SENSE Professional Development Day 2019

Note: An edited version of this post was published on the SENSE blog.

On September 21, SENSE, the Society of English-Language Professionals in the Netherlands, held its biennial Professional Development Day (PDD), a one-day professional-development workshop for editors and translators. I was excited to be attending my first SENSE conference!

After some coffee and networking, the day started with a plenary lecture by Jenny Zonneveld, who gave us a number of valuable tips on how to gain repeat clients: be an expert in your field, network, attend events, and build sound relationships with clients and your colleagues. This will require leaving your comfort zone, leaving space in your schedule so you can be flexible, spreading your risks, and learning from feedback.

Next, I attended a fascinating presentation by Dianna Beaufort on writing and translating in architecture and urban planning. I have a background in urban studies and am familiar with the embellished writing architects can produce. Beaufort guided us through some examples of problems caused by “architecture and urban development speak” or false friends and showed us how she dealt with these. Translating “een karakteristieke oppervlakte” into “a characteristic surface,” for example, does not work!

Peter Smethurst presented the third lecture of the day, titled “Translating for Fun & Profit.” He made us privy to his workflow and provided us with a number of useful tips: do not fill in more than 90 percent of your time, let the computer read the text to you when you are done (to check for errors), and prove to the client that you add value by pointing out mistakes and querying what is unclear.

After a traditional Dutch lunch of kaassoufflés, kroketten, kadetten, and milk, it was back to business with a fascinating session on how to prepare quotes by Jenny Zonneveld and John Linnegar. They urged us to think about all features present in a client’s text and take our entire workflow into account when preparing our estimates. We discussed different ways in which we charge for the time spent on admin and emails back and forth with the client. Linnegar told us about a handy word-count tool called “PractiCount,” which can count words in PDFs and Excel files. This helps editors and translators estimate how long their job will take.

Next up were Jackie Senior and Dr. Kate McIntyre, with a fascinating and hopeful presentation on the role of language professionals in academia. Higher education in the Netherlands is increasingly English-speaking, which creates many language needs. Language professionals in academic settings do not only provide editing services for grant proposals, journal articles, and dissertations, but also help draft a university’s internal communication in English and teach writing courses.

The PDD ended with a lecture by Vrije Universiteit emeritus professor of English language and linguistics Dr. Mike Hannay on flow, rhythm, and balance in writing. The key to writing that flows is variation. Good writing is attractive, clear and coherent, genre-faithful, and accurate. He listed a number of academic sources that have looked at what makes good writing, including information on prosody, the study of rhythm, meter, and intonation in poetry. Editors can use this knowledge to spot writing problems in the work they edit. Hannay’s handout provided us with many examples of these problems, and it was great fun working through them with a room full of language professionals.

The day ended with the announcement of the location of next year’s conference (which was done by playing Hangman with us) and a lovely borrel (of course accompanied by bitterballen) in the restaurant where I finally met some people I had interacted with only virtually and made some new friends. I am definitely looking forward to attending next year’s conference in Maastricht!

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