AUSIT National Mini-Conference 2016 Report

For the past few months, the AUSIT Mini-Conference Organising Committee (of which I was a member) spent hours putting together a conference at Monash University’s Caulfield campus. The conference far exceeded our expectations–and we had an excellent turnout, too, with over 200 people for both days!

Luckily, the Logistics Team rolled with the punches and took care of everything the day of, leaving me with enough time to catch the majority of the presentations. As with any good conference, however, there was a plethora of intriguing presentations and only one of me!

We worked hard to ensure that the program had something for everyone, translators and interpreters alike, and I’d like to think we succeeded. Twelve presentations were on translation and nine addressed interpreting. A few did not fit into either category cleanly, such as the presentation on The INT Project: Our Next Steps by Robert Foote from NAATI about the future of translator and interpreter certification in Australia. Of course, there is always a bit of cross-over, and many of the presentations on training and the sociology of interpreters and translators could be adapted to research in either branch of T&I.

Translator Education and Employability: Learning for Varied Careers

In this presentation, a doctoral student at RMIT University, Hayley King, presented on some of the differences between the aspirations and motivations of translator trainees in Spain and Australia. Notably, she found that many students gave reasons for studying T&I that did not necessarily involve working as translators and interpreters. Indeed, many seemed to be studying translation as a way of improving their language skills and to open themselves upon to new careers using their language skills–but not necessarily as translators. She noted that there are not many options for applied language studies in Spain (or in Australia, for that matter), so many students may be enrolling in translation degrees for lack of an alternative. In some cases, students decided midway through their degrees that they had no interest in becoming translators! Perhaps this is due to the fact that translators have a strong tendency to freelance and in-house positions tend to be a pipe dream (not to say they don’t exist, but they are assuredly not the majority).

Interpreting and gender: perspectives from practitioners and trainees about themselves and their clients

Jim Hlavac, a lecturer in T&I studies at Monash University and one of my former trainers, presented the results of a survey of interpreters and trainees about their perceptions of the profession. In particular, he asked participants to give their impression of the gender breakdown of the profession–do they think there are more men or more women who work as interpreters? He also explored some factors that may affect who becomes an interpreter. In particular, he noted that boys (and men) in many countries have greater access to higher education. On the other hand, he presented research showing that second language acquisition is lower for males in Australia and Scotland.

Conflict: doing jobs you’re not supposed to do

In this presentation, by Esther Dean and Sharon MacMillan of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service, showed some of the challenges of interpreting in tight-knit communities. In particular, they gave a brief explanation of the concept of “poison cousins” in their culture (good thing I took an anthropology course at MSU!) and how they work around the conflict between their culture and the need to interpret. In many cases, they explained, it is simply impossible to find an interpreter who has no relationship to the person who needs an interpreter, so they enact various strategies, such as not facing their poison cousin or, as I recall, standing behind a curtain to block their view of the person. They didn’t have time to go into much more detail about the challenges of these strategies, but I can only imagine the difficulty for the interpreter or not being able to see who they’re interpreting for and being unable to see paralinguistic features, such as gestures and facial expression!

The INT Project: Our Next Steps

Robert Foote gave this presentation about the progress of NAATI’s INT project to improve the accreditation (now certification) framework for translators and interpreters in Australia. This presentation was particularly interesting as the profession is on the verge of some important changes to the certification system. The proposed certification system includes specialisations for legal and health interpreters (in addition to conference interpreting, which already exists). In addition, there will no longer be a paraprofessional level, which will be replaced by the “provisionally certified interpreter”. This appears to be an incorporation of suggestions my colleagues and I made in the INT2 Report: Options for Interpreter Assessment as a means of increasing the minimum standards for interpreters while also giving candidates the opportunity to enter the industry and get some experience without allowing them to stay in that category indefinitely.

Thoughts? Comments?

Did you also attend the AUSIT National Mini-Conference this year? Would you like to hear more about the sessions I attended? Want to share your experience at the conference? Share your thoughts below in the comments!

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