Monday, November 30, 2009

Vienna ProZ Conference

The ProZ conference just ended last night with a dinner near one of Vienna's (semi-)traditional Christmas markets. I met quite a few interesting colleagues, including one who had come all the way from Chile.

What struck me here, compared to U.S. conferences, is how many of the attendees weren't just bilingual, but spoke multiple foreign languages fluently -- and in some cases translated from/to quite a number of languages. As is common with international conferences, the lingua franca was English, although, this being a regional conference, many -- if not most -- attendees also spoke German. I found myself constantly asking people I met which language they spoke/preferred.

Maybe a variation of the Quebecois greeting should be developed for such conferences. In Montreal, when I bought groceries the cashier would greet me with "Bonjour, Hello". I was then expected to reply either "Bonjour" or "Hello" to indicate my preference for French or English. The remainder of the transaction was then conducted in that language. I could see participants in international gatherings greeting each other with "Hi, Guten Tag, Bonjour", for example, to indicate the languages in which the conversation could be carried out. For some people -- particularly in our profession -- that might become a rather lengthy greeting, though.

Most sessions were in the end conducted in German, even though some of the session titles were in English, and some speakers had expected to give their presentations in English. So the PowerPoint slides projected behind the speaker might be in English, but the speaker's commentary on them would be in German. I generally try to take notes in the language in which the talk is given (or the book is written), but I found myself using English, English abbreviations, German and German shorthand all in my notes for the same presentation. Not a problem, unless someone else wants to see these notes, or I need to remember the language in which the talk was originally given, but potentially confusing.

Being back in Vienna makes me a little homesick for this city, although I don't think I could move back here permanently. I am too much of a New Yorker by now to live with the slower pace, smaller city and relative homogeneity of the population here. Participants at this conference were talking about having attended, or planning to attend, conferences in various other European cities. There is definitely an advantage to living in the center of Europe. Maybe some day I'll come back for a little while ...

I got to go to visit my parents -- another advantage of being in Vienna: they are just a subway ride away, instead of an ocean away.



  1. Hi Barbara

    As far as using another language is concerned, can I put in a word for Esperanto :)

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    A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at

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