Translation Conference in Porto

Translator German-Italian at Proz Conference in Porto 2013

The Time magazine I was reading on the plane to Porto contained an article about the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba.

In recent years, each time I was doing a research on some obscure machinery and equipment when translating for trade fairs and exhibition catalogues, I invariably came across product listings on Most of them were of no more use than any other unspecified, unexplained offers of industrial products, but Alibaba was omnipresent. It took me quite a while to learn that Alibaba, a source of information for my translation-related research, was actually one of the biggest business-to-business Internet-based marketplaces, a portal to connect Chinese (and now global) manufacturers and suppliers with international buyers.

In my understanding, ProZ is Alibaba’s pendant in the translation business. If you are looking for a translator with a certain language and specialty combination, chances are you will land at ProZ. If you are searching for obscure terms to be translated in your target language, you may find some suggestions and perhaps even a terminological discussion on a translators’ forum at ProZ.

Alibaba started as a private business. Now that this online marketplace and shopping search engine is bigger than Ebay and Amazon combined, Jack Ma makes headlines as a crusader for the environment and community.

ProZ started with a view of becoming an international organization and community of translators and interpreters, but essentially it is a marketplace for translation services, operated as a private business.

However, the community aspect still plays a major role for language professionals registered at ProZ. When asked about the motivation of participants in the 2013 ProZ International Conference held on June 8-9 in Porto, Portugal, a fellow translator said “I think most people come for socializing, ours is a lonely business”.

Apart from the opportunity to socialize with peers (and getting to know so many talented and impressive people), the Porto conference offered an interesting range of speakers and topics.

Without going into details on all the insightful and inspirational events (you can find a lot of information and feedback at the “Porto Conference Post Event Recap”), I’d rather highlight both opening sessions.

ProZ Conference in Porto 2013

The first one, called “Minding your own (translation) business” by Nigel Saych was rather programmatic and conceptual. Nigel’s personal evolution, from a freelance translator to a multi-language translation company, is a nice case study of the choices we must make (as long as we are still able to choose, and “don’t let big agencies bully you”). In fact, Nigels’s “third way” reverberates strongly with my own idea (and practice) of collaboration. From my music days I remember Arnold Schoenberg’s saying about “the middle way as the only road that doesn’t lead to Rome”, but I have even more doubts about the extremes. Like Nigel, I believe that collaboration opens up a new “middle” way when faced with choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea.

It is too early to speak of a trend but the number of precedents is growing. I wonder if Nigel Saych, based in Holland, knows our Stridonium, “the island’s third way”, and I am definitely glad to learn, thanks to the ProZ conference, other examples of collaboration, that of Nigel Saych’s company, but also of the Portuguese KennisTranslations (special thanks to Luisa Yokochi) or Word Awareness (special thanks to Attila Piróth, head of IAPTI’s France chapter).

Marketing for Translators

The opening session on the second day, called “Exploring the freelance advantage: how to stay competitive in the new professional landscape” by Marta Stelmaszak, was spectacular. As a fan of the Red vs. Blue Ocean (with a record of several dozens of interpreting jobs at marketing seminars on this very subject), I am always happy for the Blue Ocean word to be spread.

Marta makes a strong case for identifying (and visualizing) one’s own strengths and USP. She makes the audience draw concentric circles (“why – how – what”), strategy canvasses and, finally, the Ideal Customer Avatar. I can imagine that if you are diversified it would be a problem to have one avatar, but Marta’s own personal John the Lawyer remains memorable, even if slightly generic, at all times. (My personal avatar of a British lawyer for human rights, with a reputation to defend and an inherent commitment to the idea of fairplay looks certainly more like Colin Firth in “Bridget Jones”, but I get sidetracked.)

If I may use the “why – how – what” allusion once again, I would say that Marta’s tremendous appeal (I nearly wrote Marta’s magic) is based perhaps not so much on WHAT she tells, but HOW. Marta is not afraid of exposing her own vulnerabilities and is truly great in translating all the usual marketing concepts into a very personal, emotional and touching experience. More importantly, she aims to inspire and motivate (what she reaches) and certainly deserves every success that is coming her way.

Translation conference in Porto, ProZ

One of the final sessions was by Valeria Aliperta, who presented her personal brand, Rainy London Translations. Considering the weather on the conference weekend, the brand name could have been easily adapted to Porto. Considering Porto’s Roman history, “Gladiator Translations”, suggested by Valeria’s father for her brand name, would make sense too.

But Rainy Porto made a point. In fact, the organizers of the ProZ conference failed miserably to make Porto look much different from London in this particularly respect. But this was perhaps their only failure.

Everything was perfectly organized. Much food (and wine) for thought, a great venue (and much better weather on the following week, as a matter of fact). Thanks for everyone for making this event so special!

Nigel Saych - English translator in Holland

Nigel SAYCH: “Like George W. Bush said, the problem with the French is they don’t have a word for entrepreneur”.


Anne DIAMANTIDIS: She is French, not Greek, perfect in German, English, medical translation and SEO (if the French have a word for it).


Alejandro MORENO-RAMOS: If you don’t know his full name, you certainly know MOX (and his pictures).

WantWords - Polish to English

Marta STELMASZAK: “If you know WHY you are, it makes you feel sure of yourself”.

English-Russian translator

Konstantin KISIN: “My minimum is 5,000 words a day, within 5 hours, not consecutive hours“.

Rainy London - Marketing translation

Valeria ALIPERTA: Design Rules the World?

Technical translation for Portuguese

João Roque DIAS: “Translating technical manuals is about telling people how to press a button”.

Translation - English and Spanish to Portuguese

Above: Michele SANTIAGO, translator English / Spanish to Brazilian Portuguese

Title picture: Nadine DRESING, interpreter and translator for German, Spanish, English and Italian.


  1. Allison Wright’s avatar

    You are an excellent portrait photographer, Valerij!
    It was really good to meet you at the conference. Sadly, time seemed so short.


    1. ValerijTomarenko’s avatar

      Thank you very much, Allison! But I told you, I absolutely cannot draw. So I hope to contact you some day with a job for your friend, the illustrator.
      Sorry for the belated reply. Just found your comment. Yes, time flies (sigh).


    2. Stefano Lodola’s avatar

      I wish I were there, also to have you take a picture of me!



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