IJET-20 Report

The 20th International Japanese-English Translation Conference (IJET) was held February 14-15, 2009 in Sydney, Australia. It was great to travel to Australia for the first time, and to meet old and new faces in the Japanese-English translation community.

I went to Australia with my family, and after the IJET we were able to spend a few days doing touristy things.

The IJET started somewhat informally with a zenyasai (前夜祭, night-before party): a harbor dinner cruise aboard a catamaran. Despite intermittent showers, we were able to get out on the deck for some spectacular views of the Sydney harbor, while chatting with the other IJET participants.

After the zenyasai, my wife and son headed back to the hotel, while I went out with a few translators to a local pub for a few "shouts" of Australian beer and a very good live show.

Day One (February 14)

I decided to sleep in, and thus missed the welcome session and keynote address in the morning.

I showed up at the IJET at 11:00am, for the Pecha Kucha presentations. This was a series of rapid-fire presentations, where each speaker gave a quick talk consisting of 20 slides, and 20 seconds per slide. This was a great idea, with lots of interesting mini-talks on a wide range of topics. My favorite was was the talk by Katrina Watts, about her experiences as a sumo commentator and interpreter.

After a lunch of fish and chips with about 10 other translators, I went to two more presentations (Patent Translation, is it for me? and Compiling a freeware Japanese dictionary). Although not related to the presentations, I was delighted when two rainbow lorikeets landed on the ledge outside my table during one of the talks.

After the presentations, I went back up to my hotel room to clean up, and head out for the banquet with my wife at the Refectory, at University of Sydney. The dress code was "smart casual," and several translators voiced their surprise at seeing me in long pants and shoes for the first time.

The food was good, and we had plenty of time to mingle and sample local Australian wines. Unfortunately, one of the student waiters spilled lemonade down my wife's back. Some also got into her purse, but luckily there were no stains and her mobile phone wasn't damaged.

Day Two (February 15)

I attended the three morning sessions: Computationally Enhancing the 3 Rs for Japanese Translators and Learners, Client Acquisition Panel, and “Technical terms” and other industry-retarding myths.

I enjoyed the "3 Rs" session because it was by a computational linguist, the field of my aborted PhD studies. The other two sessions were about the business/client management side of the translation industry, and there were lots of good nuggets about finding, attracting, and keeping clients (especially topical in today's business climate).

After the morning sessions, I had a quiet lunch with my family, then in the afternoon I sat on a panel on CAT tools with two other translators, then in a separate session we demoed three CAT tools (OmegaT, Trados, and my software, Felix).

Here are some highlights from the panel discussion and demos:

  • TM isn't a requirement to work J->E, but it's already fairly entrenched in E->J and encroaching on J->E as well
  • There is interoperability between TM programs, but it requires a bit of effort (e.g. not falling back to the default "bilingual file" or ttx file of Trados users)
  • People seem split roughly 50/50 over whether discounts should be given for matches (perfect/fuzzy), although the heavier TM users seemed to accept it more
  • Each TM system has its relative strengths, and translators should try various ones to see which one suits them best (if any)
  • All TM programs have a learning curve

After the IJET formally ended, I went to the lounge for some free beer courtesy of Kirin Australia, then headed with my family and a large group of translators to The Australian Hotel, where we sampled the pub's wide selection of beers, and tried such dishes and kangaroo pizza and crocodile pizza (the kangaroo tasted a lot like venison, and the crocodile was rubbery but did indeed taste a bit like chicken). We got to feed some kangaroos at a zoo in Cairns later, and the 'roos were so gentle and sweet that I almost regretted having eaten one of them (almost).

Overall impressions

This was my eighth IJET, and one of my favorites so far. Sydney is a great city, and the IJET itself was run very well. You can tell that the IJET is running smoothly when you don't notice how hard the committee members are working. Kudos to everyone who helped make this happen.

After a few IJETs, the sessions themselves become less important, and the networking and informal discussions become the main draw (for me, at least). I was thus happy to renew my acquaintance with old friends, and make many new ones. Australia is a fantastic country, and we're already making plans to get back there.

After the IJET

After the IJET ended, we got to do some fun stuff like climbing the Sydney harbor bridge, seeing crocodiles being fed, and going cable skiing (water skiing, but pulled by a cable instead of a boat). We fell in love with Cairns, and my wife took home a huge stack of real-estate brochures…

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