The last eight months have been a real roller-coaster ride professionally speaking, as I’ve tried to settle into life on the Other Side of the World. On the one hand, despite my best efforts to stay connected virtually, at times I’ve felt isolated and demotivated without the face-to-face contact that I enjoyed with my peers in London. On the other, I’ve had a stronger sense than ever of the wealth of opportunity and choice that translation as a career can offer me – if only I could get myself focussed enough to tap into it.
Thankfully last weekend’s 2008 AUSIT Biennial National Conference in Brisbane delivered just the shot of enthusiasm I needed to top up my motivation levels. My one and only aim in attending was to gain an overview of translation in Australia. What I got was a lesson on how the oldest profession in the world is forging its place in country with needs far different to those I’d ever considered before.
Yes, this is where I live now. And yes, this is the frankly breathtaking mode of transport I used to commute to the AUSIT conference last weekend
A tale of two associations: general impressions
So far I get the impression that Australia’s AUSIT represents a more ‘generalist’ and broader spectrum of T&I practitioners, whereas the UK’s ITI in comparison seems to represent a more tightly focussed practitioner profile. For me, one of the benefits of the former is that I’m getting a wider view of the field of T&I and learning more about where I fit within it. (It’s also making me think about the labels or categories we use to identify ourselves within T&I – but I’m a long way off being close to formulating a post on that). As a relatively established translator with a good educative base, a strong sense of professionalism and several years’ experience under my belt, this is a refreshing change of perspective and has opened my eyes to many new possibilities and ideas. However, notwithstanding the different market demands, I think I would have found it much harder to get established if I had started my translation career here.
I also got some really interesting insights into the way the different interplay between factors common to both countries has had an impact on their respective translation landscapes: the needs of those requiring translation and interpreting (T&I) services, the environments in which T&I is practiced, the demands of the ‘client’, the status of the languages in question and the varying education levels of current practitioners. In terms of translator training, in particular, this conference really brought home to me just how far apart Europe, and more specifically the UK, and Australia are in this area.
More observations: TBC
Here are some more general observations, taking AUSIT and the ITI as being generally representative of the profession in their respective countries:
- Interpreters are more strongly represented in AUSIT.
- Many AUSIT practitioners seem to be both translators and interpreters. In the ITI, there is less of an overlap.
- In common with members of professional associations across much of Europe, many AUSIT translators work both into and out of their native tongue. This has always been a bit of a contentious issue in professional circles in the UK, with the ITI code of conduct stipulating members work only into their native language while the CIOL leaves things much more open. (Personally I think there’s room for all sorts, but don’t denying using my native-language policy as a USP)
- Community-language* interpreting seems to be the mainstay of T&I in Australia
- Aboriginal languages and related issues were well represented at this year’s AUSIT conference and this was a real eye-opener for me. It would be interesting to see the degree to which the role of indigenous languages was dealt with in professional associations in other countries where applicable, e.g. the USA.
- Auslan also had a stronger presence than I’ve noticed at previous ITI conferences.
- Government bodies in various guises seem to have a huge influence on the profession in Australia. In the UK the lack of regulation is sometimes thought to hinder efforts to raise the status and standards of translation practitioners, but there’s a very fine line between pencil-pushing meddling and thoughtful, well-informed normalisation. I’m still open to changing my mind on this, but so far I’m not convinced that what’s happening here is really benefitting the profession.
I know these comparisons are far from scientific, and it probably seems like I’m comparing apples and pears. I know too that I’ve neglected to look fully into the historical, geographical or political realities around either association. But our profession by its very nature is rooted in the regional, yet mobile and global. Whether or not we realise, translators do have a choice as to which associations they join. So if we can’t stand up to a little international comparison, we’re asking ourselves the wrong questions.
More posts on specific sessions to follow. Image via Wikipedia
* I believe the term ‘heritage languages‘ is more commonly used in the USA, although is possibly not exactly the same ‘community languages’ does not tend to include indigenous languages.