BeatBabel at "the GALA of BIG ideas"

It’s the last day of the conference and I’m sitting at a very convenient round table – not too close, not too far - waiting for the annual business meeting to begin. My breakfast selection immediately gives away that I’m not a Northern European (croissant, pain au chocolat, and a couple of those round ones with red jelly in the center), and all the sugar is really helping with my mental recap of the past 3 days.

In this quick recap, I don’t count business cards or plan out follow-up emails with potential leads. I actually find myself hoping that the profound motivation brought by the amazing sessions, passionate speakers and compelling colleagues will last; hoping that this desire to push myself, my company and the industry will survive the enveloping power of our day-to-day struggles.

And then I find myself wondering whether this passion for our industry and our profession is also present amongst conference-goers in other industries; say, the sheet metal workers' annual meeting, the risk analysts get-together, or insurance-con. I made all of these up, but you get my point.

The enthusiasm and commitment we all share towards our profession comes from the fact that the root of our industry, language, is a distinctly human faculty. Any discussion we have about language, whether it is centered on technology, globalization, cultural competencies, etc., is in essence a discussion on human nature and the human mind. I experienced the passion for our industry and the excitement around new technologies when I attended my first GALA, at Istanbul, as a “Rising Star Winner”. And I was delighted to experience the same passion this year in Amsterdam.


This year, Burckhardt and I had the honor of presenting a Short Talk. We called it an “Intellectual Jam Session” and were very excited to see how people responded to some of the “big topics” we wanted to touch on. We were surprised and also encouraged when, 5 minutes into the wonderful (and scary) Keynote address by Thimon de Jong, we started hearing hints of some of the ideas we wanted to explore ourselves: the concept of “digital balance” (we called it “technological hygiene”), the “trust transition” (we pointed it out as one of the key competitive advantages for small LSPs), and others. It was very clear from the start that this year’s conference was the GALA of “Big Ideas”.

And we were lucky enough to be able to hear a lot of these big ideas at the wonderful sessions. Since there were three “Babels” attending the conference, we often split up and then shared thoughts and impressions on different sessions over lunch. Marie was raving about the mentoring session and role-playing hosted by Women In Localization and Silvia Avary-Silveira from Juniper Networks. She really put herself out there as a volunteer guinea pig for the mentoring tips, but she received a lot of great feedback from other attendees. Burckhardt had nothing but praise for István Lengyel’s closing keynote. And Miguel filled almost three pages worth of notes at Renato Beninato's and Ann-Marie Colliander Lind’s session on The 6 Laws of Selling Language Services.

Regardless of the theme of the session, we kept hearing the same keywords coming up over and over again: change, disruption, sustainability, survival… but this time, these buzzwords weren’t just being thrown around for the sake of it. We got to see the reality behind the words thanks to a futurologist whose telling of the tale was eerily close to the present:  Big brother-like online Apps that know everything about you, emotion recognition, even automated drone-delivery of toilet paper!

Now, at this point, Burckhardt and I directed a skeptical eyebrow-raising glance at each other, and we were in agreement for once (even though I am an optimist and he is a self-declared “realist”). We just HAD to ask, as we always do when considering the usefulness of technology: What is the problem to which automated drone-delivery of toilet paper is a solution? It is important to remember that technology is always a Faustian Bargain: it gives but it also takes away. And this was one of the issues we addressed in our “intellectual jam session” later that day (shameless plug).

But it wasn’t all buzzwords and technological omens. We also had a fantastic time floating around the canals, sharing amazing dinners with our colleagues and wishing we had grown a beard so we could shave it off for TWB!

A little over a week has gone by since we left Amsterdam and the desire to keep learning and pushing ourselves is still here, despite the avalanche of work after part of our team was out for the week…and that is the clearest sign of a fantastic conference. Next stop, Boston!