The 2018 NZSTI National Conference titled “Communication & Superdiversity” was held in Wellington from 26–27 May, at the Victoria University Pipitea Campus. It started with an evening reception on 25 May where the delegates were able to meet in a relaxed atmosphere with drinks and nibbles. The winners of the “Moving Words” secondary schools translation competition, for which NZSTI sponsored the prizes, were also announced at this event: Yuqian Huang for Chinese, Freya Baker for German, and Katie Piper and Margo Montes for French. The students had created subtitles for Taika Waititi’s 11-minute short film Two Cars, One Night. After the prize giving, Victoria University lecturer Niusila Faamanatu-Eteuati read two poems that she had translated from English into Samoan. Marco Sonzogni, Victoria University lecturer and organiser of the Moving Words competition, also announced that translations of a poem Einstein wrote about his dentist will be published later this year to mark International Translation Day in September.
After registration on Saturday, the President of the NZSTI branch in Wellington, Dr Olga Suvorova, welcomed the delegates and opened the conference. Te Tumatakuru O’Connell, NZSTI Council member and translator for Te Reo Māori, gave a traditional welcome which was interpreted into English by a colleague.
The keynote speaker on this day was Dame Claudia Orange. Her presentation was titled “Declaration and the Treaty – making sense of the nine Treaty copies”. She had structured it like a diary so the delegates were introduced to the history of the Treaty in chronological order, from the Declaration of Independence in 1835 to the events that led to the writing, translation and signing of the original Treaty in 1840, as well as the circulation of Treaty copies throughout New Zealand to collect more signatures. Dame Claudia Orange aimed to give the delegates a better understanding of the continuity of the Treaty, to enhance awareness of its relevance today.
Following the keynote speech, presentations were held in parallel for the remainder of the morning: Julia Marshall of Gecko Press talked about the particularities of translating children’s books and showed some very creative examples. Dr Henry Liu’s presentation was about the responsibilities of individual translators and professional associations in the age of superdiversity. Parallel to these two sessions, John di Rico held a workshop on Wordfast. After that, the delegates had a choice between Charles Rice-Davies talking about problems faced when translating Louisiana French and Creole, or Elisabeth Compton on interpreting in mental health settings.
After lunch plenary speaker Hēmi Kelly, a lecturer at AUT, spoke about important elements to consider when translating Te Reo Māori. His initial brief was “anything related to Māori translation”, and so he started from a historical perspective, mentioning bilingual newspapers from the mid-1800s through to the early 20th century, which were testimony to a bilingual society, and an excerpt from the first translation of Shakespeare into Te Reo Māori dating from 1884. He presented a back-translation of the Te Reo Māori version of the national anthem and explained how the need to capture the flow of the original in the Te Reo version was more important than producing a literal translation. He informed the audience that social media was now the main platform for the creation of new words, and that often several new Māori words would evolve for the same English word. As an example he gave the word selfie, which currently exists in Māori as: ahau-i (from “me” + “i”), kiriāhua (self + image) and matatahi (face + one). It is expected that over time one of these terms will emerge as the “standard” term, used by preference within the community. Hēmi’s presentation gave the audience an interesting perspective on the dynamics of Te Reo Māori usage, both historically and its situation today as an evolving language.
The plenary talk was followed by more parallel sessions: Alison Rodriguez, Vice-President of FIT, gave a talk with the intriguing title “Superdiversity’s Big Bang”. Helena Merschdorf presented the results of her Master’s thesis in which she compared the machine translation output of two free open source and two proprietary CAT tools – with surprising results: expensive doesn’t necessarily equal better quality. Dr Sonia Buglione highlighted the issues of gender identity in community interpreting, and two representatives of Thorners Financial Services informed the translators and interpreters about options for protecting their businesses. The last speakers for the day were Federico Federici, joining the conference via a video link from London to talk about crisis translation, and Wendy Youens from the company able on how she and her team provide subtitles for the hard-of-hearing (and other users) in New Zealand.
In the evening the gala dinner was held in Te Marae at Te Papa, the National Museum. The excellent choice of venue made this a highlight of the conference. To make the event even more special, translator and musician John Jamieson shared his talent as cocktail pianist.
By Karoline Spiessl
Photo by Henry Liu: John Jamieson playing at the gala dinner