FIT Congress 2017: an overview

NZSTI member Peter Tuffley shares his reflections on the 2017 FIT Congress.

The story of this year’s FIT World Congress in Brisbane begins in 2014, when with support from NZSTI AUSIT succeeded in its bid to host the first FIT Congress to be held in Australasia since the Melbourne Congress of 1996. FIT17, the Federation’s 21st World Congress, thus marked the fruition of three years’ planning and preparation by our AUSIT colleagues. By coincidence it was also in Brisbane, at AUSIT’s 2014 Conference that I had the pleasure of joining in the celebration of that successful bid and of pledging NZSTI’s support. I must say that Brisbane in early August offers a much more bearable climate than on that previous occasion later in the year.

This was my first experience of a FIT Congress, and I would like to thank NZSTI for the generous support that made it possible for me to attend. I would also like to congratulate our AUSIT colleagues on their organisation of the event.

My nearest comparable experience was the 2013 Malaysian international translators’ and interpreters’ conference at Penang; but that paled in comparison with the impact of FIT17. The first overwhelming impression was of the number and wide cultural and linguistic variety of participants. The working languages of the Congress were French and English; but time and again, wending one’s way through the crowd during breaks, one would pass small clusters of colleagues speaking in any of a multiplicity of languages.  Another striking feature was the range and number of presentations and workshops: nearly 150 in all during the three days of the Congress, much of the time in as many as ten streams. This sometimes made it difficult to choose which from among several sessions of competing interest to attend – which may have been more of a dilemma for interpreters, since the balance of presentation topics was weighted towards interpretation – including, of course, sign language interpretation.

The theme “Disruption and Diversification” was, I think, very well chosen, inviting responses to a world of technological, social, political and cultural change (not to mention the interactions between change processes in all of these fields), as well as the many-fold challenges (not least ethical challenges) and the demands for innovation posed by such a world. Being such a multifaceted theme, it was not surprising to see great variety in the responses evidenced in the wide range of presentations and workshops on offer. Perhaps one of the ethically starkest issues was posed in the title of one presentation: “Is Interpreting Torture a War Crime?”. It was good to see not only numerous NZSTI members present but also a goodly number of presentations being given by our members.

One feature of the Convention Centre in which the Congress was held may have caused some presentations (including that of NZSTI presenter Cecilia Titulaer) to be less well attended than they otherwise might have been. Two suites of breakout rooms were located at opposite ends of the building, at a considerable walking distance each other.

An excellent and distinctively enjoyable opportunity for networking was built into the Congress programme, in an ambience provided by cruising in old-fashioned paddle steamers on the Brisbane River, whose downtown waterfront, lit up at night, creates a stunning spectacle.

This Congress also marked the end of Henry Liu’s nine years on the FIT Council and of his three-year term as FIT President. In recognition of his distinguished service he has been appointed by FIT as a Lifetime Honorary Advisor. The handover was conducted with appropriate ceremony.


The next FIT Congress, in 2020, is to be held in Cuba. I am starting to learn Spanish…

By Peter Tuffley

Photo © Olga Raevskaya for AUSiT via Flickr


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