Chantilly, already famous for horses and whipped cream, became known as a hive of French and English translation activity the first week of August 2015 as one hundred colleagues gathered to attend this year’s “Translate in…/On traduit à…” event. This language-specific series has mushroomed in both size and reputation since its inception in 2009. This year marks the first time it was held outside of North America and it did not fail to live up to expectations.
A lovely wooded path connected the conference hotel to the venue, the impressive Hippodrome racetrack center. The brisk walk, combined with the various caffeine options and viennoiseries available on arrival, primed participants’ brains for the first session each morning in which a tricky term (or two) was elucidated and discussed. The first two days of the conference, these bite-sized sessions were followed by a translation duel, in which a pair of seasoned translators presented their renditions of a previously selected text. On Monday, François Lavallée faced off against Dominique Jonkers in the E>F battle, with Real Paquette moderating; Tuesday’s F>E challengers were Chris Durban and Grant Hamilton, moderated by Ros Schwartz. Translators in both directions (including the presenters!) found the juxtaposition of two excellent, yet obviously unique, translations to be thought-provoking. Additional variations suggested by audience members who had prepared their own versions further fed the creative juices of those present.
The remainder of the conference was divided into two tracks by language direction, with instruction from Chris Durban, Grant Hamilton, Dominique Jonkers, Marc Lambert, François Lavallée and Ros Schwartz. While there was no lack of discussion about specific issues of grammar and terminology, the overarching emphasis was on achieving fluid, natural writing in the target languages. Attendees were reminded of how important clear and idiomatic writing is to good communication, aka our product! Topics ranged from literature to calls for tenders and corporate communications to comparative grammar, but the message remained consistent: good translators need to be good writers.
The carefully crafted presentations and lively debates were fueled by occasional coffee breaks and an excellent three-course lunch each day, served in the truly panoramic Hippodrome restaurant, with its expansive view of the racetrack and adjacent château and royal stables. The decibel level of the room rose dramatically during these times, as exchanges with fellow professionals ranged from the amusing to the eye-opening. Such interaction between colleagues from a multitude of countries and across an array of specializations is just the kind of cross-pollination that enriches our work. To further facilitate professional cooperation, the organizers set out a sign-up sheet for those looking to team up with collaborators. Participants were also encouraged to bring samples of their work to share; the table provided for that purpose overflowed by the final day of the conference.
Thanks to the enormous efforts of, individual organizers and instructors and tremendous support from the Société francaise des traducteurs (SFT), “Translate in Chantilly” was a satisfying treat that this reviewer enjoyed immensely. Keep your eyes and ears (and calendars) open for news about upcoming events and the Chantilly conference schedule is still available at translateinchantilly.com/conference-program.
Michèle Hansen, C.T.
Michèle Hansen is an ATA certified French to English translator specializing in medical, pharmaceutical and global health texts.