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.

1 comment:

  1. Technical translation is a type of specialized translation involving the translation of documents produced by technical writers (owner's manuals, user guides, etc.), or more specifically, texts which relate to technological subject areas or texts, which deals with the practical application of scientific and technological information.
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