The Alchemist's Lair
Thoughts on writing, language, life as a freelancer,
and what comes to mind.
and what comes to mind.
Great xl8 Communities is an interview series about peer-led communities and initiatives for translators and interpreters. Peer networks and groups bring together professionals with different backgrounds but similar needs, fears and problems. Some are about providing advice, support and learning opportunities. Others serve as cosy oases for networking and fun.
1. Every new initiative is based on the person who starts the ball rolling. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you do what you do?
First and foremost, I’m a translator. My languages are English and German and I specialize in marketing and transcreation for clients in IT, Digitization, and Industry 4.0, as well as for marketing agencies. I’ve been freelancing as a translator since 2003 and started actively networking with fellow translators back in about 2009.
I became the moderator of the German-speaking Übersetzer-Lounge group on XING. It was a great, active group with roughly 1,700 members when I took over and I realized that there was so much potential, a huge knowledge base.
So for one, I took it to an Xpert level, which means that it is the only translators’ group on the business network that is accredited as a group of experts. So it attracts potential clients and is promoted by XING itself.
Tanya Quintieri launched the xl8Camp concept in 2014
During my time as the moderator, I started two crowd-funded projects.
One was a humorous image video that informed potential clients about the benefits of working with specialized professional translators. Members of the group were allowed to embed the video into their websites and blogs.
The second one was a joint stand at the book fair in Frankfurt in 2012.
We presented roundabout 60 translators with their photos, QR codes to their website and their details about language combinations and specialties. We deliberately exhibited in the hall with the service providers for publishers, not the hall with all the other language service providers and associations.
When I left the group in 2013, it had about 5,500 members.
I left because I moved on to my next project, which was also born in the group: DVÜD e. V.
We founded the association together with 6 members of the group and a lawyer.
Ever since 2009, I’ve initiated and participated in quite a few events.
In 2014 I organized the first Meet Your Translator Night in Berlin, together with a colleague. It was super interesting, very focused, and most of all it was something completely new. Also in 2014, I organized my first xl8Camp.
2015 saw the first edition of the 1,000,000 Miles Challenge for translators and interpreters.
And now, just last fall, I decided to take the xl8Camp to the next level. It is going international!
2. What is xl8Camp? What is the focus of this initiative?
xl8Camp stands for “translation camp” and bases on the concept of barcamps. These are basically “un-conferences”, where there’s no set program, no dress code, no commissioned speakers. People with common interests come together and decide on the spot what they want to talk about in scheduled sessions.
There’s usually two or more tracks, depending on how many people attend, how many topics are suggested and whether the camp runs for one or two days.
On the first morning, everybody comes together in one room and anybody who wants to talk about something (a presentation they’ve prepared, a problem they want to discuss, or an idea they want to share) proposes their topic to the crowd.
If enough people want to hear it, the topic gets a slot in the session plan. That makes up the program for the day. Attendees are active participants and everybody gets a chance to talk. No talking down from speakers to audience.
And then, let’s face it, there’s the financial aspect.
I love regular conferences, but I know that those who can afford to invest a thousand Euros in 2 days of CPD (conference ticket, travel and accommodation, etc.) are probably the ones who need it the least. So xl8Camps are an affordable alternative. There are no fancy venues and dinners and whatnot. At my 2nd xl8Camp, the tickets were 39 Euro per person and that included beverages, snacks, and lunch, as well as one dinner.
As for the topics, they are no different than the topics at regular conferences.
I’d even argue that because of the casual atmosphere and because people open up and actively participate in sessions, they walk away with more insight and inspiration for their work as translators or interpreters.
3. What do people who join an xl8camp look for? What do they find?
They come for CPD that’s fun and affordable and walk away with friends and a sense of belonging. They feel more confident as freelancers for several reasons, including the fact that they got to address their own, individual issues.
4. What is the most remarkable thing that happened because of an xl8camp?
Personally? At the first xl8Camp, I made some very good friends. And I found the perfect partners to team up with for multi-lingual projects. At the end of the last day, I asked the participants to leave a note in a guestbook and I promised not to read it until I got home.
They had me in tears!
There was one participant who asked to talk about how to cope with the negative downward spiral of working many hours to make ends meet as a newbie. That was a very emotional session, with loads of tears from most anybody who was in the room.
Said participant walked away with a plan on how to improve her work-life balance all while being held accountable - gently - by the others over the course of the following weeks and months.
Today she runs a successful translation business and has learned to charge the face value for her work and to go on actual holidays, to enjoy weekends and she no longer goes beyond her own limits. Definitely a success story right there!
5. What aspect of the original idea prompted you to move from "what if" to reality?
Curiosity. I love to try new things and I wanted to close the huge gap between informal powwows and pricy conferences. Mind you, I’ve spoken at several conferences myself and even organized one in 2015. But I felt that this gap needed to be addressed.
6. What are your top tips for people attending their first un-conference?
Remember that at regular conferences, the people on stage are translators and interpreters just like you. At a un-conference, you have the same people there, but in a totally different setting. You meet on an eye-to-eye level. So be prepared to speak up. Trust that the concept attracts like-minded people, who show up with the same fears, expectations and problems.
Be open and share what you know. If everybody puts in a little of their wisdom and their experience, no matter how insignificant it may seem to them, everybody gets to walk away with new impetus, new ideas, new know-how. You can’t lose at a xl8Camp as long as you’re willing to put some of your self into it.
7. What is coming up for xl8Camp? How can people find out more?
To be honest, this whole idea of taking it to an international level sparked at the worst moment. I was in the middle of relocating between countries and I had just had my baby.
So 2016 was super busy for me and I didn’t have the time or the extra energy to prepare the concept in a way that it would hit the ground running. But that will change very soon.
In the meantime, I have talked to several interested people who would be willing to become an xl8Camp Ambassador in their home countries. And with a handful of them, I’ve already started creating their websites and one xl8Camp even took place already. Another xl8Camp is scheduled for this September in the Czech Republic. Currently, I’m also working out the details with the xl8Camp Ambassador for Spain mainland.
So I am kind of seeing it as a beta phase. I am hoping to roll out the complete concept by March and then hopefully many people will sign up to become xl8Camp Ambassadors and offer xl8Camps all around the world.
xl8Camps are going international
It is important to me to build a brand around the xl8Camps so that we can attract interesting sponsors for the events. Being an xl8Camp Ambassador is not about making profit from the events, but to make the events affordable or even free to attend. So, the more countries are involved, the stronger the brand xl8Camp becomes and the more funds can be raised.
And before you ask, I’m not in it for the money either. This project can’t afford to be about profit. The profit is the results we can achieve for the xl8Camp participants. Helping the profession professionalize, bit by bit, is more of a reward than I could ever ask for.
Also, xl8Camps are not intended to replace regular conferences. Those are important events in their own rights. I want to promote xl8Camps to bring real life CPD to those who can’t join regular conferences, for whatever reason.
It’s not even always about the money. Some of us have small children we don’t want to drag half way across the continent to attend a conference. Others might be taking care of their aging parents. Or there simply might not be any live CPD available.
So, back to your question Alessandra.
The main xl8Camp website can be found at www.xl8Camp.org.
It will be the hub that links to the different xl8Camps around the world and interested linguists can contact me there to become an xl8Camp Ambassador.
And of course there’s a Facebook page. We’re also on Twitter (@xl8Camp), and each xl8Camp Ambassador has his or her own xl8Camp group on FB.
And thank you, Alessandra, for giving me the chance to spread the word about the xl8Camps. I really appreciate it. Actually, that’s what barcamps live on: coverage on the internet, through blogs and mentions on social media platforms. I hope to see you at a xl8Camp some day!