This year’s ITI Conference, a biennial event for translation and interpreting professionals, took place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 24th and 25th April, with STAR UK as a Silver Sponsor for the event. The theme for this year was “Renew, rejuvenate, regenerate – translating and interpreting in an evolving world”. The conference opened with an address from Iwan Davies, chairman of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. His call to encourage the next generation of linguists was echoed by our keynote speaker on Friday evening, Jonny Mitchell, best known as the headteacher in the Channel 4 series Educating Yorkshire. He highlighted the sad fact that language education in the UK is on the decline. Languages aren’t always recognised as a priority subject, and the ease with which translated material can be obtained online using free tools means that it is seen as unimportant. After all, the whole world speaks English, right?

 A positive message

But it’s not all doom and gloom – during one session, a 17 year-old addressed the panel to ask for more information, and received a hearty round of applause after enthusing about her love of languages and expressing a desire to join the industry. As explained by James Ramsbotham of the North East Chamber of Commerce, in an ever-expanding export market, linguists have never been more important. If a company wishes to sell their goods and services overseas, they simply cannot do so without professionals who can speak the language – and understand the culture – of the target market. With young people still keen to invest their time and energy in learning a new language, the end is not yet nigh for the translation industry.

 Conference conviviality

This ITI event is the first that Ellie and I have attended, and both of us found it valuable, though for different reasons. As a full-time translator, Ellie found the workshop seminars particularly helpful. With information on new terminology resources, and helpful hints on surviving a day behind the desk, these talks were well-received by all who attended.

As a project manager, the opportunity to network was one of the major highlights for me. As well as making new acquaintances, I was able to finally meet old friends in person – and it’s wonderful to have a face to put to a name and a voice!

Both of us thoroughly enjoyed our Friday evening fringe events. While Ellie took to the Geordie roads for a 3-mile run with a 17-strong bunch of translators (what is the collective noun for this, I wonder?), I enjoyed an hour-long salsa class – excelente!

 An army of linguists

The event closed with a keynote address from a very special team of linguists. Three ladies from the British Army – two Majors and a Lieutenant Colonel – are in charge of a new initiative to boost language-learning amongst the Armed Forces. All three have been interpreters on active service in war zones, and have first-hand knowledge of the importance of language. Words can often do great harm, but they can also bring healing – how important in a war-torn nation, then, to have a peace-keeper who speaks your language? Someone who can bridge the divide between countries at war? Their aim is to make language-learning a key aspect of life in the Armed Forces. Of course, not everyone will become an interpreter or translator – but their hope is that much good will be achieved by language becoming an integral part of army life, and new, skilled interpreters and translators will join the ranks of civvy professionals in the years to come. Their hopes were shared by all in the audience.

 A bright future

Whilst I may not have felt immediately renewed, rejuvenated or regenerated in body after two long days of seminars and networking, I feel confident that those present at the conference will have been inspired to reflect on the industry: Where can we play our part in encouraging the next generation of linguists? What can we do in our day-to-day work to renew, rejuvenate and regenerate a respect for languages and for translation and interpreting? Whilst there are still so many dedicated linguists in the sector, I feel sure that the industry has a very bright future.

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