn’t believe it, Kevin, but just earlier today we had a meeting with a small organization (all volunteers) doing great work in South America who had been looking for translators who could support their work on a regular basis for many years. They were happy, really happy, to have finally found them via The Rosetta Foundation.

    I suppose it is up to everyone to do with their time as they please. As someone working with languages, I prefer to feed the poor with words, rather than sandwiches. Both can be lifesavers 🙂 As can spoken DFU be delivered on a mobile.

    Very happy to hear that you do donate your work, and that you are careful about who you do donate it to!

    By the way, Kirti Vashee would be more than happy to have an (online) debate with you – I’d love to arrange that. Would you be happy to participate?

  5. Valerij Tomarenko Says:

    Hello Reinhard, thank you for the review. I browsed – once again – the list of “really interesting and provocative statements” you put together. i think it (the list) is really good albeit far from complete and reflects – in a nutshell – many statements which I would whole-heartedly endorse. However, I think you really underestimate the role (and message) of Chris Durban, perhaps since she embodies the other pole of what “community localisation” is about. I come originally from the country (Soviet Union) where all those lofty words and ideas of “social justice” were abused to the extent that “socialism” has become an euphemism for brutal state capitalism, much worse than any capitalism unashamed to be named so. I think “your” community translators should somehow realize that Chris Durban (who they probably never heard of, but doesn’t matter, you’re the ideologist) plays the role of Mephisto (“Ich bin ein Teil von jener Kraft, die stets das Böse will, und stets das Gute schafft”). The opposite – wishing well – is not just wishful thinking, it is in fact – more often that you think – evil doing. Think about how “donations” from EU thwart the economic development in African countries. But thanks nevertheless, so long we all agree to disagree I am glad to be part of this discourse.

    • ReinhardSchaler Says:

      Hello Valerij, thank you for your comments! Of course, what I wrote could never be complete and do justice to the event, its participants and the contributors. These were just my impressions to share with people either as a memory or as a report.

      What I talked and wrote about is not a struggle between the real world and graceful charity, between professionals and amateurs, between good and evil. ‘Social Localisation’, or whatever you want to call it, is as real as short-term financial return-on-investment driven localization. There are several examples in my presentation. I do not look at it as charity. It is not a handout, just because it is free. It does not create dependencies.

      Access to knowledge and information is core for economic growth and profit generation. It doesn’t substitute or kill, it encourages initiative. One Irish startup, Storyful, sources and verifies breaking news on Twitter. If you are dealing on the stockmarket, finding out about the death of a chief executive, a natural disaster, or a decision by the European Central Bank a split second before your competitors can make you millions.

      Access to knowledge and information is, however, also core for (economic) development and ultimately for survival. Check out ‘William Kamkwamba: How I built a windmill’ on He was lucky that the book he used to build a windmill to produce electricity was in English and that he could read and understand English. But imagine DFUs you cannot read nor understand, trying to explain to a policeman that you were not involved in this accident, wondering what this sign says – and what if it said ‘Caution Land Mines’? What if you talked a language that was not ‘worth’ to translate into, because you, your family, your friends do not represent a ‘market’? This is why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no-one should be discriminated against because of their language. This is as ‘real’ as it gets. Language Matters! And not just because it’s a business.

      Finally, there are few people I respect as much as Chris. Not only as a translator, but also as a person who cares about her profession and does it in style and with great wisdom (and humour). I think that Chris is supportive of The Rosetta Foundation, and there is some evidence to support this 🙂

      I really don’t think we disagree at all. At least not that much!

  6. Susan Starling Says:

    Interesting discussion. I do agree with Reinhard both in that Kevin is a philosopher (though it seems Reinhard is too!), and that once we’ve looked after our own basic needs it’s part of our human condition to look around at what else we can do for others. So I’m glad to see that there’s no disagreement on that point, since no one is suggesting that we don’t all have to make a living first. The question seems to be when it’s appropriate to give away translations for the greater good, and when to oppose one’s goodwill being taken advantage of by organizations who can well afford to pay for translation. I’ll be interested to hear what others who know more on this subject than I do have to say.

  7. Valerij Tomarenko Says:

    I agree, Reinhard. Glad to hear you don’t think we disagree, at least not that much!

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