Great xl8 Communities is an interview series about peer-led communities, groups, and initiatives for translators and interpreters. Peer networks 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.

My guests today are Ellen Singer and Dorota Pawlak. Together, they launched ART (All-round Translator) to offer quality in-person learning opportunities for translators.

ellen and dorota_ART organizers
Smiling and inspiring: Ellen Singer (left) and Dorota Pawlak (right)


Every new initiative is based on the people who get the ball rolling. Can you tell us a bit about yourselves, and why you do what you do?

ELLEN: I grew up in Argentina and Uruguay aware of our Dutch roots. I do not believe one country is better than another, I believe that the culture of every single country or ethnic group is valuable, is of interest.

When you arrive in a new country you do not know who is who. The same applies to any professional market. Meetings others is essential to integrate. Learning new skills is essential to maintain your professional knowledge. The ART speakers and workshop hosts are carefully selected to provide that which we feel is useful to us and anybody who wants to join us.

During my formative years I was bullied. I like people who are willing to share their knowledge, who want to help others, who tend to include others, not exclude them. Of course, sharing and caring is also the best way to help yourself…


DOROTA: Like Ellen, I live on the crossroads of many cultures. I come from Poland, spent a few years in Austria, then relocated to the Netherlands once I met my Moroccan husband.

Each of these cultures and countries may seem totally different, but the longer I’m exposed to this variety, the more common and interesting aspects I can find. I believe you can learn a lot from every single culture and every person you meet on your way.

Some people need extra motivation or a gentle push to start socialising and exchanging views with others, both on a professional and a private level.

And that’s why we created All-round Translator – to help translators meet new colleagues and learn something new, not only from our speakers, but also from other participants.

ART interview_quote1

What is ART? What is the focus of your initiative?

ELLEN: ART stands for All-Round Translator. We believe in the value of linguistic skills but also in adding to the basic skills to create a unique set of skills that mutually support one another.

The globalisation of the translation market led to international conferences. These conferences addressed general translation topics but could not go in-depth into niche markets or address the required business skills. Dorota and I were playing with the idea of a business skills oriented day at about the same time and decided to join forces.

The best networks consist of people with different backgrounds. ART aims to provide hands-on skills but also to create a network of translators with different backgrounds and languages that support each other. The annual ART event focuses on business skills; the afternoon networking activities and dinner provide the setting to create lasting friendships.

The workshops provide hands-on skills that can make the difference between another translator and the right translator for the job. All our speakers are selected because we believe they can contribute something useful to us as professional translators.

Learning at ART events
ART events mean business, networking, and fun


What do people who join ART look for? What do they find?

DOROTA: It is hard to get people to come to their first ART event. We must, however, be doing something right as we find that most of our attendees return for more.

The small-scale of ART events means we cater to people who do not feel comfortable at a conference. Time and again the attendees thank me for organizing something they feel comfortable attending. For some the friendships started at All-round Translator events will lead to easing into international conferences, for others it will not. Everyone decides for himself or herself what they prefer to do.


What is the most remarkable thing that happened because of ART?

ELLEN: For me ART should be a place where translators meet kindred spirits. At the last ART event I really enjoyed the fact that a Dutch-Greek translator and an English-German translator started talking Greek to each other and found out that they were both big fans of Thessaloniki and that even their business cards were very similar… That makes the effort of organizing an event more than worthwhile!

You never know what will spark up a friendship for life!

ART interview_quote 2


What aspect of your original idea prompted you to move from “what if” to reality?

ELLEN: I was playing with the idea of organizing events that addressed what I perceived to be missing: practical business lessons, the skills we all learned un time by making mistakes and learning from them. Dorota stepped up to me at a conference and asked whether I would like to organize events with her. She described what had been playing in my mind. We had the same idea, lived in the same country, so it made sense to work together. With time I have come to know Dorota even better, and she amazes me. Dorota works hard, is smart and willing. I could not wish for a better partner.
DOROTA: I appreciate Ellen’s social skills and creativity. You can’t move from planning to doing without these key features. I noticed that Ellen was enthusiastic about my vague idea of small-scale meetings for translators, and that was enough to start working on what later became ART.


How does the current ART compare to your original idea? Did it become something different, or bigger, over time? How do you feel about the differences between your vision and reality?

ELLEN: We started out planning a single annual event, but soon decided we should also organize niche market workshops. We knew the market, knew who we would like to have as workshop hosts. Dorota and I quickly agreed to add quarterly workshops to the annual event.

ART is there to fill a gap, should we feel there is a need we will add other events, but for now we are happy with ART as it is. Should we feel ART is no longer useful, we would stop organizing events.


What is about to happen in ART? Are there any interesting initiatives or events the community of translators and interpreters should keep an eye on?

ELLEN: Our next annual All-round Translator event is on the 18th of November 2017 in Amsterdam. We have not decided on the topics or speakers yet, but we will make sure they create value for our translation businesses. Suggestions are very welcome!

We also have a few interesting workshops coming up. The All-round Translator workshops are held in Leiden on Saturdays. To learn more about us or join a workshop, visit the ART website or meet us on Facebook!