How important is CPD for translators? In the fifth of our series of guest posts the writers of The Deep End blog: Claire Harmer, Katharine Mears, Felicity Pearce, Paula Pitkethly and Sandra Young – a group of friends and translators who met during their Masters at the University of Westminster – talk about how important it is in developing a budding career. Since graduating and embarking on their individual freelance careers, they continue to enjoy having the opportunity to learn from one another and to share experiences and good practice.
How important do you think CPD is for translators – even experienced ones?
We never stop learning! CPD provides a vital opportunity to keep up to date with advances in translation and our areas of specialism, including for more experienced translators. Terminology, technology and knowledge change over time, as do trends in how translation is seen. It also enables us to hone our translation skills, subject knowledge and business skills, ultimately making us better translators. CPD is also a fantastic networking opportunity. As translators, our work is often very solitary so it gives us the opportunity to get out and about, meet other translators, professional contacts or potential clients, and interact with people, in person.
In which areas, in your view, is specialist training of particular importance?
In reality, specialist training is important for most types of translation, as a failure to fully understand the text, or to correctly translate it and adopt the appropriate terminology and structures, could lead to misunderstanding or errors. Legal, medical and technical translations, if carried out by someone lacking specialised knowledge or experience, perhaps carry the greatest risk. For example, a poor or inaccurate medical translation could lead to mistakes in the patient’s care, which could have serious consequences for a person’s health. That said, marketing and creative texts also require someone who is trained in creative writing and is aware of cultural trends and sensitivities.
Do you believe that publicising CPD activities helps with marketing a translator’s services?
Publicising the CPD activities you have undertaken, through your website, CV, social media profiles or in person at networking events, for example, demonstrates a translator’s commitment to their professional development. There is still some way to go in terms of client education, but it sends a clear message that you are pro-active and willing to invest time and money in your professional development and keeping up to date with their industry, and that your translation services will be of a higher quality as a result.
Should CPD become compulsory for professional translators, just as it is in other professions?
Even among our own small group of five, we have differing opinions on this. Those in the yes camp believe that there is a link between CPD being optional and the fact that translation is not a formalised profession as such; anyone can call themselves a translator. Making CPD compulsory would therefore be an important step forward in the formalisation of the profession. Some felt that it would be extremely difficult for professional associations to regulate and agree on what should be classed as CPD (never mind what to include or not include!) but that it is a worthwhile goal for the future. Those in the no camp are of the view that we are ultimately responsible for our own success and it is for the individual to decide how much time they wish to invest in their professional development. It was also felt the cost of undertaking compulsory CPD could be very tough on the translator just starting out.
Giving back is an important area of CPD. Should we be encouraging seasoned professionals to help their colleagues?
Absolutely! It is a natural shift in the balance. When we start out, we need more help and guidance. Webinars, workshops and mentoring programmes run by those with plenty of expertise and experience behind them are therefore vital in helping newbie translators get their careers off the ground. As we become more experienced and established, it can be worthwhile and rewarding to put the shoe on the other foot, so to speak, and give back to the profession. Let’s not forget that there might also be things that less experienced translators can help more seasoned colleagues with, such as social media skills or sharing tips from their recent studies.