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By Konrad Fuhrmann, European Commission Directorate-General for Translation, EMT-Team
All culture is the response to a crisis – that is in general terms, how the historian Arnold Toynbee described historical evolution. The immediate answer of the EMT Network to the challenges of the Covid-crisis was a sort of Corona-culture of teaching translation under the new special circumstances, which nobody could even think of.
In a first moment, all efforts made since October 2019 by the newly elected network – setting up the new Board, fixing priorities, planning the next network meetings – seemed to be thwarted or at least badly damaged by the insidious virus and the measures taken to fight it. No physical meetings anymore, no direct networking, no spontaneous ideas of future collaboration during the coffee breaks … Corona hit the very heart of EMT!
However, after the first shock, after a short stay in the intensive care bed, figuratively speaking, EMT recovered instantly to full strength and used its networking resources to break the isolation of lockdown and other restrictions. Admittedly, the network meeting in March had to be cancelled without discussion, but then the ‘cancel culture’ finished immediately and gave place to a very creative debate: methods of distance-learning, use of digital tools and internet resources the network had already discussed as a secondary topic, overnight advanced to the centre of interest. A Corona – distance teaching & assessment group in Yammer started an intensive exchange of best practices, tricks and recommendations in order to tie up a parcel of emergency relief measures. Responding to the crisis, the network turned into a safety net designed to cope with the challenges of the crisis. The virus has increased a general trend to use more distance teaching, to apply new digital tools for teaching and assessment. As one of the participants of the Corona-group put it, the pandemic has simply precipitated the crisis in language teaching and assessment and produced answers, which once will become mainstream.
Six working groups, on EMT’s visibility & outreach, technological competence, L2-translation, audio-visual translation (AVT), CATO and PSIT, have been set up and are meeting regularly online. Contrary to all pessimistic expectations, on-line coordination has been working very well.
What comes next? In this period of utmost uncertainty, detailed plans B are, of course, indispensable. For the time being, it is clear that the next network meeting 29-30 October will be organised virtually with only the speakers coming to Brussels. The programme includes reporting on the results of the working groups and other EMT activities as well as breakout sessions: virtual meetings with DGT heads of language departments and debates on future topics. Technically, this will be a big challenge for the EMT team, which has to deal with different new tools in order to organise virtual plenary sessions with on-line interpreting and breakout sessions with another tool. This will be also a sort of dress rehearsal for plan B solutions in the future. We still hope that the Network meeting in March 2021 in Leipzig can be organised more or less normally, but that is all but sure. It is clear that even the best virtual solutions cannot replace the liveliness and spontaneity of physical meetings, the random talks in the coffee breaks. However, the current crisis is a good opportunity to carry out our plans B, to practise using new tools, in order to be better prepared for future epidemics, eruptions of volcanoes and other calamities, which may affect the work of EMT. Let us meet the challenge and fully develop the Corona-culture of EMT!