Friday, 29 June 2012

The benefits of belonging to a professional association

When I started to blog in April I stated that my aim was to put forward some ideas for maintaining informal CPD at no or low cost. A secondary aim was to deal with aspects of our profession.

In this post I want to stress the value of belonging to one of the peer support networks that most professional associations run for their members these days. If you are not a member of a professional association, my advice is to join an association in your country, and consider joining one in another country too. And if you belong to one, but have not signed up to the eGroups, you are missing out on a huge benefit of membership.
About a decade ago I was instrumental in setting up the e-version of TransNet, the translators’ forum for the Translating division of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. The words of its publicised aim (to discuss issues affecting professional freelance translators) do not do justice to what TransNet actually is.

New members of the Institute who join the forum find a wealth of support and friendly advice from experienced translators. Some issues discussed recently include CAT tools (what to buy, specific problems with specific tools), how to approach clients, whether a website is a good idea or not, advice on matters of style and a host of other queries from translators working all over the world. And TransNet is not just for new translators. The forum often hosts discussions about professional issues such as deductible expenses, VAT, ergonomic laptops.

The CIoL also has sub-groups for various languages so specific language queries can be addressed to them, and there is a group for interpreters too.

And I must not forget the aspect of friendship. Translating is a lonesome business and I, for one, felt very isolated when I started out. eGroups turn colleagues into friends. The CIoL even has a virtual winebar where colleagues can hang out at the end of the day and chat about non-translation issues or even nonsense if they wish.

Membership of these eGroups is free to associate members, full members and fellows of the CIoL (the exception being, I believe, student members).

I have been an associate of the ITI for just over a year now and find that here too, there are many eGroups dealing with specific areas of a translator’s daily life. There is a group for new members where new translators (and they are not necessarily youngsters, but are often people changing careers) ask questions about the practicalities of becoming a freelance translator.

A recent discussion on the CIoL German group brainstormed some ideas for a German translation of “sharing platter” – the kind of dish so popular on restaurant menus these days. The original asker opted in the end for "Gemeinsame Platte" but contributors put forward plenty of ideas.

More recently, on the ITI new members group some excellent advice was proffered recently on the subject of websites. One respondent replied with this comment: “Often a question has been raised without me realizing I was in need of that information. The discussion on the topic of developing your own website is very apt for my current situation and I eagerly read every response.”

No matter what the query may be, someone will have advice. Of course it is up to the asker to evaluate that advice, but in my experience all contributions are of of very high quality.

Another useful spin-off from joining such groups is that members often share glossaries and links that they have found useful in their work.

Here is one recommended by a CIoL member of the German group recently: It’s a building construction dictionary  (Baulexikon) from German to English. It was collated and is maintained by a university in Stuttgart.

Through the eGroups you will usually get to hear about CPD events, lectures and conferences being held in a city near you, or on-line.

But you could do worse than get yourself onto the eCPDmailing list.
Newsletters full of tips, advice and news of upcoming CPD webinars are sent out a couple of times a month. Join the list here, and some of the past newsletters are hosted at this link. Marketing Director Sarah Dillon works very hard to find useful resources for translators all over the world and she passes on these tips to everyone on the mailing list. It really is a “must-read” newsletter even if you don’t want to attend the webinars on offer that particular month.