From the session abstract, I wasn’t sure what to expect, as “education” is a huge topic. Would we be tackling a policy document, text used in higher education, or text for teachers? The METM23 “key info before you travel” email sent a week before the conference contained a link to download material for the session. The amount was daunting: five files, four relating to “ETF” (European Training Foundation). Two ETF files related to style guides: one was an 82-page pdf, the other was a one-page document with Web links. The other two ETF documents (the session source texts) were each 42 pages long. One was an “informal background paper” on human capital and employability in 14 Mediterranean countries, the other was on labour markets and the employability of people in six Eastern European countries. Sarah’s marginal comments were still visible. The fifth file, the session texts, was seven pages long (about 3400 words). Three of the extracts were indeed to do with education, presenting information on the educational attainment of the populations of the various countries studied, and included two tables and a bar graph. The fourth was an extract from an introductory overview of the geographical, economic, historical and political context of the Eastern European countries examined in the second source text.
The information on style requirements was superfluous for this short session, as on the day it turned out that not all attendees had downloaded – let alone read – it or the other pre-session documentation. Fortunately, some printouts of the exercises were available at the start of the session.
Sarah began by outlining the background to her ETF editing assignments, and then we were divided into groups of three or four. I was in a group of three. The stylish and comfy wheely chairs made it easy for us to huddle together or to scoot away from other groups.
It was only possible to fit two group editing sessions in our timetabled hour. For each assignment we were allowed 20 minutes’ editing time, during which Kim touched base with each group. In the plenaries following these two editing sessions, each group contributed an issue and a solution, with Sarah listing the main points on a flip chart.
Our first assignment was extract 1 (on secondary education in the Mediterranean). My group discussed possible editing solutions and then each of us amended our own copy – on a laptop, an iPad and paper. The cryptic phrase “the school compulsory age at 15” proved to be a sticking point, because “compulsory school age” was an unfamiliar concept to our non-native-English colleague from a Mediterranean country. So, in the allocated 20 minutes, we never got further than line 12.
The second assignment was the introduction to the paper on Eastern Europe. Again, time flew, and because of the multiple issues with the text, my group managed to discuss and edit the first paragraph only. At the end of the session, there was just enough time for a tantalizing glimpse of Sarah’s elegant solutions to some of the editing conundrums.
Despite only scratching the surface of the challenging extracts we were given, it was a very enjoyable and rewarding session. The mix of backgrounds, experience and native versus non-native English speakers among the attendees meant there was much to learn from each other’s understandings of the text and different approaches.
Given the time constraints and the many and varied problems in the source texts, we could certainly have concentrated on just one extract and explored it in more depth. So, the general consensus was that this was a teaser trailer for a very worthwhile full-blown workshop: over to you, Kim and Sarah!
This METM23 presentation was chronicled by Joy Burrough-Boenisch.
Featured photo by METM23 photographer Leonardo Rizzato; embedded photo by the author.