Learnings from the 2017 FIT Congress

NZSTI member Virginia Kwok details some of her learnings from the 2017 FIT Congress.

Having heeded the advice of Dr Henry Liu, President of FIT (2014–2017) in the opening ceremony to adopt an open mind and attitude and enjoy a few days of learning and fun, this did indeed pay off – below is a brief snapshot of a remarkable conference.

One of the most distinguishing features of the 2017 FIT Congress held in Brisbane was the inclusion of Sign Language Interpreting. One of the keynote speakers, Professor Jemina Napier of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, delivered a powerful message using sign language. She spoke, or rather signed, about “Disruption and diversification in the deaf world and its impact on the sign language interpreting profession”. Not only were there detailed explanations of terms, but there was also a historical description of the development of sign language interpreting in the UK and Australian contexts. With clarity and vividness, Professor Napier offered much insight into the significance of providing such services to the sign language community and those around them. Another striking moment was when she used her own voice to speak to the audience in the closing ceremony, stating that some have the choice to use sign language or not, while others do not have that choice. But we, as translators and interpreters, all have a choice to make. Whether we translate and interpret with tact and sensitivity, integrity, respect and creativity will make a difference. We can exercise professionalism in our work, and this will help our clients communicate with each other in the best possible manner. Professor Napier warned us of disruptions ahead since we live in challenging times, but asserted that the future will be brighter if we work together. I cannot agree more. We work to strive for the closest possible equivalence. To give voice to the voiceless, to empower the weak and to fight for justice, there is much that people in the T&I industry can offer.

Among the parallel sessions, special presentations included speakers who discussed “translating” symbols instead of words that we are familiar with. For instance, PE. Fosser spoke about translating music, exploring its possibilities and limitations, and another speaker, S. Collinge, discussed “interpreting” drawings that would help people better understand emotions. He presented a lively workshop on “How to draw a rocketship without drawing a rocketship”. One might think that art and music belong to a different category from language, and we would use a different side of our brain to process their meaning. However, the presenters revealed to us that art and music can be articulated using language, and through the medium of words we can grasp the meaning and catch a glimpse of the world which may not be obvious at the surface level. After all, human beings are complex and we need language and meta-language to communicate with the Divine, with ourselves and with one another. This also makes our world a more interesting place to be. G. Kuzio’s presentation, “Post-modern trans-creation: Language of love and language of death in Walker Percy’s novels and their translations”, left us much to ponder on after taking in the final slide of his message.

Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to NZSTI for sponsoring part of my expenses to attend the FIT 2017 XXI Congress. I have learnt many new things and built new friendships. Diversification was evident in the many forms of presentations included in the programme, and many keynote speakers delivered wonderful speeches that cannot be fully captured here. A respect for diversity will surely lay a solid foundation for smooth communication. As translators and interpreters, aren’t we helping our clients to do the same? Indeed, communication is an art. It is complicated. A good translator/interpreter will help convey a rich-in-content message with precise, beautiful and ethical language. Nothing more, nothing less, yet essential and substantial. Staying curious, working diligently – this is what many of our predecessors have done before us, as explained by Editor-in-Chief of Babel Journal, Professor Frans De Laet. Let us continue the endeavour and contribute our skills to help build a better world that connects people from different language and cultural backgrounds. The 2017 FIT Congress is indeed a conference that will be remembered for a long time.

By Virginia Kwok

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