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Nov 20, 2014

Well MET near Madrid.

It's been nearly three weeks since I returned from my first meeting of the Mediterranean Editors and Translators association, METM14. In that time I've wondered how to share all that I brought back from the gathering, and I'm afraid I still don't know how to put it all into words. I've become increasingly reluctant to participate in translation conferences in the past few years, took a break of about a year and a half from them, because too many had become venues for pushing a corporatist agenda which I feel has little to do professional language service of real social value. The unexpectedly excellent IAPTI conference in Athens last September marked my return, and what pleased me most there was the clear focus of the event program on the professional practice of freelance translators and interpreters. No sales pitches, no Linguistic Sausage Producers explaining their multiphase chop-and-grind workflows to redefine quality as a complex function of engineering incompetence, empty promises, pseudoscientific LQA scores and extrusion rate. MET's outstanding 10th annual meeting in San Lorenzo de El Escorial near Madrid was an exquisite dessert after the feast in Athens: once again I had the great pleasure to meet a number of professional peers with experience and competence well beyond my own, some who have been mentors of mine for years with their contributions for practical corpus linguistics in translation and other topics dear to me.

And once again I had the delight of a program that was, for me, truly something completely different. In all the professional conferences I have attended in the past 15 years, this was the first one where a substantial number of attendees were serious, professional editors. Many translators take on "editing jobs" for better or worse, but at METM14 I was surrounded by people who pursue this activity with a professional seriousness and rigor which was quite frankly new to me. And their perspectives on some matters which are routine in my own work seemed more than a little weird at first.

I was definitely out of my comfort zone on the pre-conference workshop day as I sat in an excellent session by Mary Ellen Kerans on corpus-guided decision-making. A paper that she co-authored years ago with two other colleagues gave me my first exposure to the effective use of corpora for my translation work, but I had always applied these techniques from my own rather settled perspective as a translator. On that day, I saw how editors use the same techniques for very different purposes, and after about a half hour of considerable confusion, I enjoyed surprising new insights in how I might improve my own work by considering these other perspectives.

The editors' perspectives continued to alternately confuse and inspire me for the next two days. I learn something at most conferences, but usually what I walk away with are ideas that are not too far from my usual professional comfort zone. Here I was challenged in new and different ways, and I really loved that. I had been aware of MET for a number of years because of a few colleagues in Stridonium who were members, and I've looked at the conference program off and on for about five years and was always impressed by their focus on peer-to-peer teaching, but what I found was really well beyond my good expectations.

I attended the event with another colleague from Portugal who is relatively new to translation; she was a little nervous about her first professional conference, and although I expected she would gain some useful insights, I did not really know what would await a new professional at METM14. Any concerns were quickly dispelled; I was extremely pleased to see how many new professionals were welcomed and encouraged to participate by so many with more experience than I am likely to gain still in what remains of my professional life.

My friend was thoroughly inspired by the people she met and the presentations and workshops she attended, and on the long drive home after the last day she put together puzzle pieces from a number of talks and hit me with new ideas for teaching translation support technology to new users that still have my head spinning and will be the foundation for my next book, which I hope to release by early next year. This was just one of many occasions where I have found that newcomers to a profession can contribute some of the most important insights for improvement.

Defenders of the Portuguese language at METM14
Next year's annual meeting (METM15) will be held at the end of October in Coimbra, Portugal at the university there. If you are getting tired of the same old topics presented by the same old suspects and programs clearly driven by agendas at odds with the ethics and interests of freelancers and staff professionals who put quality first, then you may want to join me next October in Portugal for another healthy serving of professional dessert.

Emma Goldsmith has blogged a good overview of the sessions she attended at METM14, which can give you a feel for some of what you may have missed. The conference program offers more, less personal information. But don't rely on the impressions of others; come next year to a great event in a great country and then tell others yourself what this unusual mix of extreme professional competence has to offer.



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