A short overview of Translating Europe Forum 2015, part I

The Translating Europe Forum 2015 was held in Brussels on October 29th-30th. This year, the European Commission opened its doors to different stakeholders in the translation industry, from students to mentors, from researchers to young entrepreneurs. This year’s theme was “All about youth“, and young people were hence the main players in an event in which the 450 seats of the Alcide de Gasperi Room were filled from the first until the very last minute. The Forum was hosted by the Spanish translator and presenter Xosé Castro who, along with many other high-level speakers, contributed to a very enriching conference.

29th October: “The language of Europe is translation”

Coach Joy Ogeh-Hutfield, from Joy Transformation, took the floor on Thursday morning with a clear vision: Empowering young translators.  And what a vision! With a compelling presentation and a funny dynamic exercise, she made us all stand up and woke up anyone who was still a bit sleepy. Joy’s enthusiasm —and why not, joy— was more than enough to make us think about our personal goals and vision.

"Empowering young translators", by Joy Transformation

Here we can see Joy empowering many young translators

She highlighted that a clear vision is the key to success. Visualizing where you are heading to and what your goal is, that is the only way to produce results, without having others dictating your way in life.

What are the keys for a strong and compelling vision?

  1. Think outside the box. Get out of your comfort zone and change the way in which you do business.
  2. Raise your standards: you get what you tolerate!
  3. Have a purpose (ask yourself why) and a direction (ask yourself where to).

“Permit me to shock you: GOOD IS THE NEW BAD! Because everybody is doing a good job. ‘I’m a good parent, I’m a good interpreter, I’m a good, I’m a good’… AVERAGE! (…) I’m not going to do a good job, I’m going to do an OUTSTANDING job.”

Laura Boselli, from the DG Translation at the EU Commission, moderated the next plenary session: The language from language enthusiast to young professional. Oksana Tkach, Fiona McLaughlan, Jessica Cucchiarini, Lucia Púčiková and Slavomir Hruška narrated their personal experiences in the translation world. Although the five stories were different, the five young speakers had some points in common. Firstly, they all found pitfalls in their journeys: target language, CAT tools, a wide range of paths to follow, different roles to assume, unprofessional colleagues, competition with other translators, learning to be an entrepreneur… But secondly, something that I noticed was mentioned in their speeches in one way or another: love, passion. Love for their jobs, passion for translation.

After their interventions, the speakers engaged in a Q&A session with the audience, in which some tips based on their personal experiences were given.


  • Be versatile
  • Be courageous
  • Specialise as soon as possible and learn some extra skills∗ 
  • Try to have a unique selling proposition
  • Connect with others and rely on them when necessary
  • Try to maintain a relationship of mutual respect with clients
  • Respect your deadlines!


  • Use Google Translate
  • Undervalue yourself
  • Work for free
  • Devalue your job
  • Be late
  • Be scared to experiment and try new things

So remember: always follow your passion and choose the path you enjoy the most!

After a networking coffee break, five young professionals took the floor and shared their project presentations and training methods in the field of localisation and translation. Moderators were Xosé Castro and Jorge Díaz-Cintas, director of the Centre for Translation Studies (CenTraS) in London.

  • Chiara Vanone, at Localise with Google, stressed the importance of product localisation for companies that go global. The involvement of students in these projects is crucial, as most of them do not know what localisation is. The experience helps them spread the voice and open new localisation opportunities.
  • Estefania Pio highlighted the potential of teamwork and new learning methods, such as MOOCs. These were the main tool for a collaborative project consisting of subtitling MOOCs at the University of Geneva.
  • Jessica Mariani presented the role of the news translator or “trans-editor” and the complexity of training for this kind of job, taking her PhD project research as reference.
  • Finally, Curri Barceló and Jennifer Vela introduced their experience with LocJam, a non-profit videogame translation project.

A networking lunch followed, during which a poster exhibition took place.

The sessions in the afternoon consisted of parallel workshops. Unfortunately, I could not split in three so I had to choose, but thankfully the whole event was webstreamed so that we don’t miss a thing, and now we can find the links to the videos at the DG Translation’s website.

I attended the mentoring session Get on track: career coaching for young translators, hosted by Inkaliisa Vihonen and Claudio Chiavetta. The attendants took turns to receive feed-back from eight translation professionals with experience in the industry. I had the opportunity to introduce myself to Mr Chiavetta, who kindly gave me some free advice about my CV and  the translation job market. This session was really innovative and interesting! One does not always have the chance to chat with a specialist and receive a second opinion in such a personalised way.

Afterwards I could still catch up on the session (Social) networking for translators, where Marta Nowak was explaining the potential of translation communities on Facebook. Unfortunately in the meantime I missed the speech by Tom Van Cleempoel and Mick De Meyer about Gent Vertaalt, a small business that aims to bring translators together. The student Cristian Păcurar also highlighted the many possibilities offered by InterEMT. He created the platform with the objective of connecting students from all EMT-affiliated Master’s programmes (European Masters in Translation). Can you imagine the projects we could develop if students from different Universities got connected? The moderator Marta Stelmaszak encouraged all translators in the blogosphere to tweet their answers to the question why are you a translator?, which resulted in an interesting display of funny, inspiring and encouraging tweets. 


Finally, allow me to quote Marta and extract a couple of tips and conclusions from this session:

Social media benefits 

  • Colleagues
  • Friends
  • Visibility
  • Jobs
  • Connections

Social media tips 

  • Study how to use every platform
  • Know who your audience is
  • Curate your profiles
  • Take a professional approach

The third session, hosted by Piet Verleysen, described public service translation and interpretation through a study and an app.  I was not able to attend, but feel free to comment below and share your thoughts on the topic.

And before the end of the day, we split again in three groups:

  • From junior entrepreneurs to full professionals: learning business by doing,
  • Translation platforms and tools in the digital age, and
  • Training translators in a changing world.

I attended this last session moderated by Andrew Rothwell with Nele van Eesbeek, Marie Gay, Anu Carnegie-Brown, and Bernard De Heepce. Four different perspectives within the industry to discuss the state of play of translation training programmes and methodologies. The labour market nowadays demands translators with accountancy, administration, IT tools, marketing and business competences… And of course, the mastering of languages and translation knowledge. How can we then fill in the “skill gaps” in the market?  How can we compensate for the “talent shortage”? Is there really a “talent shortage” out there?

The specialists engaged in fruitful debate and offered their opinions from both the academic and the entrepreneurial point of view. We saw the tensions between the quality offer and the demand of low costs and short deadlines, and examined the current trends in the translation industry. Finally, we must remember that translation is not only an industry or an academic training, but also a community of people. We must get involved in this community and find support from associations, mentors and peers. We must learn beforehand how industry works and how we can assure the quality standards in a market where clients demand a quick and cheap service. 

Alcide de Gasperi Room, European Commission - Translating Europe Forum

Fully booked for the Translating Europe Forum 2015

∗ A recurring question from the audience was how to specialise and learn new skills, especially when you must assume different roles (translation, PM) or run a company and have no time. Mentoring, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and other platforms were recommended, such as Edx, Coursera or Future Learn. I have never tried any of these, so I thank your opinions or further recommendations in the comments below!

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