Mirna Soares (PLD Assistant Editor)
What most translators and interpreters have in common is a love for languages and culture and a natural curiosity about the world, which usually means we deal with a wide range of topics. That is also what makes a good translator/interpreter. Whether we are highly specialized and keep learning more about the same subject or a generalist and always have to cope with new topics―not to mention constant technological advancements―we should never stop learning.
I always have that nagging feeling that I am going to get stuck in a rut unless I consciously try to improve my skills and the quality of my final product. Ongoing learning is not only necessary, but it also makes the whole work experience more pleasant and less repetitive.
Like everyone else, I feel that my personal life occupies all my free time. Willpower alone isn’t enough to continue improving; it takes organization, discipline and updated information sources. There are weeks, and sometimes months, when I fall behind, but then I summon my energy, refocus and get back on track. I try to convince myself that what matters is not what I haven’t done but what I can start doing.
Since this topic is dear to me and one that I struggle with every day, I thought it would be interesting to write about it, share what has worked so far and learn from others.
This space will be a regular column about continuing education, self-directed learning and professional improvement. I hope you will get involved, leave a public comment or contact me privately; your input will enrich the discussion. We will talk about methods, tools and good practices that have worked for many people. Hopefully, we will be able to create our own processes and become more systematic about studying and developing our skills.
To get into this mindset, think about your professional goals. What do you like doing and what do you think is useful? Improving your language skills, learning to use a new CAT tool, specializing in a new field, adding a new language combination, getting a certification, taking a proficiency exam, spending time abroad… it’s all game!
Also think about weak spots, areas that need improvement and client requests that you haven’t been able to fulfill. These can give you some indication as to what you should be investing in next.
Think about the steps you need to take and how you are going to do it. Do you need to enroll in a course? Should you save money? Is it a long process that needs several planned stages? Break your objective down to activities and get going.
And last but not least, create a schedule. Determine what time or days you are going to study or work on preparation activities and give yourself a deadline. Be realistic, but at the same time remember you have to put some effort into it. Flexibility is key, of course, but you need benchmarks in order to know if you are slacking or sticking to your plans.
Start with a single project so you won’t be overwhelmed. Then come back and tell us about it.