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Glendon’s School of Translation Celebrates International Translation Day


The Glendon School of Translation marked International Translation Day on September 30th with its annual festive gathering of students, faculty, alumni and prominent practitioners.

The theme of this year’s International Translation Day was “Working Together”, with the keynote address of Glendon’s Translation Night on the topic of “Cooperation Between Translators and Technical Writers at IBM”, given by course director Jamie Roberts.

Right: ATIO's Nancy McInnis (on the right) congratulates Cynthia Martel

In his welcoming address, Director of the School of Translation, Professor Andrew Clifford stated 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 translators’ work environment.

“Globalization and outsourcing of work are resulting in translations mostly being done through electronic means, at a distance”, said Clifford, “or through machine translations. 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 ATIO – the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario – and in particular, its president, Nancy McInnis, who was actively involved in making the evening possible and present at the event.

Left: Elizabeth Desbiens (on the left) receives award from Lyse Ward of RTE

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 also gives an award to an outstanding student in the Glendon program. This year’s ATIO award for academic excellence went to Cynthia Martel, who graduated in the spring of 2009. Martel had worked as a paramedic in the past, but with the arrival of her first baby in August, she wanted to have a profession which would allow her to be regularly available to him. Translation was her choice par excellence. Baby Elliot accompanied his mother to the award ceremony.

Right: ATIO award winner Chrystal Smith

ATIO also awarded a research scholarship to 4th-year international student Chrystal Smith from Trinidad and Tobago, enrolled in the Translation program. “The translation profession has wings“, commented 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 - Réseau des traducteurs en éducation (RTE) – also chose Translation Night to give out an award for professional excellence to Glendon School of Translation graduate, Elizabeth Desbiens. The award was handed over by Lyse Ward of the RTE.

Jennifer Ocquidant, translation coordinator and communications officer of the Canadian branch of Doctors Without Borders - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – was also on hand during the evening. She confirmed that her organization is always searching for volunteer translators, with the double benefit of professional experience for new practitioners, while providing the much-needed translation services that MSF could otherwise not afford.

Left: Keynote speaker Jamie Roberts

Keynote speaker Jamie Roberts straddles school and industry by teaching in the Glendon Technical Communication Program, as well as working for the translation service of International Business Machines (IBM). In fact, he was one of the founders of the college’s Technical Writing Program, in collaboration with Professor Candace Séguinot, and has been a member of Glendon’s teaching faculty for many years.

In his address, Roberts stated that for the evening he was only representing IBM, in order to outline how the company’s technical writers and translators work together; the technology used by the translators and the profession’s role at IBM. “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: Jennifer Ocquidant (on the left) with translation students gathering information about volunteering for Médecins Sans Frontières

“The notion of equivalence in translation is key”, added 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”.

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 networking for possible work opportunities. “Translation is a small world”, commented Clifford, “and events such as these are of paramount importance for making connections”.

Article submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny

Published on October 5, 2009