This time last year I wrote a blog post called Conferences – why go?, in which I discussed the benefits of going to conferences in a more general sense. I did always intend on writing a blog post about METM17, last year’s edition of the Mediterranean Editors and Translators meeting. It was a brilliant opportunity and I learned things at METM17 that I’ve been able to put into practice since then. I knew I had to go back this year, if nothing else, to thank the people who had given me excellent advice and ideas.
METM18 was held in Girona a little under a week ago and, as I did last year, I took lots of notes (in the fabulous MET notebook we were given in our conference pack!). I have since been thinking about how I might be able to use what I learned to improve the quality of my work and progress in my career.
This year Simon Berrill, Victoria Patience and Tim Gutteridge presented a workshop called Translation revision and beyond. Tim Gutteridge and Simon Berrill have written articles on their collaboration so, for more information on how they work together, go and read them! The general idea is that you review short extracts of each other’s work and this way you each benefit from each other’s experience and insight in the long term. I was interested in this idea because I, like many other translators, have found it quite difficult to find training opportunities which are relevant enough for my day-to-day work. There are language courses, translation theory courses, vocabulary books, accounting for freelancers, etc… All of these are very useful, but I don’t think there is anything quite like getting feedback from people in your language combination and who perhaps work in the same or similar fields. Having felt a real benefit just from attending the workshop, I decided to try and find two other Portuguese into English translators. There’s nothing set in stone just yet, after all, I only got home 4 days ago, but we’ve got the ball rolling so watch this space!
Motivation and inspiration
I’m sure I’m not the only one who comes away from MET meetings feeling inspired, full of new ideas and renewed determination to be the best I can be. When I say inspiration, I’m not just talking about plans for CPD or a new marketing strategy, I’m talking about the people I have met there. This is only the second METM I’ve been to, but at both, I’ve met and heard talks by brilliant, inspiring translators and editors. One of this year’s keynote speakers, Daniel Hahn, was particularly inspiring for me as he works in my exact language combinations and area of specialisation. His talk on recognising the importance of editors was interesting to me, as I’m currently in the middle of translating a novel from Portuguese. Also, very thought-provoking for me was a presentation about the translator-editor collaboration. It was interesting to see how the speakers discussed and negotiated the nuances of the text they had worked on together, and it reminded me of the kinds of decisions I’m currently making in my work.
Networking and marketing
This point is perhaps the least surprising, but I think it’s definitely worth mentioning. Instead of telling you what I think METM18 has done for me in terms of marketing and networking, I feel it’s more helpful to talk about how METM17 has benefited me in these areas.
One important and also very fun part of METM is the OFF-MET activities: these are networking dinners and social activities between the conference workshops and presentations. I could go on and on about the many enlightening conversations I had at last year’s METM, all of which have helped me during the last year. Instead, I’m just going to tell you about one. Last year I went to an OFF-MET lunch with some fellow translators and editors, the theme of which was basically marketing and finding clients. Prior to this, my workflow was steady, but it wasn’t all in the areas I wanted to work in, and I felt I needed to find more clients in the areas I’m interested in and perhaps let go of those whose long-term vision didn’t align with mine. At this lunch, there was a translator who gave the group advice which was absolutely instrumental in me being able to reorganise my work life and to find new clients. This was that you don’t have to just advertise and wait for clients to come to you. I remember this brilliant translator saying, “When was the last time you directly contacted a potential new client?”. My answer was that I never had. I’d advertised in a general way, I’d made it known that I’m available without being specific and that had got me by. He said, “So next time you’ve got nothing to do, pick up the phone, write an email.”
So, I did, and it worked. One of the first things I did when I got home was I sketched out a mad, intertwining spider diagram based around two main questions: what do I want to translate? and who needs those translations? Then I started to make a list of companies, organisations, publishers, etc… who I could contact. I researched the entities on this list and contacted the ones I felt most appropriate. I’ve done this every month since then and I’ve seen that, although not all of them get back to you straight away, eventually some do.
Getting more involved
In addition to thinking about what I’ve learned and how I can use this to progress in my career, I’ve also been thinking about how I might be able to get more involved in MET. After all, MET is what it is because of the work of its council members and other volunteers. All of the sessions, all of the workshops, the materials used, the venues, everything you see, hear, touch, eat and drink at METMs are the fruits of the council and volunteer’s labour. One of the council members said if there’s something we’d like to see more of, get involved! So that’s what I want to do. MET feels like a big community of translators where everyone works together towards the goal of improving oneself and the industry standards, and that is definitely something I want to be part of.
These are just a few of the many benefits of going to METM18 and METM17. Of course, there are many things I haven’t covered here, like the friends I’ve made, the interesting and funny conversations about cultural differences, and the common feeling among translators of ‘otherness’, just to name a few. I’d be interested to read about other people’s experiences at METMs or other conferences, so please tell me in the comments!
If you’re going to METM19, I will see you in Split, Croatia next year!