I refer frequently to professional development on this blog (in fact, I have an entire category dedicated to it), but life-long learning is not specific to translators or language professionals.
Doctors do it, engineers do it, and I have it on good authority that even educated fleas do it. So I’m running a mini-series on CPD over the next few weeks: what it is, how to do it and most importantly, where to get it, even if you’re not in a position to fly 10,000 miles for a one-day workshop.
What is CPD?
Continuing professional development, or CPD, is also known as ongoing professional development, life-long learning, maintaining skills or simply keeping up-to-date. It is the means through which professionals of all spheres keep their skills and knowledge current, and enhance and expand their expertise at all stages of their career.
In general, CPD refers to the
“systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skills, and the development of personal qualities necessary for the execution of professional duties throughout your working life” (ITI).
Systemic is the key element here: it implies development which is:
- deliberate and planned
- plays a part in a bigger picture
- is assessed and evaluated in hindsight by the individual
- is applied to professional practice in pursuit of improvement
Professional bodies around the world approach CPD in different ways. Some measure learning outcomes. The ITI measures hours of CPD activity. AUSIT and the ATA count points. For some it is a requirement of membership (in the USA, China, Poland and Mexico, for example), while for others it is voluntary.
Regardless of their approach, all associations agree on its importance. Professional bodies certainly play an important role in supporting language professionals in this area, but final responsibility for CPD lies with the individual.
We are all responsible for our own careers these days, regardless of whether we work freelance or inhouse. Initial translator-training and qualifications are only the first step on a translator’s career path. Lifelong CPD is the way in which translators can be proactive and take control of their careers in deliberate way.
By consciously engaging in ongoing development, we can become better translators and increase our employability and earning potential. Our clients get a better service and we enhance our image among the general public by being part of a profession that is seen to engage in professional development.
Types of CPD
The kind of CPD a translator can undertake falls into 5 broad categories:
- Language development and maintenance (source and target languages)
- Subject-specific knowledge or skills (including translation ability)
- Business skills
- IT and internet skills
- Personal development
These categories are a useful starting point when drawing up your CPD plans. Most professional bodies also issue booklets in various formats to help translators plan, track and evaluate their CPD.
CPD is not just about attending conferences, workshops or formal courses. Learning can also be self-directed, and includes things like working towards accreditation of a professional body. Skills can also be developed through writing books or articles, giving talks, mentoring, or serving on committees. Many of us carry out self-directed learning without even realising it. However, CPD is most useful when it is planned, reflected on and then incorporated into our practice.
Barriers to CPD
Translators typically cite the following barriers to carrying out appropriate professional development:
- Cost: of the CPD itself and loss of potential earnings
- Time: usually linked to loss of earnings
- Distance to/ from relevant training sources
- Unable to find training relevant to their specific needs
The next post in this series will look at how professional translators can work on maintaining and developing their language skills and include suggestions on overcoming these barriers.