Thursday, 31 May 2012

Free CPD opportunities for technical translators

For some time I’ve been promising to provide some more ideas for free CPD. Today I concentrate on technical translators working into English as it is the area I usually work in.  I’d like to highlight the fact that good technical translators into English are in short supply. So if the thought of technical translation is abhorrent to you – think again! The work can vary greatly – anything from press releases, brochures and application stories for the trade press, to instruction manuals, specifications and IT upgrades. It’s not all long lists of boring component parts!

I list below some of the technical journals I try to read regularly. I used to receive them in the post, and a few still keep coming. But nowadays most good journals are available on the web – and very often at no cost. Here are a few:
The first one is  Design Products and Applications. The most recent issue has articles on machine building and automatilon, the pneumatic and hydraulic sector, electrical and electronics, mechanical components, engineering software, and materials and fasteners. I have clients in most of these areas, so this journal is an excellent way of finding out what companies are developing, and simply, to keep up with industry trends. Nuts and bolts may be tiny but their influence on every product in the world is immense.

The second journal I’d to recommend to you is Industrial Technology.
The most recent issue contains a report from the food and drink industry - intriguingly entitled “Oh crumbs, solved at last”. It also has articles on medical technology, machine building, electrical equipment, electronic enclosures, springs and dampers (well someone has to make them!), fasteners, automotive products, as well as drives, motors and controls, among others. If you are only interested in one or two subjects, you can simply download the pages that interest you.

My last recommendation today is Renewable Energy Magazine
This is a journal published in Spanish (click here for the Spansh version) and English and it is available free. You can also follow it on Twitter and subscribe to their newsletter. It is packed full of information about solar and wind energy as well as energy-saving news.
Virtually every industry has its own journal. If you need help in finding one relevant to your field, do please ask me.


A really great way of learning how things work AND of meeting potential clients is to visit a trade show. A good way of finding out where and when these are is by checking this website: At the top (in boxes that are much too faint for my eyes) you can refine your search to a particular industry or country. But be aware that, like paid-for Google sites, the first few hits may not be in your country at all, or relevant to you.

Another way of finding out about these exhibitions is from the journals I highlighted above. You can usually obtain free tickets to the show through the magazines. I often go to the Southern Manufacturing Show at Farnborough. Most exhibitions have free seminars that you can attend during your time at the exhibition. The organisers stage the same show in Ireland, the Midlands, the North, the North West and Scotland, so there's something for everyone there.

But beware: busy exhibitors do not appreciate a hard sell. They have paid a lot of money for exhibition space in order to sell their products, not buy yours. In fact it’s a breach of etiquette to try to sell your services at an exhibition. So only approach exhibitors on a stand if they appear not to be busy with customers. Otherwise, attend the seminars, pick up brochures (great for terminology), watch the demonstrations, inspect the products, and only engage in general conversation rather than hard sell. An exchange of business cards can lead to an excellent business relationship after the trade show is over.


If you have a family member or a friend who works in a local factory, do not be shy about asking to visit one day. I’ve been shown round a circuit-board manufacturing facility, a company that makes seat belts, a refrigerator company, and another that makes car parts. Even if you don't know anyone, why not just ask if they ever have an open day?

Lastly, to gain technical experience, you could consider working as an intern or temporary employee at a factory. Years ago I worked for several months in the offices of a firm that made special refrigerated chambers to carry out endurance tests. I may not have realised it at the time, but that experience counted towards my knowledge of matters technical.

I hope that some of these ideas are useful to you. My aim is to find some ideas that cost little or nothing, yet are highly valuable and motivating sources of learning.

Don’t forget my poll. The poll link is in the first paragraph of my last post. I’m trying to find out just how many of you are like me: living in a mono-lingual household with little opportunity to practice speaking our source language(s). So far, the results are showing that most respondents live in a mono-lingual environment. I’ll keep the poll open for another week and share the results next week.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Multi-lingual living

Before I proceed with further ideas for obtaining high quality but low-cost CPD I thought I’d run a very short survey.

I make no bones about the fact that it’s difficult for me to keep up my source language skills. I live in a mono-lingual household – my fault, despite living in various countries in my youth, I opted for an Englishman whose only word in Spanish is “naranja” and that is unrecognisable when he pronounces it.

Also, because of my husband’s sight impairment, I find it very difficult to travel to events that require an overnight stay. It means that, sadly, events such as the ATA conference in San Diego are out for me.  
If you have a moment, please answer the 3 simple questions: it really won’t take long). Click the link in the first paragraph or just above. I shall report on the results in a few weeks.

In a way, it is because of my personal circumstances that I took such joy in starting up eCPDWebinars in April 2010. I feel that there must be many translators like me who find it hard to attend courses, lectures and seminars, perhaps because they live a long way from metropolitan areas, or have relatives to care for. Webinars are ideal for busy people too. No travel, no hassle. Just an hour or so at your PC.

In England (the south at least) we are experiencing a heat-wave. This is a bit of a shock because last week it was cold, wet and windy. In the UK we have to enjoy such weather while we can!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

How early should you start Continuing Professional Development (CPD, PD, CE)?

My young friend Fraser, aged 11, has just won his STRIPE award. On investigation I found that this is an award given by his school to the pupil in the class who has demonstrated the highest level of personal, learning and thinking skills.

The acronym STRIPE stands for Self-management, Teamworker, Reflective learner, Innovative thinker, Participator, Enquiring learner.

At age 11, Fraser is already well on the road to maintaining his continuing professional development, whatever his career may be in the future – at present  he wants to be an inventor.

Many of the points in the STRIPE programme apply equally well to us in the translation business.

As freelancers it is essential that we manage our time effectively: negotiating with clients, marketing ourselves, carrying out administrative work. And then there’s the little matter of actually doing the translating that earns our fees. Those who manage their time well will emerge the winners.

At eCPD Webinars we have worked with several well-known speakers on these topics. See eCPD Webinars Shop for details.

Translating can be quite lonely. Certainly when I first started I felt very isolated and unsure of myself. Gradually over the years, and as the Internet developed, I was able to join groups of translators in my particular languages and specialist areas. We discuss terminology and cultural issues and the groups are an excellent source of peer support. If you do not already belong to a professional institute (in the UK these would principally be CIoL and ITI) do consider doing so. Not only does it add to your credibility as a translator, but the benefits of membership are endless – including the above-mentioned egroups.

Reflective Learning
Learning should be a lot more than just looking something up for the translation of the moment, or watching a TV documentary out of mild interest.  Last year Janet Fraser gave a wonderful talk on the importance of reflecting on the learning we undertake. From it I developed a new way of presenting my CPD activities.  Rather than simply list what I’ve done, I now categorise the activities, and add a short paragraph about what I gained from them and how they fit in with my plan for the year.

Innovative Thinker
I sometimes find it difficult to move away from my known method of working. I have a way of doing things and I tend to stick to certain areas of knowledge.  But it’s never a bad thing to look at things a little bit differently. Perhaps you might consider introducing a new technique such as post-editing machine translation to your quiver of skills, or entering a new area in which to translate. At eCPD Webinars we have run several “Specialising in …” webinars, including financial and medical.

My young friend Fraser joins in many school and group activities. The pupils raise money for charity, bake cakes, dig the garden. Fraser is often charged with organising many of the activities.  Translators can participate too by volunteering to do something for their professional organisation. It may be as simple as contributing to a discussion on an egroup, or as altruistic as offering to act as a mentor to new translators, standing for election onto the governing body of your professional association, serving on a committee, or organising events, however informal these might be. I currently am organising a lunch for translators in Sussex and in the past have served on the CIoL Translating Division Committee. There are plans afoot for me to become a mentor with ITI.

Enquiring learner
Translators by definition have enquiring minds. We need to know how the machine for which we are translating an application story for the press actually works. We need to know about the latest business news from the multi-national whose reports have just landed on our desk to translate.
To help with Internet searching, eCPD is running a webinar on 29 May 2012 giving plenty of tips as to how to improve your Internetsearching. (Link will expire after 30 May).

And lastly …..
I have just returned from a wonderful holiday in the United States and Canada. It was a very busy, yet relaxing, three weeks. I forgot all about translating, invoices, accounts, keeping up my CPD. I was not called upon to interpret for lost or confused tourists and my Tlingit (the language spoken by the native people of SE Alaska) is not too good. Moreover, the part of Canada I visited (Vancouver) pays only lip-service to French as an official language. I might have said “merci” just once.

Now I am back I find I am less impatient and am moving around more slowly (an improvement on my usual jumpy behaviour). This indicates to me just how important it is to take a real break away from thinking about work – and CPD. To those whose summer holidays are still to come, I wish you every bit of a successful break as mine was.

My next post will continue the theme of ideas for low-cost CPD.