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Yacht Racing Forum 2018, in Lorient

At the end of October, I attended the 2018 Yacht Racing Forum. Organised by Geneva-based MaxComm Communication, this year’s edition visited Lorient, in a part of Brittany that is marketed as the Bretagne Sailing Valley because of the huge impact that sailing has on the local economy (see the tweet below).

The Sailing Valley

Taking the forum to Lorient was an excellent decision, but taking it there just a fortnight before the start of the Route du Rhum was a master stroke. Thanks to the location and the timing, the organisers attracted dozens of the key players involved in the race, including a good number of the actual sailors.

Among those attending the forum just two weeks before their single-handed race across the Atlantic were two household French names, Armel Le Cléac’h and Loïck Peyron. Completing the star-studded line-up were some of the biggest names in the history of sailing, including former Route du Rhum and Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux (for my British readers unfamiliar with sailing, it was Michel who pipped Ellen MacArthur to win the 2001 Vendée Globe), Alain Gautier and Franck Cammas.

France and the rest of the world – the divide

Several talks addressed the divide between sailing in France and in the rest of the world and discussed how it can be bridged. The main differences that casual viewers will notice is that single-handed racing is far more popular in France than in the rest of the world.

The way French sailing operates to some extent in a bubble, separated from the rest of the world, is both a blessing and a curse for a French-English sailing translator. On the one hand it means that plenty of material is written in French. However, because French sailing attracts such a large domestic audience, it often seems like there is little interest in attracting a more global audience by translating material into English. When translation does take place, it is often a half-hearted effort, on a budget too small to produce the kind of quality that will be taken seriously.

Those in the French sailing industry clearly understand the importance of producing well-written material, as their French copy is always excellent. The challenge, for me, is to convince them that, just as they invest in professional writers for their French documents, they should do the same for their English translations if they want to attract more customers in the English-speaking world.

Offshore Olympic sailing

There was plenty of discussion about the World Sailing meeting that was taking place the following week, especially regarding which events would be added or removed to the programme for the Paris 2022 Olympic Games. Based on the discussions that took place in Lorient, the vast majority of people at the Yacht Racing Forum would have been delighted to hear World Sailing’s announcement that the Paris 2024 Olympics will include an offshore event.

The Nations Gold Cup

The forum is an opportunity for event organisers to showcase their events. This year, Mateusz Kusznierewicz, of the Star Sailors League, presented the Nations Gold Cup, a novel competition that seeks to tap into the way events like the FIFA World Cup bring together entire nations in support of their teams. National teams will compete against each other in one-design boats. The format of the qualifying competition will ensure that some emerging nations will take part in the final phase.

Innovations in rigging and hydrofoils

One of the many innovations showcased during the design symposium was the idea of using elliptical rigging. Jonathan Duval of Future Fibres presented research showing that elliptical rigging reduces drag. He also showed an excellent video demonstrating the strength of multistrand rigging. In offshore racing, marginal gains can make a huge difference in an offshore race lasting several weeks, so I’m sure it won’t be long before the world’s fastest yachts start adopting these new technologies.

As was the case two years ago in Malta, foiling remained a hot topic at the 2018 forum. Earlier in the year it had been announced that foiling monohulls would be used for the 2021 America’s Cup. The AC75 boats raised quite a few eyebrows when they were unveiled, and are bound to attract a lot of media interest when racing gets under way thanks to the innovative design, with one of the two foils hanging above the water.

Hydrofoils are now being fitted to more and more boats and are becoming more accessible. One of the companies in the exhibition area was SEAir, a French firm that manufactures RIBs that can foil smoothly over the water at speeds of just 15 knots.

The exhibition area

SEAir was just one of the many companies and organisations with a stand. One company presenting a particularly interesting and unique concept was ALL4ONE Consulting. Based in Belgium, ALL4ONE organises a business game based around the sport of sailing. Teams take part in a sailing race simulation and must work together to strike the right balance between taking risks and achieving goals.

The exhibition area is also an opportunity for me to meet my existing clients. This year, I was able to meet Charlie Carter at the Spinlock stand. Charlie had contacted me a few weeks earlier in the year asking me to translate the Spinlock’s trade guide.

Networking opportunities

As was the case two years ago in Malta, there was no shortage of networking opportunities, including during the coffee breaks, lunch breaks, the drinks reception, and the gala reception at the fabulous Cité de la Voile Eric Tabarly.

Sailing Valley tours

As I explained earlier, the venue was in the heartland of French sailing, and MaxComm made sure we made the most of our trip to the region. Its partner, Bretagne Développement Innovation, organised three tours of local companies operating in the sailing sector. I chose to go on the tour to Vannes as it meant I could visit some of the companies who work with Spindrift 2: North Sails, VPLP and Multiplast.

Looking forward to Bilbao 2019

The one negative side of going to Lorient is that getting there was quite a challenge for many of us. I had to fly to Roissy then take a train to Orly to get a connecting flight to Lorient. To make matters worse, the plane taking me to Paris on the way back was diverted to Quimper, so we had to travel there by road to get our flight.

Getting to Bilbao will be much easier, as the airport is much better connected to the rest of Europe. Expectations will be high after such an excellent, well-organised event in Lorient, but I’m sure the team at MaxComm will put on another great show next year in the capital of Biscay.


“Pain of the field” es lo de menos

Varios medios españoles y internacionales nos han ofrecido la noticia esta semana de que la web del Ministerio de Industria, Comercio y Turismo tiene una noticia en inglés sobre el nombramiento de un tal “pain of field” como miembro del Oficina Internacional de Pesas y Medidas. Este nombre raro es el resultado de la traducción automática del nombre de Dolores del Campo.

Una de las noticias más compartidas sobre el tema es bastante sorprendente: la de Euronews tiene un inglés muy deficiente, probablemente como resultado de una traducción automática.

Otra cosa que me ha sorprendido es que todos los medios de comunicación españoles que han hecho eco de la noticia tan solo hablan de la traducción automática al inglés, cuando resulta que en los tres idiomas cooficiales (catalán, gallego y vasco), también se ha traducido el nombre o el apellido, o ambos.*

Las versiones de la noticia en catalán y vasco

Las versiones de la noticia en catalán y gallego

(*Cuando escribí este artículo,tan solo se había corregido el nombre de Dolores del Campo en inglés. Ahora, se ha corregido en todas las versiones.)

Puesto que el euskera no se parece a ningún otro idioma que hablo, es más difícil para mi ver lo que ha pasado con la versión en dicho idioma, pero aún así, soy capaz de ver que la versión de la noticia en cuestión es un desastre, con paréntesis que no se cierran y sin la presencia del nombre “Dolores del Campo”. Un usuario de Twitter me ha dicho que su nombre también ha sido traducido al euskera, pero que la traducción significa algo como “Campo de Minas”.

Lo que pasa con las versiones en catalán, gallego y vasco es, según mi parecer, peor que lo que pasa con la versión en inglés. ¿Por qué? Porque, a diferencia de la versión en inglés, las versiones en los idiomas cooficiales no existen para que ciudadanos extranjeros puedan entender la noticia (todos ya entienden el castellano), sino para proteger los derechos lingüísticos de los propios ciudadanos españoles.

Si consultamos el resto de la web en catalán, encontramos errores de traducción en prácticamente todas las noticias. Me imagino que pasa los mismo en gallego y euskera. Entonces, ¿quién va a consultar una versión en lengua cooficial si es de tan pésima calidad? Nadie. Leerán la web en castellano. Entonces, ¿para qué existen las otras versiones?

Creo que existen simplemente para que el ministerio y el gobierno puedan fingir que les interesa una España plural que respeta su pluralidad lingüística. Pero lo único que han hecho es buscar la solución barata, sin preguntar a ningún usuario de dichos idiomas si el resultado es adecuado. Y no lo es.

Hace unos años, yo tenía que presentar un modelo a Hacienda y durante días no lo encontraba en su web. Lo estaba buscando en su web en catalán, puesto que es mi idioma de preferencia entre las lenguas de España. Al final, consulté la versión en castellano y lo encontré. Desde entonces, tan solo he utilizado la versión en castellano de la web de Hacienda porque, desgraciadamente, la versión en catalán me había dado problemas demasiadas veces.

Soy traductor al inglés, así que, económicamente, cuanto más se traduce al inglés mejor (siempre que sea con traductores humanos, claro). Pero los derechos lingüísticos son más importantes que mi bolsillo. La prioridad del Ministerio de Industria, Comercio y Turismo tiene que ser arreglar sus versiones vergonzosas en lenguas cooficiales y aparcar la versión en inglés si no tiene presupuesto para hacerlo bien.

Dada la cercanía de las lenguas catalana y gallega con la castellana, el uso de la traducción automática tiene sentido. Pero las traducciones automáticas siempre, PERO SIEMPRE, se tienen que revisar para evitar disparates como el que hemos visto esta semana.

En el caso de la versión en euskera, aunque no conozco este idioma, me imagino que la traducción automática no será tan útil, así que el ministerio tendrá que contratar un traductor si quieren mantener esta versión.

Es posible que el ministerio no tenga recursos para contratar a correctores para las versiones en catalán y gallego y a un traductor para la versión en euskera. Si es así (aunque me parece grave que el gobierno central no dedique recursos para el uso oficial de los idiomas cooficiales), más vale que borren las versiones en dichos idiomas, porque, como ya he dicho, actualmente tan solo sirven para hacer el ridículo.

Para acabar, vuelvo al tema de los medios de comunicación. ¿Cómo puede ser que los medios de comunicación españoles dan más importancia a los errores en inglés que a los errores en castellano? ¿Cuando habrá una noticia en un periódico español sobre las terribles traducciones a lenguas cooficiales de los webs de los ministerios? Es como si ya se ha asumido que el único idioma de España que tiene importancia es el castellano. Si a la prensa española le interesa más la traducción en inglés que la traducción a las lenguas nacionales, tiene un problema muy serio.

(Tal como comenté más arriba, ahora el nombre “Dolores del Campo” aparece correctamente en los tres idiomas. Sin embargo, las versiones en idioma cooficial de esta noticia y de otras en el mismo portal siguen sin corregirse. En la noticia catalana, por ejemplo, todavía aparece “Centre Español [sic] de Metrologia”, y la versión en euskera todavía tiene sus paréntesis muy raros.)


Off-topic: Non-racist white Namibians must stand up to racists

The following text is a letter I sent to three Namibian newspapers following my rather unpleasant experience last Sunday. At the time of writing it has not been published by any of them, but letters are usually published on a Friday, so I hope it will still get published.

I stood with the young boy, who was in floods of tears after his bike had been stolen. I and my future in-laws had just tried to chase after the thief. I called his father to explain what had happened. “Those people are troublemakers,” replied the father. “What does he mean by ‘those people’?” I thought to myself. This was back in 2014, when I’d only spent a couple of weeks in Namibia. Then it clicked. He was referring to black people, completely oblivious to the fact that everyone who was helping the boy, apart from me, was black.

Since then, as a white person I’ve often heard comments that I rarely seem to hear when I’m with my wife, who is black. Racist people who don’t know me obviously think they can air their pathetic, antiquated views when I’m around because I’m white. They assume I’ll agree with them, or at best that I’ll simply tolerate them. If I’m with my wife, who is black, I don’t tend to hear such conversations (though on the odd occasion I do).

This Sunday, my wife was away visiting family in the North and I was in Windhoek, so I spent the afternoon working and watching sport at a restaurant in the city centre. There was a group of people on the table next to me, and one of the guests got chatting to me. She was very excited to hear that I was from the city of York, in England, because her grandmother came from there. She seemed a pleasant enough lady at that stage.

Then I started to hear what kind of person she really was.

I was watching the Formula 1 on the TV, as was one of the men on her table. Both he and I were supporting Lewis Hamilton. Then, while they were talking about Hamilton, I heard the woman say, “He’s not even white.” Later, when they were discussing where he is from, I told them that his father was from Granada. “He should go back there,” she quipped.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! If she thinks a second-generation Briton with Caribbean ancestry should go “back” to where he is from, surely it follows that she, a third-generation Namibian with British ancestry, should go back to the UK?

Then it got worse. She started churning out nonsense about the differences between Caucasian and African brains. According to her, blacks have thicker skulls, and therefore less brain tissue, which explains why, according to her, blacks “can’t even fly planes” (strange, because every TAAG, Ethiopian or Kenya Airways pilot I’ve ever seen has been black).

Of course, there is not a shred of reliable evidence to support her ideas. And those ideas are extremely dangerous, because they are what fuelled the holocaust in Germany in the 1940s.

Next, the people at the table got ready to leave. What was I going to do? I knew she was going to come say goodbye to me because we’d been chatting earlier, but I couldn’t bring myself to smile, shake her hand and say, “Goodbye. It was nice meeting you.” I was far too angry by that point.

I told her how upset I was at what she’d said, and I told her she should go fly with Kenya Airways because she’d see black pilots (I could have said TAAG or Ethiopian too). She just said “Okay” and left.

The saddest part was that she had a four-year old daughter who heard everything she was saying about Africans and all her pseudo-proofs to support what she was saying. A whole new generation will grow up as racist as their predecessors if they keep hearing such nonsense.

I’m not sure I achieved much by challenging her. I’m sure she’ll be the same racist bigot when she goes to bed tonight. But if all decent Namibians, including white Namibians, stand up to the racists, they will start to realise they can’t get away with airing such views in public places, even if the only people who can hear them are white people. And if we reduce the number of spaces in which they feel they can get away with expressing such toxic views, fewer people will be infected by them.

Despite the title of this piece, all decent Namibians should take a stand against racism, but since white racists feel safe expressing their bigotry in the company of other whites, it is vital that decent whites stand up to them and make it clear that we will not tolerate it.


Financial translation CPD part 2: the 2018 Financial Translation Summer School in Brussels

After attending the 3rd ICEBFIT conference in Alicante then spending a few days with friends in the Barcelona area, I was glad to be escaping the scorching hot and humid conditions of the Mediterranean and jetting off to Brussels, where I could cool down a bit. Or so I thought… Turned out it was almost as hot, so I’d travelled half way around the world with a thick coat for nothing. And at times the heat felt worse, as northern Europe is far less prepared for it than the south, so there is often no air conditioning on public transport or in buildings.

Anyway, enough about the weather.

I was in the Belgian capital for part 2 of my financial translation CPD trip, at the 2018 Financial Translation Summer School (UETF), which is organised every even-numbered year by Société française des traducteurs (SFT) (non-members may attend). This year’s UETF was hosted by BNP Parisbas Fortis at its headquarters, conveniently located right in the heart of Brussels, just around the corner from the Central Station. The auditorium was excellent, the facilities top-notch and the two huge screens perfect for reading every last detail of presenters’ slides without squinting. A rather different experience from the dingy classrooms and noisy air conditioning units in Alicante a week earlier!

I had been a little apprehensive about going, as I expected the list of attendees to be dominated by translators who know financial reports like the back of their hand, translators who can tell you the ins and outs of the Basel III liquidity rules without consulting any notes. Would a translator who focused on macroeconomic reports feel out of depth in a sea of financial translators sensu stricto? With a price tag of €795, I didn’t want to go if I wasn’t going to learn anything relevant to my line of work.

Larry Cohen and Rosie Wells face off in the French-English slam, with Chris Durban watching over.

Larry Cohen and Rosie Wells face off in the French-English slam, with Chris Durban watching over. Photo by Bernhard Lorenz, used with permission.

Nevertheless, I was reassured by some of the items on the programme that were closely related to the work I do, especially the talk on tax policy (more on that later), and I’d read glowing reviews about the biennial event. Since I was attending another event in Europe just a week earlier (this was before my September move from Namibia to Scotland), I decided to give it a shot. Further reassurance of the event’s relevance to my line of work came when, a couple of weeks before the conference, I received the text for the French-English translation slam: an article from the Belgian economics and finance magazine Trends-Tendances about banking union in the euro zone. The subject matter was right up my street, as it contained the kind of discussion and analysis found in economics books and reports I’ve translated.

The UETF has already been lauded in blog after blog after blog. And this post is no different.

A unique event for translators

What makes the UETF so unique among events organised for translators is that most of the talks are not specifically about translation. Instead, they aim to educate translators about a particular subject or field in which they might work. The speakers included a journalist, an expert on the EU, an OECD tax policy adviser and senior figures at various companies and organisations in the field of finance (including the Belgian director of country services for French oil giant Total). The presentations covered the topic of finance in the broadest sense of the word.

The highlights reel

The UETF 2018 programme was so packed that, were I to write about every session, the post would become far too long, so I will mention just some of the sessions that stood out for me.

The French word doctor

Thursday and Friday morning began with short, 20-minute sessions called “Allo, docteur Termino” and “Word Doctor”, respectively. The speakers in these two sessions looked at specific strategies translators can use to make their target-language output sound more authentic and less like a translation.

On the Thursday, co-organiser Dominique Jonkers showed us various sentences he had worked on that contained forms of the English word support (sometimes as a noun, sometimes as a verb). Dominique argued that the word support is used far more frequently than the words that normally appear in its place in French translations: appuyer, supporter, appui(s).

After showing each English example sentence, Dominique asked audience members – especially those who work into French – to propose French translations that did not use the obvious, instinctive translations for the word support. The aim was to create a more authentic text that better reflected what a French author might have written. For each example, drawn from a real project he had worked on, Dominique listened to a few proposals from the audience before revealing the solution he had used in his project. His translations often had a completely different structure from the source text, but even to a foreign ear like mine, the end results clearly sounded more genuinely French.

Domnique’s alternative translations included épauler, aide, être entourés, contribuer à la realisation de, avaliser, and porter assistance à.

The English word doctor

On the Friday, it was the turn of English-speaking word doctor Martin Hemmings (whom I finally met in person, having previously only met him “virtually”). Martin explained that authentic, non-translated English texts frequently use what are called “embedded questions”.

Anyone who works with French and English will know that French uses far more nouns than English, and few things make an English text sound more like a translation than when they constantly use the “[noun] of the [noun] of the [noun]” structure. Martin showed examples of how embedded questions can often replace French nouns to create a more authentic-sounding English text. (By the way, the previous sentence includes an example of an embedded question, which sounds so natural you probably didn’t even notice it.)

Martin noted that restructuring the sentence to insert an embedded question usually forces the translator to take a step back and think about what the author means, which is always a good thing, since we translate ideas not words!

Let’s look at one of his examples. Martin showed us a source text that read as follows:

Les organisations devraient contrôler les droits d’accès au système comptable.

It would come as no surprise to see this translated as:

Organisations should control access rights to the accounting system.

This translation wouldn’t necessarily be wrong (though the usage of “control” is questionable). But is it what an English-speaking author would have written? Martin proposed the following translation instead:

Organisations should check who has access to the accounting system.

I think most English speakers would agree that the result sounds more natural. Furthermore, the solution underlines the point made about taking a step back. Had the context (which Martin had been privy to when he translated this sentence) been different, and the text had been discussing different levels of access, then the sentence might have been better translated as:

Organisations should check what level of access each member of the accounting department has.

That is why it is important to take a step back and to look at the overall context when using embedded questions not found in the source text. Translators using this strategy must be extra sure they understand what the source text means (there’s another embedded question!), but by doing so they can produce a more polished text.

Martin even gave examples of embedded questions that he had spotted in the slides of other English-speaking presenters in previous sessions, thus underlining the fact that English really did use this structure frequently, and that his examples weren’t merely the result of cherry-picking from a huge corpus.

The doctors’ prescriptions

If the Word Doctor sessions could be summarised in two sentences, they would be:

  • When translating the English word support into French, look for solutions other than appuyer, supporter and appui, according to the context.
  • When translating from French to English, look for opportunities to use embedded questions, especially if the sentence contains too many nouns (particularly the [noun] + de + [noun] structure).

Both of these sessions were useful for both English-speaking and French-speaking translators, since both of these tips can be turned on their heads:

  • When translating from French to English, look for opportunities to simplify the sentence by using forms of the word support.
  • When translating embedded questions from English to French, look to restructure the sentence, in many cases replacing the embedded question with a noun.


Second up on the opening day was Jean-Paul Servais (pictured below), who is President of the Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA), Vice-President of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) and a lecturer at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). Goodness knows how he finds the time to do all three!

Jean-Paul’s excellently prepared presentation explained what the FSMA does to protect consumers of financial products and what it has achieved. The clearest indication of the organisation’s success is that financial products are becoming less complex: between 2015 and 2017, the amount invested in financial products involving at least three mechanisms fell by a quarter as a proportion of total investments in financial products. Of course, less complex financial products is good news for translators who are tasked with explaining these mechanisms in another language!

Jean-Paul Servais explains what Belgian's Financial Services and Markets Authority does

Jean-Paul Servais explains what Belgian’s Financial Services and Markets Authority does

We learned that the FSMA engages in one of Chris Durban’s favourite pastimes: mystery shopping! But the FSMA uses mystery shopping to ensure that organisations that sell financial products comply with the regulations, so it’s a little different to what Chris Durban does in the unregulated translation sector.

Jean-Paul Servais briefly talked about the website Wikifin.be, a financial education programme that has had a whopping 7 million visits since its launch in 2013. Given these impressive viewing figures, it’s a shame that the site was under maintenance at the time of the presentation and is still under maintenance at the time of writing (August 2018). I look forward to visiting this promising resource once it is back on its feet.

The polyglot lawyer

According to Tom West’s company website, he is ATA-certified for translation from French, Spanish, German and Dutch to English and he has also studied Danish, Swedish, Portuguese, Afrikaans and Russian. Quite a polyglot then!

But despite this vast assortment of languages, Tom (pictured below) clearly knows his stuff in the area of law. Since he was addressing an audience of translators who all work with French and English, he demonstrated his expertise in legal terminology in those two languages, but anyone looking for evidence that he is just as knowledgeable in some of his other languages need only turn the pages (or check out the online previews) of his highly acclaimed Spanish-English Dictionary of Law and Business and Trilingual (French, German and English) Swiss Law Dictionary.

Tom, the polyglot lawyer

Tom, the polyglot lawyer

Tom West gave two presentations: one on the terminology used in French and English to describe different types of companies, and one discussing the implications of a new French law on the due diligence duties of companies. The content was excellent, and would be impossible to summarise in a small section of a blog post, but to give you a taste of what to expect if you ever attend one of his talks, I’d encourage you to read his excellent review of what for many of us is our go-to French-English legal dictionary, the Council of Europe French-English Legal dictionary. During his talks, he dealt with some of the points included in that article.

At last, a non-literary slam!

There’s no better way to wind down from a day at a translation conference than a good-old translation slam, but I think every one I’d ever been to before this one dealt with literary texts. Not that I don’t enjoy a literary slam, but since I am a non-literary translator, it made a refreshing change to see non-literary translators putting their reputations on the line in front of an audience of translators. Wednesday’s slam was French to English; Friday’s, the other way round. Well done to Larry Cohen (see the photo at the start), Rosie Wells (idem), Christèle Blin and Jeremy Fileul for being brave enough to defend their excellent translations in front of their peers.

All about the EU (and, of course, Brexit)

Brexit seems to have been the big story in the news for an eternity now, and with the UK still trying to negotiate a final deal, it was the subject, directly or indirectly, of three talks at UETF. Dutch writer and journalist Joris Luyendijk gave his views on “why it happened, how it happened, what happens now”, while Charles Grant, of the Center for European Reform, discussed “Brexit and its consequences”. The president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Brussels, Howard Liebman, meanwhile, focused more on what the European Union does.

Addressing VAT fraud

As I mentioned in the introduction, I had been worried UETF would focus on finance in a narrow sense, but the speakers dealt with a broad spectrum of related subjects, and it was perhaps David O’Sullivan’s presentation about measures to combat VAT fraud that was most closely connected to the kind of work I specialise in. Taxation is a central topic in the macroeconomic reports about developing countries that I translate and edit, usually for his own organisation, the OECD.

David O’Sullivan (pictured below) explained why VAT is such a common form of taxation, used by 170 countries, how the OECD helps to create standards to ensure that everybody pays what they should to the treasury, and how the explosion of international trade in services (including translation services!) has created challenges for policymakers to deal with. He also gave examples of tax-evasion schemes, which often fund organised crime, with one of his slides showed an excellent graphic illustrating how carousel fraud works. Finally, David outlined what governments must do to tackle VAT fraud and how new technologies can assist them in doing so.

David O'Sullivan on VAT fraud and losses

David O’Sullivan on VAT fraud and losses

Other sessions
I have mentioned just some of the sessions that stood out for me. But ask attendees what stood out for them and they might tell you about David Berenger‘s talk on how US shale gas will make up for the shortfall in oil supply in the coming years (budding translators looking for a specialism take note!), or maybe Jean-Luc Layon‘s overview of the French multinational oil giant Total, or one of the other presentations.

Filet américain in the lunchtime buffet

Filet américain at the lunchtime buffet

Networking opportunities

Opportunities to network were aplenty. Breakfast was available every morning for those who arrived early, followed by a mid-morning coffee break. Every day, we had a delicious lunch buffet, where I ticked tasting steak tartare off my bucket list.

(It was actually filet américain, but that’s close enough. I’ve never been brave enough to order it off a restaurant menu, lest I find it revolting and have to resort to Atkinsonian methods to hide my embarrassment at not being able to eat it. As it turned out, it was rather delicious.)

Autoworld has a beautiful collection of vintage cars.

Autoworld has a beautiful collection of vintage cars. We got the chance to wander round the magnificent collection before the gala dinner.


I’ve uploaded the full resolution versions of the car pictures so you can see them in all their splendour. Just click on the thumbnails to enjoy!

On the Wednesday evening, I had dinner with a group of translators in the heart of the old city, and on the Friday evening I went out for drinks with two translators while watching Belgium outplay Brazil in the World Cup quarter-finals. And then there was the delicious gala dinner at the fabulous Autoworld museum, which has a huge collection of the most splendid vintage cars.


The cars are arranged chronologically by decade. Here is the 1910s collection.


The high price tag for the event had the advantage of filtering out bottom-feeder translators and agencies, so most of the translators I was mingling with while enjoying the best of Belgian cuisine were serious ones willing to invest in their professional development, and therefore the kind of translators I’m inclined to work with.

My one disappointment with the networking was that there were few opportunities to chat with the industry speakers. As far as I know, the only non-linguists who were around during the networking sessions were the ones who had just given a presentation, so 95% of the time I found myself networking with other translators, just like I do at any other translation conference. Not that I see any way around this, as all the “outside” speakers were busy people who don’t have time to hang around and be pestered by translators. The solution for translators looking to get leads is to use the Q&A sessions to introduce themselves to the speakers, to use the coffee and lunch breaks to start a conversation with the speaker and get his or her business card, and then to follow up on that conversation after the event.

But generating leads is not the raison d’être of UETF. I probably won’t get any work directly from any of the speakers, but I’ve improved my expertise in finance, improved my raw translation skills thanks to the Word Doctors and the workshop, and I’ve networked with translators operating in a similar market to me. All these things will be beneficial to my career.

A lesson for other conference organisers

By inviting speakers from outside the translation sector, UETF offers two major benefits to those attending. First, the translators have an opportunity to mingle with people who desperately need high-quality translations and are willing to pay the price that such translations command. And second, the translators have access to insider knowledge in their specialist fields.

Most translation conferences do not focus on a particular genre, but organisers could still invite specialists who work in certain fields. A few already do. In fact, some of the most popular sessions held at the conferences organised by Mediterranean Editors and Translators (MET) have been workshops run by
a statistician and a medical doctor.

Since generic translation conferences are attended by people who specialise in a wide range of fields, it’s impossible for organisers to please everyone, but perhaps some of the larger conferences could run some parallel sessions presented by professionals working in a certain field. One or two more generic talks could take place during the same slot for those not interested in any of the fields being presented. Alternatively, these thematic sessions could be held as optional extra activities the day before the main conference kicks off.

Sign up for the next edition

At UETF 2018, the content was excellent and the delivery superb, so I would highly recommend that any English- or French-speaking translators who work in finance or related fields sign up for the next edition, in 2020, probably in Paris. And if you can’t wait that long, you could always attend the 2019 event in Switzerland organised by the Swiss Association of Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters.


Avis charged me an extra €345.63 for returning a car two days early

Picture this scenario. A company hires me to work for them in house for a month. I ditch my normal per day rate and give a special price for the entire month. The contract specifies that it is a special rate for a full month.

In the end, the company decide they do not need my services for the final week, and they let me leave early.

What should I charge the company? I think most people would expect me to charge the original fee. After all, I booked time in my agenda for that final week and might not find other projects to take up the time.

But what if I told the client that because they were not using my services for the final week, I was going to charge then four and a half times the original price? What would the client think of my business? Would they ever use my services again? Would they recommend my services to other potential clients?

My bad experience with Avis

This is what happened to me when I hired a car from Avis.

I needed a car from 26 April to 16 May, and found a great price with Avis, at just €98.11. Adding a few extra days did not change the price, so given the frequency of strikes in France, I decided to extend the booking to 18 May, so that if my flight got cancelled I would still have the car for the extra two days.

The booking included the following clause:


For those who don’t speak French, it says “You shall not be refunded for the days that you do not use the car”.

This made perfect sense. If my flight went ahead as scheduled, then by returning the car on 16 May, I’d pay the same price as in the original booking and wouldn’t receive a refund.

Things turned out rather differently.

Unlike the conditions stated on the original booking, the conditions I signed when I went to collect the car said that the price was subject to hiring the car for at least 21 days. Yes, I realise that I should have queried this when I collected the car, but I’d already tried to check it would be fine and had been reassured by the above condition printed on my original booking. Sadly, the part about the minimum of 21 days was not among the three sections that I had to initial, otherwise I might have spotted it.

I returned the car, and thought everything was in order, but when I got back home and checked my credit card statement, I noticed a charge of €345.63, even though I thought I’d already paid everything I had to pay. It’s a good thing I checked the credit card statement, as I received no e-mail informing me of the additional charges until after I asked for clarification.

Of course, I’ll learn the lesson and in future I won’t return a car early without explicitly checking with the car hire company first. In this particular case, I did mention to the member of staff at the counter in Lyon that I was planning to return the car early, but I only mentioned it in passing, and did not specifically ask if it would result in a higher charge. It didn’t even occur to me that a company would charge more for an early return. It just didn’t seem logical.

Were Avis within their rights to make the additional charges? Perhaps. But it seems a strange way to treat one’s customers.

By returning the car early, I was making the car available to be hired by other customers. There was plenty of space in the company’s car park, so I can’t for the life of me work out why they needed to charge me an additional fee for returning the car early. And not just a small fee – one that made the total price four and a half times more expensive than the original price!

If I ran any kind of company that hired out any kind of product and a customer wanted to return that product early, I would always allow them to do so, and would never charge them extra to do so.

Fortunately many other car hire companies agree with me. Here’s what some other companies say:


Can I return the vehicle early?

You can return your hire early with no penalty however if your reservation was pre-paid you won’t get a refund of any rental days you have not used.


Can You Return a Rental Car Early?

At Enterprise, we do not charge customers more for returning a car early, and you will only be charged for the days you had the vehicle (excluding prepaid reservations).


Q: What happens if I return the car earlier/later?

A: In case you return the car earlier than the specified drop-off date and time, please note that there will be no refund.

In case you return the car later than the specified drop-off time and date, please note that there will be a grace period of 29 minutes. In case you do not return the car within this period, you will be charged a full day of rental, at the current rate.

(The latter is pretty similar to what Avis’s conditions said, but I know from experience that Firefly don’t charge you extra if you return the car early.)

So, with Europcar, Enterprise and Firefly, you usually pay exactly the same price for returning the car early, and you never pay more.

Had I been charged a small fee, I wouldn’t have been so indignant, but having been charged an additional €345.63 simply for returning the car early, therefore causing no inconvenience to the car hire company, I’ll probably not be hiring a car from Avis again.


Financial translation CPD part 1: the 3rd ICEBFIT conference in Alicante

I have just returned from attending two events related to financial translation: the 3rd International Conference on Economic, Business, Financial and Institutional Translation, at the University of Alicante, and the Summer School for Financial Translators, in Brussels. This post is about the first of the two.

I had already attended the first conference in 2014, and although it was very academic, many practitioners also attended, including representatives of several international institutions. One speaker from a major international institution did an excellent talk about recruitment processes in institutions, and after I spoke to her and sent a CV, I began receiving interesting projects at good rates. For that reason alone it had been worth my while attending the conference.

The headline act this year was Chris Durban, who spoke on “Dichotomies, differentiators and predictors. What mystery shopping can teach us about successful corporate translation”. Unfortunately I arrived late after TAP Air Portugal cancelled one of my flights, so I missed most of the opening day, including Chris’s presentation and that of well-known Spanish financial translator Javier Gil González, who spoke on “Emerging areas of work for financial translators” (voted best presentation by those who attended the conference).

On the final day, Ondrej Klabal and Michal Kubanek of Palacky University Olomouc (Czech Republic) presented research that showed how translation students produced better translation when they were exposed in advance to some kind of professional discourse on the same broad subject matter, either in the form of a TV interview or in the form of a newspaper article.

Two days earlier, Defeng Li of the University of Macau also presented research on preparation, but this time for conference interpreters rather than translators. The researchers found that interpreters who were given preparation material plenty of time in advance, allowing them to prepare properly, performed better than those who received no preparation material at all. No surprise there. What was most interesting about the team’s findings, however, was that interpreters who were given only 10 minutes to read their preparation material actually performed worse than those who had no preparation time at all. Analysis using eye-tracking technology suggested that those who received last-minute material were too distracted to interpret properly, because they were looking through their glossaries while simultaneously trying to listen to the speaker and translate what they were saying.

All but one of the presentations I was able to attend following my late arrival were by speakers affiliated to universities, so it felt like the “institutional” aspect of the conference had been neglected a little this year. This made the event less attractive to practitioners. Although the conference was well organised and many of the topics were interesting, before deciding whether to attend the next edition I will look carefully at the programme and weigh up whether I will get a good return on my investment. If the organisers can attract more institutional speakers, like they did in 2014, then I’ll almost certainly sign up again. If not, I’ll probably only go if I happen to be in the area around the same dates for another event.

This year I was attending another event less than a week later: the Summer School for Financial Translators. More on that in my next post…


Windows updates: “Requires a restart to finish installing”

The latest major Windows update, version 1803 (but this solution applies to other versions too), wouldn’t install on my computer. On the Windows update dialogue window, it constantly said “Requires a restart to finish installing”, even though I’d restarted the computer several times.

I eventually found the solution in the message by dckeks on this forum.

The first scan he suggests came back clean. I then entered the second command and restarted, and I was then able to install the update.

He provides additional instructions in a later post if the first two methods don’t work.


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CPD at sea!

As a translator who has now been specialising in sailing for over three years, I thought it was about time I spent some time out on the water myself, learning how to sail and seeing first-hand what all the terms I use mean, so I signed up to Good Hope Sailing Academy‘s Competent Crew course. We had some theory classes, but it was mainly a practical course, out on the water.

The first two days we didn’t get far out of the harbour, because the wind was too strong for us novices, so we spent quite a lot of time on the theory. On day 3, however, we sailed much further, and on day 4 we went right out to Robben Island. The experience has been thoroughly enjoyable, thanks in no small part to the other students and our excellent skipper/teacher Digby.

As you can see, the views of Table Mountain and the surrounding hills from the water are pretty awesome!

A brief moment to relax while heading back towards Cape Town on a starboard tack.

A brief moment to relax as we close-hauled back towards Cape Town on a starboard tack.

Terminology was an important part of the course, which is one of the reasons why I signed up. The terms we learned were related to the parts of the boat, the names and parts of the sails, the points of sail and manoeuvres, among others. Many of the terms were ones that I was already familiar with, having used them in my translations, but it was helpful to see those terms in practical use, and it was reassuring to hear the captain use certain terms and expressions in the same way that I had used them in my translations, confirming that I’d used good sources when researching terminology and collocations. For example, hearing the skipper say “Shake out the reef” provided welcome reassurance that I use the correct expression to refer to the removal of a reef (i.e. a fold) from the mainsail. I also learned dozens of new terms, such as cleats (fittings used to secure lines), stanchions (the vertical posts to which the guard rails are attached), clew (the corner of a sail between the foot and the leech, or back edge) and to pinch (to sail too close to the wind, as a result of which the sail begins to flap).

Translators will tell you that one of the causes of a poor translation is that the translator has not understood the text. Thanks to this Competent Crew course, I will better understand the texts I will be translating and will be more aware of how to use the terms and expressions in English. I also believe it will help me better engage with conference attendees when I attend sailing conferences, since I will be able to better understand the conversations between session and participate in them.

On day 3 I was feeling a little unwell, and at one point I actually felt like I didn’t want to ever sail again! But I caught the bug again on day 4, and perhaps at some point in the future I’ll sign up to the Day Captain course!