From August 3–5, 2015, over one hundred translators gathered in Chantilly, France, just outside of Paris, for Translate in Chantilly, the latest in the “Translate in…” conference series. Speakers from North America and Europe hosted seminars and workshops targeted to premium-market French<>English translators.
One of the most popular events was the translation slam, in which two speakers were given a text to translate prior to the conference and then revealed their work on stage side by side, with both translators seeing the other’s version for the first time along with the audience. The slam was an enlightening demonstration of how great minds can think entirely differently. The four speakers participating in the event (two working into French and two into English) turned out extremely clever translations. Direct comparisons revealed diverse writing styles, as well as differing assumptions about readers and the writer and what liberties could be taken. But perhaps most interesting were the discussions on the variants of English and French (Canadian vs. American English, European vs. Canadian French, etc.) and which expressions each “dialect” uses or does not use—debates that occasionally could not be settled even between two native speakers of the same variant!
On the last day of the conference, a suggestion was made for conference attendees to host their own translation slams upon returning home—a brilliant suggestion but a terrifying one for most translators. The conference speakers who took part in the translation slam are to be applauded, most obviously for their top-notch work, but more strikingly for their willingness to put their product on public display. A supreme level of courage is required to open oneself up to criticism from a hundred colleagues, despite years of experience and a high level of expertise.
Andie Ho is a French>English translator specializing in translations for the food industry.