I was asked to write this piece because I’m the opposite of an expert on the subject: last year, I was a rookie. I presented for the very first time at a translator’s conference, and this is what I’ll focus on, because I know so many of you have great ideas but don’t think you can take this step yet.
You know what? You probably can.
Okay, so let’s get some perspective, here. I’m not a total newbie. I taught law for several years. I teach legal translation now. At this point, if I need to do a cartwheel in class, all I have to do is take off my shoes and I’m ready.
So, you ask, “why are you, of all people, telling me—the reader, the one who maybe has no experience speaking in public—to put myself out there?” Because I was you once. Because I used to tremble before going into class. I even stuttered a few times. Because new challenges still scare me, and I was nervous before I presented at the conference last year. But I never regretted those moments; they became funny stories (When we see each other at the conference, remind me to tell you about the time I fell off the stage while I was teaching a civil law class. It’s a classic.), because there is joy to be had in sharing information.
And here is where you come in: what is your passion? Or even, what is your pet peeve? What do other people keep getting wrong? How can you help? Come on, you’re a translator, so, by your very nature, you’re a nitpicker. As a group, we show remarkable uniformity when it comes to being detail-oriented. We’re into inspecting and filling nooks and crannies, like butter on a toasted English muffin, but even more delicious, because we fill empty spaces with knowledge.
Fill the gap. Tell us what you know. If you are the nervous, shy, introverted type, remember: all of us, even the most self-possessed presenter—you know, the one who is not me, the writer—have had their moments of self-doubt and insecurities, but they decided that telling their story and sharing their research and knowledge mattered more.
Besides, ATA conferences are fun, and the feeling you get after you speak is pretty cool. You don’t want to miss out on that.
AMANDA MORRIS is a Portuguese<>English freelance translator and a legal translation instructor at New York University’s School of Professional Studies. In a former life, she worked in Brazil as a lawyer, a legal advisor to television shows, and as a law professor. She has a master’s degree and PhD in law from the University of São Paulo.