Monday, 23 April 2012

Keeping up with source language (if you don’t live there)

Years ago I started a job in local government as the Clerk (read Chief Executive Officer) of a local council in West Sussex, in the UK. It was quite a big and busy Council (6,000 inhabitants) and the job was quite complicated. I had no training for it all and was flung in at the deep end. But with the help of the retiring clerk, the clerk’s handbook by Charles Arnold-Baker , and a truly inspirational and helpful Chairman, I got along very well and, by the end of twelve years in the job, had turned my Council into one of the busiest and most proactive in the county.

Every year the Local branch of the National Association of Local Council Clerks (NALCC) organised a Clerks’ Day. We didn’t call it CPD then. It was a wonderful day – usually in a lovely countryside setting - at which we met colleagues from other Councils and listened to talks from the experienced ones on various aspects of local Council policy and law. In my early years it was very gratifying to find that I was actually doing things right. Later, my Council paid for me to do the first stage of a degree course in Local Government policy. It still wasn’t known as CPD, but it was part of the growing movement in every profession to ensure that professional jobs were held by professional people. Although I didn’t know it, I was constantly undergoing continuing professional development.

Ok! So what about translators?
Most translators and interpreters already do CPD in one way or another but, since most are freelancers, it is less likely that they are keeping formal records, including 

So, to address at last the title of this piece.  In my last post I promised to put forward some ideas.

If, like me, you do not live in your source language country (and I have 3 source languages so for me it wouldn’t be possible anyway) you probably need ways to keep your source language up to date – the first of my five areas of CPD mentioned in the last post. Here I'm assuming that you know and understand the structure of the language and have studied it to degree level at least.

All the suggestions I make are great for keeping up with the latest turns of phrase, the buzz words and so on. They are also essential for knowing what's going on in your source language country. If you don't know - to take an obvious example - that France is in election fever in the run-up to yesterday's (22 April 2012) first round presidential election, you won't easily be able to translate an article about the political situation there. None of my suggestions costs much, if anything, to do. Just your time and a bit of thought.

The Internet is a boon here. You can listen to radio programmes in your source language, or read newspapers, or source language journals in your specialist subject. It’s also great to follow native speakers of your source language on Twitter or through blogs.

Another idea: next time you install some software, do it in your source language (if you can, not all software is capable of this). This is really useful for seeing how the familiar messages appear in another language.

Get hold of a style guide in your source language. I am assuming that you already have a style guide for your target language, but reading about style in your source language gives a great insight into language structure and usage. Here’s one published by the World Bank for English-speakers who use French. Another one I found recently is a guideline document on writing scientific articles in German. And for Spanish, here is just one guide published by El País. You will find many more by Googling.

Then, you could try to get a conversation partner: a Skype contact perhaps, or a “penfriend”. Here is a useful site to help you get in touch with someone who has similar interests and outlooks to you.

Look around locally for a social group for your source language. I joined a German literary circle for several years, run by a native German teacher of German. It gave an opportunity to listen, read, and speak in German - opportunities that I rarely have in my own personal life, living as I do in a mono-lingual household.

And whenever I can, I read novels in my source languages. Currently I have on my bookshelf La Voz Dormida by Dulce Chacón set in the times of the Spanish Civil War, a gift from my sister and I look forward to getting to grips with it soon.

For your CPD - however formal or informal - to count torwards professional development, you need to keep a record of what you are doing, and ensure that you are structuring your CPD, rather than just pottering around it - however tempting it might be.

As a translator, I started keeping records of my CPD activities in 2004. I stopped using the card supplied by my professional Institute a long time ago and developed a formatted Word document, which I organise into the five headings I mentioned in an earlier post, namely:

·        Language learning and assimilation (source languages)
·        Language learning and assimilation (target language)
·        Business and Technical Skills
·        Translation Skills
·        Personal Development, contribution to the profession, and publications

The document contains a section on my aims for the year, and a review of the activities actually undertaken.

How do you keep your CPD records?

Note: I will be offline for a few weeks in May, so won’t be able to moderate any comments after the end of April. I’ll get to it as soon as I can.
For information about cost-effective CPD delivered by webinar to your home/office, visit eCPD Webinars - webinars for translators and interpreters.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Learning never stops

I was listening to the Today programme this week (a serious news and interviews programme on Radio 4 in the UK) and heard an interview with Nigel Adkins, manager of Southampton Football Club.
Southampton is poised for promotion back into the Premier Division and no small thanks are due to the Manager. Nigel was never a high-level player of football but made the most of the opportunities he came across in life. One comment he made during the interview struck me. “You have to be like a sponge and absorb everything you can so you have it ready for when you need it in the future.” I didn’t write it down so I have paraphrased.
I think that everyone who is keen to get on does this, probably entirely sub-consciously. But it wasn’t until a decade or so ago that we started calling it CPD (continuing professional development) or CE (continuing education).
Karin Band, FITI, who presented a wonderful webinar recently on medical translation simply calls CPD “Keep up”.
Now most professional associations offer CPD training at every turn. But think about it: if your mind is a sponge, you are doing CPD all the time. The trick to successful CPD for professional purposes is to organise and document what your sponge-like mind is taking in.
I have highly professional friends and colleagues who say “I don’t need to do CPD. My work is my CPD”. Indeed it is. But unless you document the research you have been doing or the background reading you have taken on while working on a project, you cannot say you have done any CPD.
I divide my own CPD record into five sections.
  1. · Language learning and assimilation (source languages)
  2. · Language learning and assimilation (target language)
  3. · Business and technical skills
  4. · Translation skills
  5. · Personal development, contribution to the profession, and publications
Over the next few weeks I shall be giving some ideas as to how you can soak up knowledge in all these areas without spending a shedload of cash.
By the way, despite no longer having Chartered Linguist status (see previous post), I still intend to keep up my CPD record. It’s a discipline I enjoy and it makes me think about how I can become even more professional in my work.
Visit eCPD Webinars for more ideas on CPD. Free video

Monday, 9 April 2012

Is individual chartered status working for our profession?

Is it time to relax the word count criterion for Individual Chartered Linguist status in the UK?

(c) Lucy Brooks, FCIL, MD of eCPDWebinars

When the Institute of Linguists was granted Chartered status in 2004 and became the Chartered Institute of Linguists, many of us applauded. In the UK the word ‘chartered’ denotes a person’s accredited and verified professionalism. At last our profession would gain recognition; translators and interpreters would apply to become chartered linguists in droves, and together, we would drive forward the standing of our profession in the minds of business, commerce and the general public.

Sadly, this has not happened. At a time when professional translators and interpreters are under intense pressure: rates of payment, unfair conditions created by exploitative agencies, ever-shorter deadlines and a general lack of understanding by end users of what we do, there has been no rush to apply for Chartered Linguist status. When I was last able to check (the register has been off-line for a couple of weeks now) there were only 18 chartered linguists. Only a handful of these were translators. But when the register comes back on line, my name will be missing.

When I was granted CL status in 2008 I was very proud - proud to be a pioneer of the scheme, proud to have recognition of my professionalism - and I have applied for renewal each year, since I continue to meet the strict criteria by providing a highly professional translation service, doing a great deal of CPD (continuing professional development) and making a huge contribution to the profession.

So why am I no longer a chartered linguist? Have I committed a crime? Has a complaint been made about me? Have I made mistakes that caused the proverbial bridge to collapse? No. I have not been granted chartered status this year merely because I have translated fewer words this year and the rules - which appear to be rigid, despite assurances to the contrary at meetings I have attended on this subject - say that a CL (Translator) must translate 300,000 words in a year.

There are two reasons why I have cut down a little on translating work recently. First, I have been running eCPD Webinars for my fellow translators for two years now and, as you can imagine, it takes up quite a lot of my time. The second is that I wish to pick and choose the translating work I do and have “retired” from the kind of stressful job I often used to handle: weekend working, tight deadlines and excel files.

I think that the rules are very unfair. If Chartered Accountants or Chartered Marketers (to take a couple of examples) decide to work part-time, they are not made to relinquish their chartered title. Provided they do their 35 hours of CPD a year, they keep their status. Yet Chartered Linguists who decide to work part-time or retire from their professional activity of translating, teaching or interpreting are not allowed to continue to use their designation.

For many years I certainly handled 300,000 words and more, so it wasn’t really an issue for me at first, but it was for many of my colleagues who, for various reasons, work part-time and therefore did not meet CL criteria. Many translators have young families to look after, or have second professions, such as interpreting, or teaching. The volume of work can never be predicted or guaranteed.

When the Institute was first granted Chartered status it was suggested that every member should automatically become chartered. This was rejected, for some perfectly valid reasons. But the scheme which emerged is too restrictive and there simply are not enough chartered linguists to encourage others to join them. Many people believe that meeting the criteria and requirements for qualified membership of a professional association is quite sufficient.

Is it time to reconsider granting all members of the CIoL and ITI chartered status, and setting up a CPD verification system for all members?

I believe that our profession needs a boost in the eyes of the outside world. But perhaps the complicated and rigid Chartered Linguist scheme is not the right way to go about it?

What do you think?

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