Glendon’s Translation Night an award winner

York’s Glendon School of Translation marked International Translation Day on Sept. 30 with Translation Night, its annual festive gathering of students, faculty, alumni and prominent practitioners. The theme of this year’s International Translation Day was "Working Together".

Course director Jamie Roberts delivered the keynote address “Cooperation Between Translators and Technical Writers at IBM”. Roberts straddles school and industry by teaching in the Glendon Technical Communication Program, as well as by working for translation services at IBM Canada. One of the founders of Glendon’s Technical Writing Program, in collaboration with Professor Candace Séguinot, Roberts has been a member of Glendon’s teaching staff for many years.

Left: Keynote speaker Jamie Roberts

In his address, Roberts outlined how IBM’s technical writers and translators work together, the technology used by the translators and the profession’s role within the company.

“The global economy results in some inscrutable translations on product descriptions and user manuals,” said Roberts. “The ‘I’ in IBM stands for ‘international’ and it is essential that we use accurate language and that we represent the company to the world applying understandable and precise terminology.”

Roberts added that IBM has to be sensitive to different cultures and avoid miscommunication. The company produces thousands of pages of translations every year in over 100 languages, and machine translations provide only "low fidelity" results, inappropriate for its needs.

Right: Translation student Elizabeth Desbiens (left) receives an award for professional excellence from Lyse Ward

“The notion of equivalence in translation is key,” said Roberts. “At IBM, equivalence is clear and unambiguous, but making a one-to-one match of a given concept is a big challenge.”

Like many other large, international companies, IBM is committed to World Wide Simultaneous General Availability. This means that new product documentation has to be available in all the targeted languages at the same time, which can only be achieved by employing many translators. “The need for translators in the future can only be ever-increasing," explained Roberts.

Professor Andrew Clifford, chair of the School of Translation, told the gathering that the field of translation – like so many other professions – is in transition as a result of a major demographic shift. While many practitioners are retiring, significant changes are also taking place in the work environment of translators.

Left: Translation almna Cynthia Martel is congratulated by Nancy McInnis

“Globalization and outsourcing of work are resulting in translations mostly being done through electronic means, at a distance or through machine translations,” said Clifford. “Today’s translators need to build a wide range of skills in order to succeed in this new, international workplace.”

Clifford acknowledged the ongoing support and close collaboration of the Association of Translators & Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO), and in particular, its president Nancy McInnis, who was actively involved in making the evening possible and was present at the event.

McInnis confirmed that students registered in the School of Translation can obtain a free membership in ATIO, with access to all its services, job postings, workshops and those all-important networking opportunities.

Each year, ATIO gives an award to an outstanding student in the Glendon program, with this year’s award for academic excellence going to Cynthia Martel, who graduated in the spring of 2009. Martel had previously worked as a paramedic, but with the arrival of her first baby in August she wanted a profession that would allow her to be available to her son. Translation seemed an ideal choice. Baby Elliot accompanied his mother to the award ceremony.

Right: ATIO award winner Chrystal Smith

The ATIO also awarded a research scholarship to fourth-year international student Chrystal Smith from Trinidad & Tobago. “The translation profession has wings,” said Smith. “It is your passe-partout, that master key that opens the door to an endless world of possibilities.”

The Network of Translators in Education (NTE) also chose Translation Night to give out an award for professional excellence to Glendon School of Translation student Elizabeth Desbiens. The award was presented by Lyse Ward of the NTE.

Left: Jennifer Ocquidant (left) with translation students gathering information about volunteering for Doctors Without Borders

Jennifer Ocquidant, translation coordinator and communications officer of the Canadian branch of Doctors Without Borders, was also on hand. She said her organization was always searching for volunteer translators with a double benefit: professional experience for new practitioners and much-needed translation services that the organization could otherwise not afford.

At the conclusion of the formal part of the evening, participants took advantage of the opportunity to reconnect with former classmates and professors, as well as network for possible work opportunities. “Translation is a small world and events such as these are of paramount importance for making connections,” said Clifford.

Submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny