For freelance translators, CPD describes the conscious steps taken to deepen knowledge in a whole spectrum of areas, for example, to improve translation techniques, develop strong business models, or broaden expertise. As we are well aware, translation software, to take a specific example, is constantly being developed and updated, as are the file formats it uses and the range of functions it provides. Not only are we to assume that these developments are for the general good of translation, thus it would be extremely beneficial for us to be aware of them, but we should also be mindful of a software’s life cycle: as new versions are created, old versions are phased out. The same applies to language: as demonstrated in Bill Bryson’s “Mother Tongue” – the book that just happens to be tucked into my bag at present – language is constantly evolving and changing. For the most part, these changes are very gradual; however, take a moment to consider all the technological advances and new findings which arise in just one year, not only in IT and technology, but also in medicine, physics, chemistry, business, geography… the list goes on. In all of these areas, new discoveries are constantly being made and new processes continuously developed, resulting in the formation of new linguistic terms and concepts. Our ability to keep up with these changes keeps our services current and effective in the long term.
Despite CPD not necessarily being a “required” element of working as a translator, it is still strongly encouraged by translation organisations, with some organisations asking for proof of CPD in order to reach the higher membership tiers of their organisation. So how can we actively undertake CPD?
Workshops and conferences
Despite being the more time and money intensive variant of CPD, attending events in person is not only great for gaining knowledge, but also for embracing networking opportunities and prising us often solitary beings away from our desks! Visiting and contributing to online forums is, of course, another way of discussing elements of translation and interacting with other people; however it just isn’t the same as speaking to someone face to face.
Conferences and workshops tend to be provided and advertised by organisations, university departments and other language specific groups and websites. Take a look at the websites hosted by relevant professional organisations to find details on upcoming events, for example:
Webinars are the newest and probably the easiest way of attending talks from the comfort of your own home. Webinars are offered to professional linguists by a variety of language service providers, from CAT tool developers to translation organisations. They focus on an array of topics and can range from being offered free-of-charge to costing up to around £40 (based on personal experience!).
For more information and details on upcoming translation webinars, see eCPD Webinars which hosts both its own webinars, as well as webinars on behalf of organisations, i.e. the UK-based ITI. Also take a look at websites belonging to translation software providers which tend to offer general webinars introducing their software, as well as specific webinars on certain functions. Another useful source is the Training for Translators website which gives a comparative overview of a number of CAT tools.
As recent translation graduates will be well aware, there is a whole host of literature available both on aspects of translation and areas of specialism. Once I finished my university course and set out to become a “real” translator, I found that many of the course books I had used weren’t so relevant to “real” translation. The one book I did find extremely useful and practical during my studies was a textbook on audiovisual translation, published by St. Jerome Publishing. After searching for the publisher online I was pleased to find an extensive range of literature focusing not only on general translation techniques but also on specific specialist areas. Despite not being a legal translator myself, I often have to deal with legal language in all sorts of “non-legal” documents. In my quest to improve my own legal knowledge and therefore feel more confident when such language crops up, I purchased the St Jerome title Legal Translation Explained, which I can only recommend. The various chapters cover wide-ranging elements of the law and legal systems, detailing the types of language used in different types of documents and suggesting translation approaches that should be considered in each case.
Besides reading subject-specific literature, another way of actively undertaking CPD is by immersing yourself in your source language, especially if you are not resident in a country where your SL is spoken. This doesn’t have to be by reading technical manuals or medical pamphlets, but rather by reading the news, listening to the radio, or watching films in your SL to prevent those carefully acquired tongues from fading away. Especially now, in the era of the Internet, it is incredibly easy to get hold of foreign language material well-suited to this purpose.
It could also be worthwhile looking up popular industry journals and magazines as you start to recognise which areas you tend to work in more often.
Back to basics
If, like me, you (fairly) recently graduated from a translation degree course, it’s well worth you going back over your notes and handouts, and picking out any that may prove useful before they get hidden away somewhere. This might not lend you new knowledge, however it will stop you forgetting some of the things you spent hours writing essays on! Not only could this be useful for brushing up on CAT tool features, but also for going over tutor feedback on previous translations and pinpointing areas of your actual translation skills that you could spend some time on as part of your CPD.
A more long-term option, once you begin to see what fields you are getting more work in or which areas you enjoy and might like to expand on, might be to go back to formal education in order to strengthen a particular subject area and make you more competitive as a translator. This doesn’t have to mean another three-year university course, but could also be achieved through a part-time course, evening classes, or a distance learning programme.
Something that tends not to be taught as part of a university translation course is how you actually run a business. Where do you have to register? How do you deal with taxes? Do you have to open a separate bank account? There is no single answer for any of these questions; each depends on your individual situation. It is, however, well worth searching for organisations in your country of residence which give help and advice that can be tailored to your specific circumstances.
Business link is a UK-based organisation that provides a wealth of free information and workshops for people setting out to start a new business. The advice offered on their website is extremely useful for providing an overview of the initial steps to take and points to consider when starting out.
Also don’t forget about groups you are already part of: speak to an advisor at your local bank, make an appointment with your university’s careers centre or, if you are still studying, suggest that your department arranges an extra seminar on the business side of becoming a freelance translator. Banks, careers centres and even tax offices will provide a range of leaflets geared to respond to frequently asked questions which may also be useful as a starting point.
As discussed above, there are endless ways in which you can approach CPD, just as there are various areas you could choose to develop and strengthen. Think about the areas which you personally feel you need to work on, be it a specialised field of work, a piece of software, or language skills. By regularly undertaking CPD, you will constantly build on your own knowledge, which, in turn, will improve your confidence and help you to sell yourself as a quality-conscious language service provider.