Mediterranean Editors & Translators Meeting 2015
Versatility and readiness for new challenges
Faculty of Arts and Humanities University of Coimbra
Coimbra, City of Knowledge. Five hundred years before the birth of Christ the town was already inhabited by the Turduli Oppidani, an old Lusitanian people that was later on sent away to Hispania Ulterior (nowadays Galicia and Castilla y León, Spain) by the yet to be known Julius Caesar. In 1143, the city became the first capital city of the now Kingdom of Portugal, and most people still ignore that, to this day, technically IT STILL IS the Portuguese capital city, as it’s the only one ever declared as such in official documents that were never amended. In short, throughout the ages the city has had vital national and international importance, mostly due to its 725 year-old university. As the proud born and bred Conimbricense that I am, I can say we’ve been around for quite some time.
Come 2015 and Coimbra is still a matter of lore and legend: its University, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the 10tholdest in the world is a case study both in Portugal and abroad. Its students are also recognized worldwide for many characteristics, but especially due to the facts that they were the reason behind the creation of Amnesty International and also because the only two Portuguese Nobel laureates have graduated from the University of Coimbra. Moreover, the city has some sort of unnatural magnetism on people. Ask most students of Coimbra where do they intend to go after graduating and the answer will seldom vary: “Go?! I’m not going anywhere, I’m staying in Coimbra!” Ask any taxi driver from any part of the country to describe the symbol of the Academy and the answer will be unanimous. Finally, and as a curiosity, one of Coimbra’s students proposed for the first time in 1878 that images could be transmitted at a considerable range. You know, as in miles away. In some sort of device, like a box. Not a massive box, but one that could fit inside your living room, for instance.
It’s not too surprising then that MET decided to choose the venues that are Coimbra and its University for this year’s MET Meeting, which I attended almost a month ago (I’ve been so busy with college, work and driving lessons that only today did I start writing about it). I have recently become a MET associate as I believe it is indeed a noble and serious association, not to mention its online resources are plentiful and relevant. Then, I found out that my colleague and friend Andrew Morris would be attending the event as a speaker, so my hometown + meeting with new and old colleagues + learning = where do I sign?
The Arts building was the obvious choice, especially since it is so close to most main attractions of the city; curiously enough, my first ever college test was aeons ago right next door in the Faculty of Law, so some good memories were sure to come to mind. This part of town is obviously the most emblematic, and even though I didn’t have that much time to get to know to program in full I decided to attend the “Getting started in medical translation” workshop included in the Meeting’s attending fee, and which was presented by Anne Murray and Barberà de la Conca. I pre-registered on Thursday and was immediately given a quite nice woven MET bag with maps of Coimbra, a pen, several leaflets, a note book and a handy MET Meeting guide, along with my badge for the event. I didn’t have that much time to look at the program, and soon enough the guide would prove to be my best ally during the event.
Day 1 – Friday, October 30
My day started at about 9 AM with the “Getting started in medical translation” workshop. Anne Murray was concise but clear, and I’m all in favour of new information and translation opportunities, which is why I decided to delve a bit further in medical translation. Like Anne said, you don’t actually need to be a doctor or have medical experience in order to become a fine medical translator, even if it helps. What really matters is your dedication and endless search for information, be it with fellow colleagues or through documentation. However, this field is so ubiquitous that I’m still not sure which sub-area I like the most (as I usually choose between one and three in order to excel; again, we’re translators, and not experts at everything followed by an ‘etc.’), but I’m guessing that my time schedule these days won’t let me even think about starting doing medical translations as I need to read and research a lot before doing so.
During the workshop’s coffee break I got to personally acquaint some staple Portuguese colleagues like Allison Wright, Paula Pinto Ribeiro and Rui Sousa, all of whom are directly involved with APTRAD, our very own national association for translators. APTRAD‘s work so far is staggering! In less than one year, what started as a response to some other lenient and basically uninterested Portuguese translator association soon started to make agreements and partnerships with companies and universities, call on mentors and lately organise a massive international event with some of the industry’s most relevant names. I will certainly become an APTRAD member come January 2016 or sooner, as I acknowledge that Paula & Co.’s work is simply making a difference, not to mention that it can obviously help me as well as a translator.
After the end of the workshop, yet another coffee break and time for lunch in the nearby Museu Nacional Machado de Castro. Not only it is an important museum as it has one of the city’s best views, so dining al fresco was the way to go. The second half of the first day started with Laurence Anthony‘s “Journeying among the disciplines in language consulting: a personal account”. This plenary talk interested me as I never did an editing job, so I was quite curious to what I could learn from this expert. I was taken aback with how precise and certain you have to be when doing such jobs. Fortunately, Mr. Anthony came up with his proprietary software Antconc, a freeware analysis toolkit for concordancing and text analysis. This talk certainly made me think even further that we are misunderstood and mistreated for the professionals that we are, and I’ll certainly try to learn more about editing.
Coffee break came once again, and afterwards I attended “The translator’s invisible toolkit”, lectured by Andrew Morris.
Curiously enough, I was the third to arrive to an empty classroom, which ended up with people standing and sitting on the ground for the lack of chairs for so many attendees; clearly a success. In short, and using his skills as a weathered speaker, Andrew explained why is it that we sometimes fail to accomplish what we propose to do business and personal wise. Instead of focusing on our surroundings, we should start looking inside us and introspect until there’s nothing that escapes our grasp, as that way we’ll certainly gather more experience and more complex things will then start to make sense. Nothing too physical, and yet there’s food for thought here.
I and Andrew decided to go for a beer or two and a Fado night at a nearby Fado cathedral, A Capela, which was a disappointment mostly thanks to the raspy voice of the singer, not to mention his sub-sub-par English. The musicians were mighty fine, even if out of tune. As I am a Fado aficionado, I thought it honestly couldn’t get any worse, but then came the singer, and the trio ruined what could have been a perfect depiction of one of Coimbra’s most valued treasures. Contrary to popular belief, Fado is only performed in two cities, Coimbra and Lisbon, and both couldn’t be more apart from each other: the guitars are not the same, nor is their tuning, which creates two very different sounds; Lisbon’s Fado is
sung by men and women alike, while Coimbra’s is strictly sung by men; the first is applauded and cheered vividly by the audience, while the latter is not to be applauded or cheered at all. Finally, while Lisbon’s Fado is more oriented to the popular masses and is usually jolly, Coimbra’s Fado is mostly about the life of the students, longing, yearning, the sadness of departure, melancholy and nostalgia (you’ll see what I mean at the end of the article). It does have merry songs, of course, but they’re a drop in the ocean. As I explained Andrew the differences, the show started and we watched for no longer than 4 songs or so, after which we left, me clearly embarrassed. Thanks for showing a foreigner how to not have fun, A Capela.
After that, it was time to call it a day and head home to get ready for the second conference day. So far I was really happy to be back to my city and to my first alma mater, even though I realized very early on that Law was really not my forte, blame it on Law & Order and Boston Legal if you will. I stayed at my mom’s for the 4 days, and funny enough sentences like “Oh, dear!” or “Well, as long as you’re happy with whatever it is that you do…” means that she still doesn’t have a clue about what I do after almost 7 years in the business, even though she knows I still owe her a Tupperware container from last visit. Some things never change.
Day 2 – Saturday, October 31
Happy Halloween! As I was home I decided to call some friends in order to know where they were planning to spend the night. It’s not like Halloween is celebrated that much here, although over the years it has spread a bit more. However, if there is a city in Portugal that is perfect to celebrate the occasion, then that’s Coimbra, and it wouldn’t be the first time I celebrated it here. A great night it would be.
The first morning parallel session was Jackie Senior’s “Versatile expert or a jack-of-all-trades?” followed by Katie Anne Whiddon’s “Challenge by Choice – creating your own opportunities and measuring risk”. Even if brief, more knowledge, especially when it came to Jackie’s talk and what to do in order to thrive. After all, sometimes having a couple of specialisms is less productive than having none. I still am trying to change specialisms, and I’ll have to decide on what to do before January, so this session was actually quite helpful to make up my mind.
I had to miss all other morning sessions as urgent work came up (yes, that’s who I am!), so I joined the colleagues at 1PM for MET’s lunch, where I met yet again some staple colleagues (like Maria da Graça Pereira, Tina Duarte and Ana Luisa Lourenço, for instance). Because I wasn’t planning to attend the talks in the afternoon I dined and after left again with Andrew looking for a place to watch the World’s Rugby Finals. Little less than 3 weeks ago we rooted for Wales in London, and today we were rooting heavily and steadily for the All Blacks (who else, really?!). Since I had plans for the evening I bid Andrew farewell and departed next day.
Briefly speaking, I was quite overwhelmed with MET’s organisation in all senses, which lead me to think that the bet was more than paid off. From the lecturers to the catering service and the professionalism I was toasted with, all I can say is that I’m clearly interested in attending MET 2016 in Spain. For that, my sincere congratulations to everyone involved in the event, mighty fine job you did.
And because I still haven’t boasted too much about how proud I am to be from Coimbra, maybe this video (“Fado da Despedida“, literally meaning “The Farewell Fado”) can express what people feel about the town when it’s time to leave, be it temporarily or for good. Much like “Saudade“, some words are meant to be felt instead of explained, often failing when trying to do so. The Portuguese are masters of melancholy, but we from Coimbra take it a notch higher. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you all very soon.