Bag jets off to Jo’burg!

Despite being a globetrotter of note*, Bag was slightly nervous about the prospect of flying to the SATI Triennial Conference after reading a story in the news about bees nesting in a Mango plane’s engine, but a cursory glance before entering the plane allayed his fears.

Upon arrival in Johannesburg, Bag duly checked into his hotel at the Emperors Palace and had a good night’s rest in preparation for the conference, which was auspiciously titled “Into the future! Changes and challenges for the language practice profession”.

The next two days Bag learnt all about buzz terms like AI, NMT (neural machine translation), human parity, post-editors and cultural ambassadors, and rubbed shoulders with big names in the translation industry such as FIT President (and master rhymer) Kevin Quirk and dynamic keynote speaker and passionate Kiwi, Henry Líu.

Bag also had a virtual glimpse into the engine room of Chris Wendt, Microsoft’s Group Program Manager for Machine Translation Development, who held a remote presentation from his office in Redmond, Washington. Translator adaptability was the underlying theme of the conference, and if Bag had to give a summary of all the discussions, it would read something like the following: the rise of The Machine doesn’t imply the death of The Translator, but translators who don’t arm themselves with machines are doomed.

On the networking front, Bag enjoyed meeting old friends and potential new ones from the different realms of the translation industry.

The well-organised event was aptly rounded off with the SATI awards ceremony, honouring some of the unsung heroes of translation and – not to be forgotten – lexicography. Whilst on the topic of dictionaries, Bag would like to extend a warm word of thanks to the Department of Arts and Culture’s National Language Services for gratuitously handing out an array of specialised and very rare Afrikaans dictionaries, an offer which Bag gleefully grabbed with both handles.

I think it is safe to say Bag will be back for the next SATI Triennial Conference in 2021.

*Be sure to visit Bag’s gallery.