Ever since I started my translation studies and learned about the American Translators Association (ATA) annual conference, that has been the conference I have attended at least every other year. A few years ago I came across a list of European conferences by Pieter Beens and got the idea to venture out of the US space for my networking and development. After weighing different options for a while, I decided for the BP19 (Business and Practice) conference, which took place in the city of Bologna in Italy this year.
BP19 is an event organized by translator Csaba Bán independently of any corporate or institutional entity. This conference is geared toward freelance translators and focuses on business and professional aspects of translation. Because my main point of reference is the ATA annual conference, I cannot help making a few comparisons in this review.
Because the sessions were aimed primarily at freelance translators, that was also the prevalent category of attendees. I have met a few translation or software company representatives, but they were definitely outnumbered.
For me, that meant getting to compare notes with many colleagues based in Europe and learning how they worked. In addition, being among fellow translators allowed me to concentrate on talking to people and learning without the pressure to pitch my services. Most of the people I talked to at BP19 were new to me, meaning I had not crossed paths with them in the US or even online.
Inevitably, the mix of languages the attendees worked with differed somewhat from that I was used to seeing at ATA conferences. Perhaps due to the location of the conference, European languages prevailed, including these considered languages of lesser diffusion in the US, such as Hungarian, Slovak, or Greek. At the same time, Spanish, so often heard at US-based conferences, seemed to be outnumbered by German, Italian, and even Russian.
Compared to the US, few translators working with Asian or Middle Eastern languages seemed to be present. When I asked an Austrian colleague about that, she shared that her university did not offer interpreting degrees with these languages, so that may be part of the reason, the other part being, again, the site of the conference.
In addition, many translators and interpreters seemed to work with more than two languages. Perhaps this is, again, because European translation and interpreting degrees typically require a student to work with two languages other than their first one. I’m sure early compulsory foreign language study helps, too.
Similarly to the ATA conference, BP19 offered pre-conference seminars before the actual event at an additional cost. The talks that were included in the conference price spanned two days. On the first day, hour-long presentations ran in three parallel tracks, while on the second day, shorter talks of about 20 minutes were given in a plenary setting.
Unlike the ATA conference, there were no keynotes, organized networking sessions, or job fairs. Depending on the needs of the translator, that could be a positive thing in that it allows you to concentrate on learning and talking to your colleagues.
Something I appreciated were the frequent—and generous!—coffee breaks, with tea, coffee, dessert, and varied fruit platters. Other attendees noted that this year’s conference, set in Italy, was particularly good in that regard. The fact that a abundant lunch buffet was provided was also welcome. Although spending money on dining during business trips is to be expected, not having to worry about finding a place to eat relieved a lot of the stress related to attending an event in an unfamiliar city.
Because freelance translators and interpreters were the primary target audience for BP19, the presentations reflected that. The subjects were not too dissimilar from what you would see in the “Independent Contractor” track of the ATA conference. Several talks focused on running a successful business, attracting direct clients, and dealing with conflict. Others looked into productivity, team work, and data security. A detailed schedule and conference videos are available on the conference website.
Judging by what I heard from other attendees and what the organizer shared in his emails, some attendees thought the content might have been a bit too basic. I might add that the conference accepts presentation proposals every year, and prospective attendees get to vote on what talks they want to see. Perhaps next year’s lineup will reflect people’s preferences better.
Interestingly, despite the wide range of language represented, all talks were given in English, and I don’t believe interpreting into other languages was provided. To be fair, most attendees seemed to at least understand English, so that language likely served as the lingua franca. As far as I’m aware, no talks were language-specific, and none were geared towards translation companies.
All in all, going to the BP19 conference was a good decision for me, which let me see how my European peers worked, meet new people, and experience a different kind of conference. If you work with a European language, broadly defined, I absolutely recommend checking out this conference, which will meet in Nuremberg next year.