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The Translator’s Toolbox

The ITI Dutch Network Weekend Workshop at Canterbury, June 2006

By Bob Symonds

The ITI Dutch Network holds its annual weekend workshop alternately in the UK and in the Netherlands or Belgium. This year’s venue was Canterbury, and it was an inspired choice, both for the beautiful surroundings and the perfect June weather.

The actual venue was Canterbury Cathedral’s International Study Centre, a recently completed building on the south side of the cathedral precinct and overlooking the cathedral itself. On the Friday evening we received a Dutch welcome in the Common Room from Therese Hislop, who is Director of Tourism at the cathedral and proved to hold strong views about the need for good quality translation in tourist literature. Therese’s welcome was followed by a barbecue on the tree-shaded lawn of the Campanile Garden, which was also used for some of our sessions on the following two days.

The workshop was attended by 36 people, including five “partners”, some of whom actually participated in the sessions. The participants from the Netherlands outnumbered those from the U.K., although it should be said that ten of these were English native-speakers working in the Netherlands. We have a number of “regulars”, who have been attending the workshops since the early days, nearly twenty years ago, but we were also pleased to welcome some new faces.

The real business of the workshop started promptly at 9.00 a.m. on the Saturday morning with a presentation by Dr. Jo Drugan of Leeds University, who organises courses at Leeds for ITI members. Jo’s theme was “The Translator’s Toolbox” and covered CAT (computer-aided translation), concentrating particularly on translation memory software, mainly TRADOS and Wordfast. Jo had brought along her laptop and so we were able to see the programs working on-screen. It all looked so user-friendly that your reporter has been inspired to start using the free Wordfast plug-in which he downloaded and installed some months ago following a note in the Bulletin, but has not yet got round to using. Jo answered questions from the floor and there was a lively discussion. Jo explained that she had come not only to give a presentation, but also to learn from us, the translators, how we used CAT and what our needs were.

After mid-morning coffee, we split into groups of about six people each and repaired to the Campanile Garden for a “sweatshop”, which involved working on texts in Dutch or English relating to the workshop theme. In a short plenary session rapporteurs from the groups reported on problems thrown up by the translation of the texts.

In the afternoon, we split into two groups for a guided tour of the cathedral led by official guides, and this was followed by an hour’s free time, which enabled those who wished to hear evensong in the cathedral. Tea was followed by the final work session of the day in the form of a discussion on CAT led by Dr Jo Drugan and an ITI member, John O’Hare, who works for KPMG and has much experience in the field. At the end, the speakers were asked to say in 30 seconds how they saw the future of CAT.

The Sunday sessions began at the slightly later hour of 9.15 with a “sweatshop” involving the translation of texts on the theme of dictionaries. The relevance of these became clear after coffee, when we listened to a very witty and interesting 30-minute talk by Fred Mostert, NGTV and ITI member, on “Compiling a specialised bilingual dictionary”. The dictionary in question was his own “Medisch Woordenboek – Engels-Nederlands/Nederlands-Engels”, now in its fourth edition, which Fred began compiling in notebooks for his own reference 40 years ago. From notebooks he progressed to index cards in shoeboxes, and from index cards to the computer.

The morning ended with a final “sweatshop”, devoted to the translation of texts on football, since the weekend coincided with the playing of some of the matches in the World Cup.

The afternoon began with a visit to the Canterbury Tales Tour in St Margaret’s Church, where we listened through headphones to a selection of the tales, while watching a visual presentation of the tale concerned. We returned to the study centre for the concluding plenary session, at which we discussed the workshop and heard of plans for future years. Next year we shall be in Nijmegen, and the committee are already planning ahead for the following two years, with Durham as the likely venue for 2008.

Particular thanks are due to our convener, Jan Arriëns, and to Julian Ross for organising the workshop, to our speakers, and to the friendly and helpful staff of the Canterbury Cathedral International Study Centre.

[Back to Canterbury 2006 Workshop page]