My travel started on United Nations Day, October 24, a fitting day, I mused, for an interpreter to make the six-hour journey from Philadelphia to San Diego for the ATA’s 53rd Annual. I could have done without that 4 am early start, though. On the first of the two flights I was jolted out of my sleepy stupor when I heard a resolute “Carlota”! And, behold! there was colleague Tony Guerra greeting me from the distance. Sharing lunch with him later in the Phoenix connection was a welcome break in the long trip. Upon arrival in San Diego we were welcomed by deliciously balmy weather, and were soon checking in at our hotel after a short taxi ride.
The Hilton San Diego Bayfront was a beehive of activity, with a fair number of well known faces and plenty of new ones. There was excitement and expectation in the air, with over 1.800 attendees estimated to arrive for the event. Registration was brisk and efficient. The program of activities and sessions was mind boggling. There were speakers from all over the world and the conference schedule offered sessions on every conceivable subject related to interpretation and translation. There was no way I could do it all. This I remedied by ordering the DVD-ROM on the full proceedings that the ATA put out.
The Welcome Reception was held at the Promenade Patio where the tables were set out on the lawn under a canopy of stars. The food selection was excellent and varied. Pasta and taco tables were two of the many choices. Attendees were also served tasty hors d’oeuvres and a well stocked bar effectively encouraged socializing. It cannot be denied that food is an all-important part of any event of this kind, and that laid out by the ATA at this conference was of superb quality, indeed. Everyone enjoyed the generous continental breakfast each morning. At the Spanish Division Open House, held at the Sapphire Ballroom of the hotel immediately after the opening reception, delectable desserts were offered to all members. Here I got a chance to reconnect with friends and acquaintances from past conferences and to meet a number of new people as well.
Interpreting Trauma is one of the sessions I found most sobering and informative. The speaker, Christiane Abel, addressed her audience with an account of her experience as an interpreter for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, ICTR. It was fascinating to learn how she coped with the deeply disturbing testimonies heard from survivors of the horrific genocide. We heard of the need to focus the mind and shut out emotion, and of how, surprisingly, the interpreter can after some time function purely technically and render a good interpretation. At the end of the session a couple of attendees in the audience who had interpreted in comparable situations shared their experiences.
A session which specially caught my interest was Consecutive 2.0 – New Technology for an Old Technique or “An Introduction to Sim-Consec” by Franz Poechkacker. The session reviewed technology-assisted interpreting and dedicated some time to the digital pen, a device that can be used either as an ordinary pen for taking notes during consecutive interpretation, or as a recorder that allows the user to record, listen and interpret without depending on note taking. I found it a novel idea that might take some getting used to but could be extremely helpful. One does wonder, though, how protected confidentiality can be if an interpreter can walk away after an interpreting assignment keeping the information on his “pen”. This could become an issue in some settings. From what I understand there is no official restriction in any court. Portability and precision are two of the advantages of the digital pen.
The day time sessions were followed by evening events. I attended a lively dinner organized by the Spanish Division at a San Diego restaurant.
On another evening the Interpreters Division had their celebratory dinner at the Sevilla Tapas Bar. A DVTA board member, Maria Weir, was largely responsible for organizing the event , although she was unfortunately unable to attend. On that same evening I was invited to an event hosted by CETRA at the hotel. I went with Anne Connor, another DVTA Board member. Trying to avoid burning the candle at both ends, my intention was to stay just for a short while. However, the success of the event and the animated conversation with colleagues kept me up later than ever.
Two of the sessions I will not easily forget. The first was Gangs and Guns. Julie Rexwinkel gave us a very comprehensive and graphic description of the meanings of tattoos on prison inmates as well as information regarding gangs, segregation, guns and other weapons that are commonly used in state prisons systems. The second, Interpreting Slang and Taboo Language for the Courts, was certainly an eye-opener that gave me more terminology than I bargained for. Speaker Alfonso Villaseñor’s colorful vocabulary, and his expressive delivery, surely beats that of an English sailor! I am tempted now to look for opportunities to use some of it myself.
The Book Launch Celebration of Found in Translation, by Nataly Kelly, highlighted the importance of translation and interpretation in our world today and its impact on the every day life of those who practice it.
Understandably, super storm Sandy became a matter of some concern to many at the conference. As of day two the weather channel was frequently checked and calls made home to discuss the advisability of an earlier return home, under the likelihood of flights being canceled.
This 53rd ATA conference will possibly be remembered by many as the “Sandy Conference”, especially by those of us who returned home to power outages and flooding. However, the hurricane did not dim the success of an extraordinary program. Benefits from the many activities and information sessions were reaped by all. The exhibits were outstanding too, and I am now the happy owner of West’s latest legal dictionary and of Witness, the selected poems of Mario Benedetti, in its dual Spanish-English version. The poems were translated into English by Louise B. Popkin. Having the two languages side by side makes this book a stupendous way to appreciate how one adapts to the other and to quickly pick up colloquial expressions.
I look forward to San Antonio next year and sincerely hope that no weather event will interfere in our plans to stay an extra day or two and enjoy this lovely city.