Below you’ll find some simple tips that will help you learn, remember and enjoy when you take training courses.
Continuous Professional Development can mean lots of different things. For interpreters, I tend to break it down into four types – interpreting skills; language learning; business skills (relevant but not actually interpreting, like accounting or negotiating); and lecture-type courses. Similar but different categories could be applied to CPD for translators.
The tips below apply to all of the above, but for the purposes of this post I have chosen to distinguish between formal and informal CPD; and between online and face-to-face courses.
Getting the most out of informal CPD
Informal CPD is what we do in our free time… living in a country, watching foreign-language TV, reading, going out, etc. The benefits come on their own, but you can tweak things to improve the process.
1. Read what you need!
Align your language consumption (reading, listening, watching) to the markets you work on, or want to work on. So if you want to work at UNESCO read the UNESCO website! For a European Works Council… read the EWC database – and so on. Reading the news and literature may be useful, but not much of that is relevant to your actual work.
2. Develop your curiosity
Look things up. Look everything up. Where does that street name come from? What is that powertool called in my other languages? How does a turbo-fan work?
3. Record terminology
Write down all the interesting stuff you discover above!
4. Practise skills
Great athletes are not great through talent alone. They have also done a lot of focussed (deliberate) practice. For example, interpreters should practise sub-skills in isolation before reintegrating them into the complex skills that are consecutive or simultaneous and/or focus on a given sub-skill while interpreting.
5. Join practice groups
Led by the pioneers of the Brussels Interpreters Practice Group, interpreters all over the world have started setting up practice groups. Join one! Get feedback, get better. Network, get work!
6. Join mentoring schemes
If a professional association near you is offering mentoring schemes then sign up.
Getting the most out of informal CPD
The following tips apply both to online and in-person events.
7. Be actively involved
React! Ask questions. Answer questions. Don’t just sit and think you are listening. Check the programme in advance to see if it allows for this sort of interaction.
Don’t just turn up and attend. Revise what you already know about the subject as a platform to build on.
9. Set goals
Set yourself goals (targets) for the course. What do you want to achieve?
10. Take handwritten notes
…during the course. On paper or tablet. Studies have shown that handwritten notes are recalled better than type-written.* Probably because of the analysis/processing involved in creating the notes and perhaps also because of the spatial association that is made possible. It’s easier to put things in different parts of the page when writing by hand… and remember where you put them as a result.
11. Get feedback
Does the course format include feedback? Is the group small enough for individual feedback?
Go back through your notes immediately after the course. This repetition and review will help you mentally organise and remember the content.
Practise what you’ve learnt soon after the course. Use it or lose it.
14. Pace yourself
Frequency is better than cramming. Take courses and practise in small doses but regularly. Don’t cram it all into a busy weekend if you don’t have to.
Getting the most out of formal CPD online
One of the real positives to come out of the Covid pandemic has been an explosion in the number of CPD courses available for conference interpreters and the number of interpreters attending. Here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of this particular format.
15. Make a learning space
Make a space that you use to “attend” all courses. Make that space comfortable, functional and professional. Don’t be in Starbucks or the park – it’s harder to concentrate.
16. Keep up with the times
Check OS and app updates and your connection 1 hour BEFORE the course. Login in early! The waiting room may have extra info or be a chance to meet people.
17. Dress up
Putting on smarter clothes so you take it seriously. Create some atmosphere and adrenalin.
18. Tidy up
Participants are sometimes also on screen, particularly in smaller groups. Make a good impression by tidying up your background; all interpreting events are also networking events!
19. Don’t multi-task
Don’t do social media, including posting about the course. If it takes you 3 minutes to think of a cool post you’ve missed 3 minutes of the course! Don’t do the ironing. Don’t wander around. Don’t read or write emails.
Adult learning is a collaborative journey. Peer interaction and feedback is often missing online, as is a group dynamic and the sense of belonging to a group. Ask the trainer if webcams will be on or if there will be breakout rooms and networking. Get involved.
21. Create a backchannel
…with other participants (on WhatsApp or Telegram, etc.). Use it during the course to check things you haven’t understood and in coffee breaks. It’ll help you process and understand the course content.
Use the chat to share your own knowledge, to network, to share reactions to what is going on (the trainer can’t always see your faces). Ask questions. Use breakout rooms and networking events. In this way you contribute to creating a buzz and positive vibes at the event. That makes it better for everyone.
23. Be generous
Because it’s nice to be nice… OR out of self-interest… It doesn’t matter. You will likely meet other participants again! Or your name will come up in conversation. Be kind in comments to the trainer and participants. Don’t hog the mic. Don’t ask questions that are all about your specific circumstances and unlikely to be of interest to others.
This article is drawn from one half of presentation given first and live at TerpSummit 2021.
featured image: Dmitry Ratushny / Unsplash
From the Editor:
Andy is running a three-day seminar for interpreter trainers in Paris on 1-3 September 2023: Teaching Consecutive Interpreting: the first 6 months.
He will cover the component skills that go to make up consecutive interpreting, the building of part of a syllabus, as well as techniques for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of classroom hours. Presentation, analysis, memory, note-taking and note-reading will all be addressed.