A perfect profession for life-long learners

Translation and learning go together like peanut butter and jelly. Every text we translate has a subject matter–often specialised, obscure, or technical. To translate a document accurately, we must not only know rare words, but also understand the subject matter. This is why regular continuing professional development (CPD) and, if possible, specialising in a particular subject area are so important.

What makes for good CPD? CPD can develop subject matter knowledge, language skills, or business skills. It can range from formally taught and accredited courses to personally directed study. Here’s a quick rundown of some CPD ideas I’ve either completed, am working on, or plan to explore in the future:

Distance learning:

The World Intellectual Property Organisation’s General Course on Intellectual Property (certificate of completion with distinction)

Dr Bruce D. Popp’s patent translation seminar

Grundlagen der Elektrotechnik I at TU Clausthal


CIOL Conference 2020 presentations: “Digital marketing for freelance linguists” by Martina Eco, “Translating fiction vs non-fiction books” by Michelle Deeter, “Launching a portfolio career as a linguist” by Reza Navaei

University lecture classes, e.g. mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, nanophotonics, and photonics sensors at Heriot-Watt University


Reading Mika Waltari’s “Sinuhe” in German translation

Writing comments on Reddit’s German-language community, r/de

The WIPO Patent Drafting Manual

If you have the time and energy, this period of lockdown and social distancing is a great opportunity to do some digital CPD. Some online classes even offer the opportunity to connect and discuss with other students, so you can combine learning with socialising. Need ideas? One option I encountered recently is a MOOC offered by the University of Edinburgh on COVID-19 critical care. It’s aimed at upskilling healthcare workers, but could be useful for medical or public relations translators seeing an influx of work relating to the coronavirus pandemic. Or, for a more relaxing approach, maybe order some novels in your source language and immerse yourself in escapist literature.

That said, taking a break from homework is a perfectly sensible reaction to the state of the world at the moment. I hope everyone in the linguist community and the people we help are safe and well. The New York Times reported last week that nearly 4 billion people–half of humanity–are in some form of lockdown. There’s nothing wrong with pausing for a moment to let that sink in.

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