It was just what the translation world needed; it was just what I needed. For most people, the BP event in Lisbon was a very welcome return to in-person conferences after two years of online-only events due to COVID.
It’s a conference that has a reputation of being a great place to meet friends but which is sometimes a bit light on content, and I was anxious to discover if this was deserved. Seeing friends and meeting new people was certainly a very welcome element of proceedings, though, and the various dinners, lunches and opportunities to chat were much appreciated. The conference was also superbly and efficiently organised by Csaba Ban and his team, as I’m told it always is.
In terms of content, I would say that to call BP merely a social conference is rather harsh. The quality of what I saw was certainly variable, with some presentations definitely better forgotten, but there were also highlights. Among the best were the magnificent Elina Nocera with her carefully chosen thoughts on microcopy, and the inspiring Diane Wiredu, on the links between copywriting and marketing translation. Both of them indicate the current trend for translators to migrate into copywriting which seems to be increasing by the week.
Then there was Dana Szabados’ superbly crafted and quirky presentation of stoicism, bringing philosophy into translation, or translation into philosophy, in all sorts of unexpected ways. Luna Jungblut also gave an interesting talk on the dos and don’ts of taking a stand at a trade fair, which was useful if only for demonstrating, without having to do the research yourself, that it would take an awful lot to recoup the rather high costs.
If I were to be critical, I would say that a few too many of the talks were aimed rather low, a couple of them with very little to say that all translators don’t learn in their first few weeks of freelancing. That’s not to say there should be no content for beginners but it should be clearly flagged as such. Organisers should perhaps also remember that the BP audience, or at least the audience I saw, is not actually composed of beginners – the vast majority being translators with considerable experiences. Even keynote speaker Renato Beninatto pitched his talk a little too much toward beginner level, I would have said. But this was nothing compared to his somewhat embarrassing performance in the rather unfortunate closing panel session.
It seems that Renato was initially intended to be a panellist for this session, but had stepped into the breach when Csaba Ban was unable to chair it as had originally been intended. Even so, a man of his experience should have known that the roles of panellist and moderator are very different. Instead, Renato monopolised the discussion, reducing the panellists, and particularly the women panellists, to peripheral roles. The audience, however, had the last laugh thanks to technology. As at many conferences these days, the Slido app was used for asking questions, with the most popular ones projected on to a screen behind the speakers. As the session wore on, it became apparent that someone was asking mischievous questions. “Why,” said one “is the moderator speaking all the time and not letting the panellists talk?” As the question was upvoted it moved up the screen until it was tying with one from Chris Durban, who was watching the proceedings on streaming. When an upvote was removed from Chris’s question, the other one rose to the top of the chart and Renato could not fail to see it. His face as he read it was a picture, although it has to be said that even such frank instant feedback failed to improve the quality of that particular discussion.
One of the concerns of the BP organisers in choosing Lisbon to host the conference was, apparently, that COVID restrictions should be minimal. In Lisbon facemasks only had to be worn on public transport, not at the conference venue or anywhere else indoors. In the light of the fact that several conference-goers went home having caught COVID, I have read criticism of the organisers for not having insisted on masks. Personally, I believe they were absolutely right not to. This is no longer 2020. Conference-goers are vaccinated and for the vast majority COVID is simply a cold. Everyone is heartily sick of facemasks and the idea of forcing people to wear them to avoid a sore throat and a sniffle seems frankly ridiculous. I’m sure some will disagree with my assessment, but I’m definitely backing Csaba on this issue.
Overall BP22 can be considered a huge success. Partly because of some fine organisation and good presentations, but mostly because in-person translation events are simply far more enjoyable than they are online. So all credit to the organisers for having persisted with putting it on through times when it might have seemed unlikely to go ahead. And good luck to them with BP23 in Utrecht!