As COVID-19 cases continue to grow worldwide and limit large-scale gatherings, localization conferences and services worldwide face a significant challenge that may impact freelance translators.
Following the worldwide response to the pandemic, many localization conferences, from LocWorld to the machine translation-specific AMTA, have temporarily shuttered their physical gatherings. The Japanese Association of Translators (JAT) decided to cancel its annual International Japanese English Translation (IJET) Conference in June. In March, JAT posted to its website, “It is with great sadness that the JAT Board and the Organizing Committee for IJET-31 have decided to cancel the International Japanese-English Translation Conference planned for Fukuoka on June 5–7, 2020.”
Dating back to 1990, IJET began as a two-day conference promoting professional development and networking among translators working between Japanese and English. It has since become a flagship event for the organization, alternating annual venues among Japan and English-speaking countries.
With the cancellation of this event and countless others, a number of companies that utilize services from translators and interpreters have growing concerns about declines in training and expertise due to fewer opportunities in the field.
The Japan Times reported in April one company’s efforts to overcome obstacles created by the pandemic. Miwaka Star, a Japan-based industrial painting firm, discussed how its recent, pre-COVID incorporation of remote teleconference systems for Japanese-English simultaneous interpretation services has benefited not only the company, but also freelance interpreters in lieu of in-person conferences.
Speaking with the Times, one representative stated, “‘For companies to proceed with conferences smoothly and gain satisfying results, it is necessary for interpreters to prepare beforehand in their field of expertise.’” Employing 15 interpreters remotely in a variety of fields, the company believes it can continue to provide that kind of preparation as non-remote services struggle to survive.
Still, despite the restraints placed on in-person, large-scale conferences, there are still many conferences in translation, interpretation, and localization fields planned for later in 2020, some of which will take place online.