Last weekend, I went to my very first translation conference- the ITI Conference in Sheffield. I had an amazing time catching up with old friends and colleagues, meeting new people, and learning a lot. Throughout the conference, there were a number of topics and ideas that kept cropping up, so I just wanted to briefly share with you the five main points that I took away from the conference.

ITI Conference bag

1. Machine translation will not be taking over our jobs any time soon.

While it’s obvious that the quality of machine translation has improved greatly, especially in recent years, its capabilities are generally overhyped, and essentially, machine translation cannot even be done without the input of translators. That being said, if you translate like a robot, you’ll be competing with machine translation. Always ask yourself whether you’re adding value and providing a service that a machine cannot.

2. We are all different, and we should use our differences to our advantage.

Do regular SWOT analyses, find out what you’re good at and what you enjoy and use that to your advantage. The way one translator does things won’t necessarily work for another and we’re all in different situations. So, discover how you work best and what your goals are- you do you! Our differences are what give us our unique selling points, which is often what makes clients choose us, so embrace them.

3. Our fellow translators are not really competitors; we should work together.

This follows on from the previous point, if we all have different USPs and specialisations, then we’re never really true, direct competitors. I’ve always believed this but attending the conference and meeting so many welcoming and inspiring people really reinforced that belief. Various speakers told us that collaborating and working together is one of the key ways that a translator can up their game. Others talked of networking as one of our most important tools. More importantly, we can work together to raise the profile of the translation industry by referring work to other trusted translators and giving testimonials to other translators that we’ve worked with.

4. Make the most of freedom as a freelancer.

Never feel trapped by your clients, your work, your price bracket, or your situation. Otherwise, it defeats the point of being a freelancer. We drive our own careers, so don’t get stuck in a rut and don’t just subsist. Get outside the box, take risks and move on when you need to. Also, we are often judged on where, how, and when we work, but it’s our output that matters. So, use that freedom and work in any way you like, as long as you’re producing good output.

5. Translation is not a commodity or a raw material.

Translation is an important service, but it is often undervalued by people outside the industry. It’s therefore important to promote our work and explain what we do to clients. This can help people understand the value of translation and raise the profile of the industry. As highly qualified professionals, we must not undervalue ourselves as this reinforces the idea that translation is a commodity which can be provided by anyone.

If you went to the conference too, what were your main takeaways? Let me know in the comments below.