Drongo Language Festival – Utrecht, The Netherlands


20 October, 2017

Our colleagues Femke and Hendrika visited the Drongo Language Festival in representation of Jensen Localization. They narrated their experiences to share them with all of us.



“September 29th was a day I had long been looking forward to: the day of the Drongo Language Festival in Utrecht. Along with my colleague Femke Gobius du Sart-Jongerius I had the honour of representing Jensen Localization at this event.

The train ride to Utrecht went smooth and Femke and I had a nice opportunity to talk. Registration for the event was well-organized and smooth and so it didn’t take us long to set foot on the event floor. Once the Festival was officially opened it was time to check out the stands of the exhibitors and to start networking.

In the morning I attended two sessions. The first session was hosted by Everdiene Geerlings, who works as a senior education advisor for NOB and is also working on her PhD. The session was about native languages, or ‘moedertaal’ in Dutch. This session had my interest because in the translation industry we often use the so-called ‘native language principle’, which means translators only translate into their native language(s). I had hoped to gain some new insights to evaluate our position in this matter: is it better to be a native speaker of the target language in order to deliver a text that is grammatically flawless, or is it better to be a native speaker of the source text, so a translator has the best possible understanding of the source and therefore knows what message to convey in the target text?

The session started out with trying to define what a native language is and how people can have different perceptions and definitions of this concept. The importance of multilingualism was an important part of this session. Research continues to show that multilingual people are more creative, cognitively more flexible and have a lower chance of getting Alzheimer than people who speak only one language. It was clearly indicated here that speaking a dialect is just as valuable as speaking another language. This was a very lively session with lots of interaction with the audience, but unfortunately, multilingualism in the Translation industry was not addressed and so the debate we face with this issue remains unresolved.”



“The first session I attended was about slogans, more specific, bad slogans. Christine Liebrecht and Tefke van Dijk have written a book about bad slogans, and organise a contest every year with an award for the company with the worst slogan. Everyone can send them examples from everyday life.

The fun part was that even though slogans were bad, some of them really did what they are supposed to do: make certain brands known. If you, as a brand, are known for that very annoying slogan, you still are known. I can’t give examples as they were all in Dutch, but most of the bad slogans actually did make companies known to the public, so they were not a failure seen from a marketing perspective.

In the second part of the work shop, we were put to work. We were divided into groups and were told to create a bad, funny slogan for eggs, as they have taken quite a beating lately with the Fipronil scandal. It was funny to see how you can come up with crazy stuff in just 15 minutes, together with people you have never met before.

The second session I attended was totally different. In 2018, Leeuwarden, in the North of the Netherlands, will be the cultural capital of Europe. They have given a huge space to Lân fan taal, giving them an opportunity to show people what language is and how important it is. They will have their own free state of language during the cultural year. For more info see lanfantaal.com (also available in Frisian, German and Dutch).

The last and professionally most interesting session was a panel talk with people from university and business about Artificially Intelligent Language. There was a lively discussion about the state of machine translation and the use of AI in the translation business. I learned that we have gone from rule based machine translation (translation based on dictionaries and grammar of source and target) to statistical translation (phrase based on the analysis of texts) to neural machine translation, self learning artificial network translation. Though I personally do not want to believe that AI will become so smart it can take our jobs, I was pretty amazed by what is possible already. Of course, there is lots of work to do and there is a big need for more data. Data, data, data, as one of the participants said. And as long as translators are willing to incorporate technology in their work, they should not be afraid of losing their jobs to machines.

The session was closed by Ronald Giphart, a known Dutch novelist, who took on the challenge to write a story together with a computer. It was very interesting to hear from him how it had worked and what the challenges were. It had kept him awake at night, and his conclusion was that it was fun, but he is not afraid of ever losing his job to a computer. For more info, visit: www.meertens.knaw.nl/cms/en/nieuws-agenda/nieuws-overzicht/236-2017/145410-verhaal-van-giphart-en-literaire-robot-vanaf-1-november-publiek (only in available in Dutch).

All in all, it was a very interesting festival, full of new experiences, insights, refreshing and definitely worth visiting again.”

At Jensen Localization we believe that each of our members should be able to attend these types of events to upgrade their knowledge and to share experiences with other language related people, associations, companies and organizations. Feel free to contact us to know how we can cooperate!

Events, Language Flavors, Language Learning, Languages, Machine Translation, Networking

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