E.g., 04/02/2020
E.g., 04/02/2020

La prima necessità dell'uomo è il superfluo: GALA 2013 Miami

By: Robert Etches, CIO - TextMinded A/S

Lufthansa flight no. LH 843 is about to depart from Frankfurt and I with it – away from the early spring snowstorm enveloping Europe. You know you’re on a large plane when the boarding pass is telling you to go to seat no. 83K and it is not at the back next to the toilets, but just after the wing. I always find it disconcerting during take-off that the wings on these monsters appear so terribly fragile – and I swear that they flap in some grotesque imitation of the real thing. Then, ten minutes later, we are up above the clouds, ‘my’ wing looking as solid as a rock, and I’m bound for GALA’s 2013 conference in Miami!

Immigration control can be a pain in the States, but this time round the seemingly endless succession of people spewing out of the plane and lining up to be processed do not have to queue unduly long. And I enjoy an unexpected encounter. ‘My’ immigration officer is not only extremely helpful, and obviously fluent in English and Spanish, but also informs me that he is learning Arabic. Just for the hell of it. It is such a beautiful language, he explains, and we discuss the literary merits of the Koran, me very much from a theoretical point of view, he after some real hands-on experience under the careful guidance of an inspiring language teacher.

Eden Rocs (sic): A room with a view

On the downside, and that’s life for you: my suitcase hasn’t arrived. I take a taxi to the Eden Roc Renaissance Hotel and check in worn and worried, but Yanesy at the check-in counter is as nice as could be and, seemingly, takes pity on the weary traveler, upgrading me to the 15th floor.  I enter the elevator and can’t see that 15 is an option. Bollocks. Slight panic. What to do? There is 14 and then a button marked PH. I take a chance and press the damn thing and the other guy in the elevator comments: “Oh, so you’re staying on the penthouse floor. Niiice.” Hmmm … I suppose it is! Room 1503 is indeed a Room with a View (though nothing Venetian about it) and, to use a very northern English expression, I’m dead chuffed. But no time to linger: I have to dash off to Lincoln Rd. to do some shopping to make up for the missing suitcase!

Back at the hotel, it is gone 22:00 hrs. and I am smoked. I throw the shopping bags in a corner, and am in bed and asleep before you can count to 10 – in any language!

Localization: Here, There and Everywhere

Which takes me back to my title: What has all this to do with a conference about translation and localization? Well, on this first day I have spoken Danish boarding in Copenhagen, heard German in Frankfurt,  laughed at some poor Chinese in an episode of The Big Bang Theory http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOrq_eYsBB0 on the plane, listened to Spanish in Miami International, and discussed Arabic with an immigration officer – all on the way to a localization conference. Socio-economically, the cashier in Allsaints Spitalfields  (www.allsaints.com) has informed me that things were picking up ever so slightly, thanks especially to all the Brazilians who visit and post their money into the Miamian economy (a BRIC reality story!). And culturally, on Lincoln Rd. I’ve learnt what women wear in Miami: apparently very little, perched on top of the highest possible heels.

In other words, my industry, the localization industry, is at the center of all we say and do. No-one is aware of it other than we happy few that work there, but hey: Then it must be up to us to do something about it!

The Board Meets for the First Time

The conference proper starts on Sunday at 17:00 with an opening reception, but the Board is to hold its March monthly meeting on the Saturday. Normally we make do with WebEx, spread as we are around the world, so this is a kærkommen (good Danish word!) opportunity to meet face-to-face – and in fact the first time the new Board has done so. I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s a fantastic bunch of people and we get along like a house on fire, even more so after five days in each other’s company. Everyone wants so much to pitch in and do what he or she can to benefit the interests of our members, and to move the industry that extra mile. Bit by bit.

A Localization Triptych

It’s Sunday morning and time for me to perform. SDL has kindly asked me to participate in a little pre-conference brunch seminar to talk about machine translation. Vicenta Ten and Andy Reid warm up the crowd and then it’s show time! For the first time I talk about my idea of a localization Triptych: Translation Memories, Terminology, and Machine Translation, with Terminology very much center stage. People are very kind and seem to enjoy the presentation, though our keynote speaker for Monday, David Orban, puts me on the spot by asking whether he can quote my saying that in five years’ time there will only be post editing: no translation as we know it today. Me and my big mouth!

Whatever, it creates some furor on the #GALAconf Twitter tag and, as Mr. Bennett comments in Pride & Prejudice“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

GALA Positive Energy

Suddenly it’s opening reception time and the old hotel, which has played host to the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra, now hums with the expectant buzz of GALA members who have flown in from around the world. One of the key aspects of GALA conferences is the incredible energy generated by this global meeting of minds. You always ‘get it’ immediately, and it remains with you long after.

The Grass Growing

Monday morning, 09:00 hrs., and it’s down to business. GALA CEO Hans Fenstermacher gets the ball rolling and ProgramCommittee Chairman Joseph Gomesintroduces David Orban, Dotsub, who is to deliver our keynote address. There’s nothing revolutionary about what David tells us of the pace of global change and our role in that process, by my oh my, it’s always a pleasure to listen to truly intelligent people (“Clouds are unstoppable, both the meteorological and the technological type.”). David could have talked about the grass growing and I would have still been inspired by it. Because it is inspiration you are seeking from a keynote. Geist. A reason for solving yet another problem; meeting another impossible deadline. And there is plenty of inspiration to be found in David’s words.

Transcreation: Ignore it at Your Peril

Another presentation I was really looking forward to is that on transcreation. During the last few years Meritxell Guitart and Miguel Martinez and their colleagues at Hogarth have been blazing a transcreationist trail across the industry before the rest of us have really woken up to the opportunities that this ‘new’ service affords. Or rather: the industry is finally moving away from one quality, one service, one approach to communicating our clients’ value globally. Much attention has been given to machine translation on the one hand, but so far transcreation has mainly steered under the radar. As such, it is super to see Meritxell and Miguel on stage, and hopefully next time round there will be even more focus on this crucial new trend.

Talking in the Rain

The final event of the first full day, and always a highlight, this year’s speed networking has been located outside in the hotel gardens. Why not? This is Miami. I have been asked to compère, and we get through the first couple of rounds just dandy, but then the heavens open and it starts to rain. Quite heavily. You don’t exactly get cold in the rain in Florida, but there’s a limit to just how wet you want to become, unless you are in the pool, so I call for a break and everyone (apart from Table 13 who play on Titanic-style!) runs for the hotel foyer.

Then something truly GALAian occurs: people continue the third round in the foyer. There’s simply no stopping them! Respect!! We therefore grab the table numbers and set up a makeshift event in the exhibition hall. Perfect! A little extra awareness for our fantastic exhibitors and, as there is no microphone, the networkers can complete the last three rounds without having to put up with my silly comments.

Dancin’ in the Dark

Happy, but tired, we all have just 45 minutes to powder our noses before walking across the road from the hotel to the awaiting South Beach Lady, which is to take us on a cruise around Miami while we wine and dine – and dance. And GALAians love to dance! Mind you, with 21 colleagues from Argentina, it’s hard to say no to eager friends dragging you onto the dance floor. Our omnipresent Events Manager, Allison Ferch, is also indefatigable, enticing us on to the floor only to disappear three minutes later to reel in the next colleague.  Oh dear: good job it is dark and one can get away with some pretty rusty dance moves!

The night ends at the hotel bar, which can’t quite make its mind up as to which era it belongs to: the 1920s or the 2010s. My last memory is sharing a beer and an outrageous joke with GALA Chairman Fabiano Cid. I retire for the evening with the tears still rolling down my cheeks!

Like any good organization it’s the people that make GALA, and I’d like to dwell on just six. There are MANY more.

The Power Women

Wafaa Mohiy, General Manager of Saudisoft in Cairo, is sooo cool, and breezes through the conference, heavily involved in as much as she can squeeze in, including the CEO Forum Sunday morning. Already a highly experienced business woman, she is here to learn more, to raise the bar. I’m fortunate enough to spend some time with her and the rest of the Egyptian-based GALAians discussing a possible event in North Africa next year. I really hope to work closer with Wafaa further down the line.

As well as running her own LSP, Lori Thicke, devotes an amazing amount of time and energy to leading the world’s largest community of humanitarian translators: Translators Without Borders. TWB’s latest initiative has seen them working for the UNHCR helping Syrian refugees. Only people made of special stuff take on such tasks (Reinhard Schäler at The Rosetta Foundation and Maya Hess of Red T are of course others), and I remain in awe of their drive and selfless ambition to contribute to making this a better world.

Tea Dietterich, Director of 2M Language Services in Brisbane, is up at 6:45 every morning, ready to run 10 km with the rest of the running club. Australia might seem a million miles away, but there’s nothing isolationist about Tea’s approach to being an active member of the localization industry. Throughout the conference she is at the center of many discussions, never wasting a run, a lunch, or a drink at the bar to network, eager to learn from others and to share her know-how.

The Power Men

Michael Smolens, Founder & Chairman of Dotsub in New York has launched nine companies. Nine. Most Europeans would stop after the first three (at most!) and consider ourselves total failures. But Michael has that indomitable American drive epitomized by something his CEO David Orban says during the keynote: Can you afford not to try? Can you afford not to fail? Got to do business with Michael and David!

Just two years into running his own company, Peter Yoon, President at KoreanLSP in New Jersey, is here, there, and everywhere during the conference, eagerly taking part in debates, never afraid to ask questions. He reminds me of why we are all here: to learn from each other and go back to the office and implement those new findings that best suit our organizations. It was a pleasure to see Peter’s passion for his business and for the industry as a whole.

Andy Reid, Product Marketing Manager at SDL, impresses me in Miami. It’s never easy representing one of the big software vendors (everyone is looking to knock you off your horse), but Andy’s approach is laid back, factual, and disarmingly professional, all at the same time.

No-one Shares Knowledge Better

The weather is not always kind to us, but Wednesday morning starts with bright blue skies and by the time the Knowledgefest kicks off outside at 09:00, we are all sheltering under the large umbrellas to avoid being roasted on the spot. The Knowledgefest is a success. More importantly, it highlights all of our needs to discuss sales and marketing. The most popular tables are run by: Diego Bartolomé from tauyou in Sabadell, who blows us all away with his knowledge of business theory and how we can use it to optimize our businesses; Aki Ito from Localization Guy and TOIN who had sales force management down to a fine art, including what to say and not say (and hand out) at first meetings; and of course, Véronique Ӧzkaya from Xplanation, one of the top sales women in our industry, happily sharing know-how with her peers.

So: in 2014, more sales talk; and a new Knowledgefest please. A real highlight.

Heading East!

And 2014? Véronique had the honor of letting us know that the GALA 2014 conference will take place in Istanbul! GALA as an organization wants to – has to – go East, and what better place to start than in the city that straddles two continents?

Linking in to Know-how between Conferences and Events

In the meantime, while we wait for Istanbul, there are innumerable initiatives being run by GALA for the membership. The very essence of the organization is the amazing work undertaken by the likes of Serge Gladkoff, President of Logrus International, and Kim Harris, Managing Director at text & form. Use the website to check out the extensive list of programs GALA is involved in. In fact there is a wealth of know-how stored on the website including the many excellent webinars, which are invaluable for staff training. Because yes: GALA values are very much a matter of community and a meeting of peers – facets that come to the fore at the annual conferences. But the drive, the energy, and the know-how made available to us by Hans Fenstermacher and the rest of the GALA staff is there to be utilized year round.

“What did you get out of the conference, Robert?”

I was asked this several times during the days immediately ensuing, and it irritated me that I couldn’t provide a ‘clever’, succinct answer. Then a good friend quoted Einstein in Italian at me and I ‘got it’! The MVP of the conference was not the facts and figures provided during the many excellent presentations, but rather the endless flow of seemingly superfluous comments and contacts made and cemented during the four days we all met in Miami. These are the true essentials, and I know that somewhere among these are the seeds to warm friendships and good business.

So, thanks to all my colleagues and the brilliant GALA staff for making the Miamian adventure one to remember. I look forward to seeing you all again soon – and if not soon, then in Istanbul in 2014!

Robert Etches

Robert Etches is currently Head of Translation Innovation at Semantix, the leading language company in the Nordics. A part of the industry for 30 years, Robert has worked with every aspect of it, from freelance translation to top management and everything in between. Always active in the community, Robert was co-founder of the Word Management Group (1996), the TextMinded Group (2007), and the Nordic CAT Group (2011). He served four years (2013-2016) on the Board of GALA (two as Chairman), and is currently a board member at LT-Innovate. The power of sharing, innovation and a passion for language: these are what still get him out of bed in the morning!