TEI Workshop at Forlì 16-22 April 1997

The Scuola Superiore di Lingue Moderne per Interpretore e Tradutori is one of the very small number of University-level institutions in Italy dedicated to the training of interpretors and translators. It has a high national reputation, only partly inherited from its illustrious parent, the University of Bologna, since it is in fact located at at Forlì, a pleasant Emilian town some 30 kilometres from Bologna,on the edge of one of Italy's major wine growing areas, and close to Predappio, birthplace of Il Duce.

I was invited to teach a full TEI workshop to a mixed group of about fifteen 3rd and 4th year students, all of whom were fluent in English, and had already had some exposure to computing methods and results by virtue of using the BNC and SARA. The main objectives were to explain some basic markup principles, to give some hands-on experience of other SGML software, to demonstrate the extent to which the usability of a computer corpus is determined by its markup; and get the students thinking about how they might prepare their own corpora. The workshop consisted of eight 90 minute lectures, three two hour practical sessions, and two discussion sessions, somehow squeezed into six days of fairly concentrated effort.

Before the workshop proper I gave as curtain raiser an open lecture on the British National Corpus, remarkably similar in content to the one I had given the week before in Lòdz, though couched in somewhat different terms. The emphasis was, naturally enough, on how the BNC actually used TEI-like markup. It was followed by the following sessions:

In a final round up session, over coffee and cakes, the group voiced some concerns about the relevance of all this to the practical problems they will face as translators: some of them wondered if a TEI corpus would help them preserve private corpora of translated works; others were more interested in the availability of large public corpora like the BNC.

I must add that these students were a real pleasure to teach. They worked very hard to grapple ideas and methods initially quite unfamiliar to them, and (particularly in the practical sessions) worked with great enthusiasm. And they put up very politely with my hectoring style of teaching too. By the end of the week, they had definitely earned the certificates we handed out.