Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Conferences are one of my favourite things about the world of freelance translating. There are no hierarchies, no competition, and no office politics. Just pure interaction, enthusiasm and support in a world where most of us work alone. I discovered MET in 2016 and attended my first MET conference in 2017. Here's why I keep going back.
1. The great content
Last year at METM18 in Girona, I made a tentative comment at the Annual General Meeting that I would have preferred more corporate content, and was told very clearly that content is provided by members, so if I wanted it, I had to bring it. Fair enough.
This year I ran a workshop on how to translate and edit in the wine industry, one of my specialist fields, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Now not only did MET give me the chance to bring something of my own to its programme, but its council had really listened to my corporate content remark, and the keynote presentation on the Friday was given by none other than Swiss bank executive extraordinaire David Jemielity, tenured lecturer at the University of Geneva and all-round brilliant linguist, who gave a fascinating presentation on how he and his team of translators garner ever-greater respect from the Board, and have become an important cog in the BCV (Banque Cantonale Vaudoise) communication machine. His presentation was loaded with examples about how they have gone about tailoring and enhancing the bank’s message, not only in English, but in French too.
2. The networking
The clue is in the name; MET Meetings are a great way to share stories with others in the field, compare experiences, and simply spend time in the company of people who understand what you do, especially in a business where most of us work alone all day long. I now have a hive mind of colleagues to call upon to help me out with thorny sentences, people to refer my clients to when they are looking for other language combinations, and a huge new circle of friends.
3. The amazing location
Split was stunning. Aside from the university being rather out of town, the Off-METM events in the old quarter were made even more enjoyable by the picturesque winding alleys and ancient stone buildings. And the teal waters of the Adriatic provided the perfect backdrop for the white stone and cloudless blue skies. The conference itself was held in the brand new university classrooms and lecture hall, all kitted out with the latest conferencing facilities. I have it on good faith that San Sebastian has all of the charm of Split, and that the university buildings themselves have the benefit of being just a short walk from the old town. The MET conference is yet to be held anywhere other than a beauty spot, so I'm optimistic that METM20 will have just as much Instagrammable charm as METM19.
4. The fantastic opportunities
As the council so rightly told me last year, participants make the conference happen. So why not bring something to the table? Doing my workshop was so enjoyable and I met such wonderful people while there, that I’m already thinking about what I might be able to suggest for the programme next year.
But as personal challenges go, directing the METM pop-up choir has to be my own standout memory. I just can’t describe the rush I felt standing in front of 30 wonderful people and leading them in song, with an audience of 130 others. The joy and feeling of accomplishing something as a group sparked enough adrenaline to last me until Christmas at least. Working alongside Mladen Grgic and Marijo Krnic – local professional musicians – was a dream, and more fun than I could possibly have imagined. If you're so inclined, the whole video can be found here.
5. The discovering of talent
Maeva Cifuentes led an extremely dynamic presentation on content marketing packed with ideas about promoting yourself as a freelance professional, so much so that I started reading her excellent blog about being a content strategist.
Lloyd Bingham ran a fascinating session on pseudo-English, talking about the ways English words can crop up in other languages, but in doing so, lose their original meaning (think faire un footing rather than "going for a jog"). Lloyd is a young and dynamic translator with a knack for business and a bright future.
Lynne Murphy, not a MET conference attendee, but keynote speaker and author of The Prodigal Tongue, which is about the love-hate relationship between British and American English, has single-handedly improved my email writing by covering the overuse of exclamation points in her presentation. That’s right!
I already knew Emma Goldsmith from previous METMs, so I was eager to attend her presentation on improving a source language after years of immersion, and she didn't disappoint. After spending 30 years in Spain and reaching a plateau in her language skills, Emma decided to step up her Spanish by reading fiction (she concluded that this was the richest source of new vocabulary), studying grammar, getting people to correct her, and keeping an impressive spreadsheet up to date with all the new words she was learning, with a view to taking the highly respected European C2 exam. Her presentation was fascinating and I left full of admiration for her diligence.
On returning home to Chablis I scurried to our bookshelves, plucked out Michel Houellebecq's Les particules élémentaires and began my own language improvement project. My spreadsheet already has 10 words that I have learnt since coming back from Split, and my family are delighted that they are now allowed to correct my mistakes!
The MET family is large and welcoming and I can’t possibly mention everyone I had the pleasure of talking to over the three days of the conference.
I came back to work on Monday with a spring in my step and a determination to hone my writing skills. I even pitched an article to a translation and interpreting magazine! Watch this space for more...