Skip to content

Translators gather for conference

Organizer hopes event attracts participants from around the world
Chris Bolster

An experienced translator is organizing an international conference and she is hoping Powell River will charm others the way it has her.

Zuzana Kulhánková is currently organizing the first Powell River International Translators Conference scheduled for September 12 to 15 held at the Beach Gardens Resort and Marina. She hopes to have at least 100 people attend the event.

Twelve years ago she put together a similar conference in the Czech Republic, in a small countryside town. “It’s not my first rodeo,” she said.

Powell River, with its airport, “absolute beauty” and welcoming, interested residents, “has what it takes to be a conference centre,” she said. It is the perfect time of year, she added, just after the summer tourist season slows down and the weather is still nice.

Kulhánková returned to the West Coast five years ago after feeling homesick living in the Czech Republic. She and her husband Georges Coulon had been living in the southern Bohemian town of Slavonice located near the Czech-Austrian border. Ironically, the area is known as Czech-Canada because of its dense forest, but Kulhánková pined for the real thing. “The West Coast is my home,” she said.

Kulhánková escaped formerly Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia when she was 23 years old and immigrated to Canada in 1981. She lived in Ontario first and then made her way to Vancouver where she lived for 18 years. She returned to the Czech Republic to teach English and to work as a translator.

“I had never been to Powell River, but we wanted to be near the water and to buy a house,” she said.

She flew from Prague to Vancouver and then up to Powell River to search for her dream house, but without initial success. After coming back up for a second time, she found her house in Westview. She describes the view from her kitchen window out over Malaspina Strait as “healing.”

Both Kulhánková, with her library of hundreds of books, and Coulon, with his entomology laboratory, are translators who work from home.

The idea to host an international translators conference came out of the idea to invite her friends, many of whom are translators, up to Powell River, in the same way she had done in 2001 for her Slavonice conference.

Marion Macfarlane, a Canadian translator from New Brunswick who attended the 2001 conference, reported that “The real strength of the conference lay in the opportunities it afforded participants to get to know each other, not only during the work sessions but also informally. This made for enriching exchange, and the contacts forged in these few days were lasting.”

With larger conferences held in cities it is harder to meet new people, said Kulhánková. “In Vancouver, this would be a very different thing. Anyone can do a conference [there] and be a success. That’s boring.”

There are some clear connections between Powell River and Slavonice for Kulhánková, both being small towns with a lot of natural beauty.

She is hoping that conference sessions aside, the lasting memories from the conference come from the “extracurricular” activities she is planning. Some ideas she is considering are taking the participants on a sunset cruise with dinner, fishing charters, playing golf, renting kayaks, going hiking and visiting Townsite’s historic buildings.

“The sessions will be important, but the greatest value of the conference is to bring people together,” she said.

Kulhánková has set up a website with her own photographs of Powell River to help promote the conference and reach a global audience. She is monitoring hits on the site and so far she has seen that 30 per cent have come from British Columbia, 10 per cent from the rest of Canada, 20 per cent from the United States and the remaining 40 per cent from places around the world.

While it is too soon to say where people will come from to attend the conference, Kulhánková mentioned that at the Slavonice conference she had people attending from Canada, United States, Finland, Portugal and Ireland. She said she thinks most people coming up for the conference will be from Vancouver and BC and look at the conference as a way to take a weekend trip.

“It will be good for Powell River,” she said, “regardless of where they come from.”

She does, however, hope that if Vancouverites travel up the coast for the conference they take note of what they could have in Powell River for the price of a condo in Vancouver. These are people who might decide Powell River is a good place to live, she added. Translators need only an Internet connection and easy access to airports to do their work.

So far she has been working alone to promote the conference but she has reached out to local businesses for help. She has made two short presentations at Powell River Chamber of Commerce social events looking for local sponsors.

“I’ve tried to make it affordable for people to come and for local businesses to be a part of it,” she said.

Kim Miller, chamber manager, said that local business could be willing to look at sponsoring the event and the chamber could be of assistance to help promote her event with social media as well as guiding her to find corporate sponsors.

“I do think we have some good facilities to hold conferences here,” said Miller. “I think for 100, 200, even 400 people we have the facilities to put that up.” Miller would like to see more conferences held here especially with all the associations in town. “It’s good for business,” she said.

Kulhánková hopes that if the conference is successful it can become a biannual event.

For more information about the conference, how to participate or sponsor, readers can visit the conference website.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks