Continuous Professional Development

Like every other profession, translators have to make sure their professional skills don’t become outdated. Therefore freelance translators, as well as staff translators, must engage in Continuous Professional Development (CPD). It is the safe route to staying up to date.

Why do translators need to engage in CPD?

20 years ago many professional translators thought that their professional development would happen as a matter of course. After all, they would translate material at the cutting edge of science, industry, economics and politics. Surely they would therefore automatically develop their skills while working.

The arrival of the Internet brought with it a lot of changes. Suddenly, there were colleagues in countries with much lower living costs offering translations at vastly lower prices. Therefore translators in industrialised countries had to find ways of distinguishing themselves from the competition. Better formal qualifications were the way forward.

Advantages and disadvantages of the Internet

The Internet brought with it advantages as well as disadvantages. In the past, professional translators had to work near large libraries to have their professional resources close by. Now, online research makes it possible for freelance translators to live and work anywhere in the country.

However, this also means that translators are more isolated from each other with very little opportunity to meet in person. Because of travel times and costs, attending conferences and workshops has become much more expensive. Also, there are colleagues who fear that they would not be able to keep up if formal CPD were to become a criterion for success.

But the Internet also opened up a vast collection of materials and means of communication. As a result, Continuous Professional Development became much more accessible to translators.

With good CPD, translators stay on top of their profession and keep abreast of developments in their languages and specialist areas. Engaging in CPD helps to break into tomorrow’s markets instead of being forever stuck in the market segments of today – which may well no longer exist tomorrow.

The difference between formal and informal Continuous Professional Development

Formal CPD

The more qualified translators are, the better paid they will be. Furthermore, better-qualified translators can expect to work in more professional and lucrative market segments.

Gaining further translating qualifications, adding subject qualifications and attending specialist conferences, seminars and workshops all count as formal CPD.

Informal CPD

Professional development does not just concern language development. All professional translators also have to keep up with software developments. They have to learn new software tools and understand at least one CAT tool. Also, they must keep abreast of changes in tax legislation.

Every hour set aside for this counts as CPD.

Language changes

Grammar nerds bemoan it and find it difficult to accept new ways of expressing ourselves. But one only has to read letters to the newspapers written 30 years ago to see that the way we communicate has changed considerably. Translators have to keep abreast of this change in all their working languages. The adoption of inclusive language is one of those changes. Language professionals such as translators and interpreters must know when what used to be “political correctness gone mad” becomes the standard way of speaking. Being able to differentiate between fashionable expressions that vanish as quickly as they come, and those that last, is also an important skill.

Every hour that translators spend reading books, newspapers, magazines and online material in all their working languages counts as CPD.

Our fluency in our working languages depends on using those languages actively. This includes hearing them spoken, seeing them in action, practising them for ourselves, lest we lazily fall back into our own well-worn patterns of use.

Thus, every hour that translators spend listening to the radio, watching television or programmes, speaking to relatives, colleagues or friends abroad, or travelling, counts as CPD.

And finally, translators need to keep up with the latest developments in their specialist areas. Reading trade journals in all working languages is vitally important, as is regularly reading business/science/finance pages of the main newspapers in a translator’s working languages.

Which forms of CPD should translators engage in?

Ideally, translators should make use of all available forms of CPD. It’s important to network with colleagues and with experts in our specialist fields. Attending conferences, workshops and seminars is still the best way of combining professional development with networking. They are also excellent places for gaining new customers.

A recent newcomer in the field of CPD are webinars (web-based seminars). This type of online learning is the perfect cost-effective compromise between DIY-CPD in a home office and external professional seminars and conferences. Webinars are also the perfect complement for both. Providers offer a range of webinars on a whole host of relevant topics, all presented by experts in their field. Translators simply sign up, connect with their computers and take part.

As in all fields, there are good providers and mediocre ones. So it pays to look around. Iolante recommends the professionals at eCPD Webinars. Formally accredited by the CPD Standards Office, eCPD has been providing high-quality CPD by webinar for translators and interpreters since 2010. Training takes the form of short courses of up to five parts, divided into one-hour presentations. Additionally, the course offers a reading list and/or exercises so that attendees can continue to self-train in their chosen subject.


Iolante were delighted when eCPD Webinars asked the directors to write a guest post on company-wide CPD in an international company. Please visit the ECPD Webinars website to read our article on company-internal CPD in an international context.

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