Training should be what we choose
I saw a webinar advertised the other day. In fact I see lots of webinars advertised, but this one caught my eye because it concerned the CIoL Diploma in Translation, an examination I took a couple of years ago. Looking more closely I saw that the webinar was with eCPD, a respected organisation, and that all its aims, benefits and target audience were carefully detailed. It looked like a very professional job, and the talk was given by an experienced teacher and invigilator, but I couldn’t help thinking that this webinar, at a cost of £25, was merely giving information and advice on the exam which could easily be obtained elsewhere for nothing.
Now, I’m sure the intention behind organising the webinar was to help and not to rip anybody off, but no-one can deny that there is plenty of information on this exam available on the Internet (here, for example, and here). Going beyond the purely factual, there are also many helpful colleagues who would be prepared to provide more personal advice on the exam. We’re quite easy to find, too, on forums or in Facebook or LinkedIn groups. So why should anyone be asked to part with £25 for something they could easily get absolutely free. I mean, I can’t claim the teaching background of the webinar speaker, but, looking purely at it stated objectives, they’re all things I could cover in a chat over a beer and a couple of tapas.
This is not, honestly, an attack on eCPD. After spotting this one, I went through its list of webinars and most of them looked fairly useful, if sometimes a little pricey. Nor is it an attack on the CIoL or any other individual or organisation. But I do want to use this example to question the way CPD (Continuous Professional Development for anyone who doesn’t know), which is what we’re supposed to call training nowadays, is coming to be considered and conducted. For example, the webinar on the DipTrans that attracted my attention counted as an hour’s CPD or one CPD point. It was approved and accredited too, interestingly by none other than the CIoL, the same organisation whose qualification it was promoting.
Now what does all that mean? Let’s start with that CPD point. That’s is important if you belong to an organisation like the American Translators’ Association, which makes a certain amount of development compulsory if you want to remain a member. And accreditation is important because associations that insist on CPD, or insist on you logging it, want to make sure that they approve of the training being given.
All these things are done for good reasons, I just happen to think they’re misguided and that the results are unfortunate. I’m not against CPD at all. I do it and I intend to carry on doing it. Learning more about aspects of your work, whatever it is, is generally a positive thing. But in my view, the motivation for any CPD should come from the individual, not from external pressure. People need different kinds and different amounts of CPD at different times in their careers and personal lives. Their options for accessing it also change with time. What happens if you’re ill, or have a baby, or have other responsibilities or demands on your time? What happens if you’re short of cash?
An even worse effect of compulsory CPD is that everyone affected by it ends up wandering around trying to fill up a scorecard. Surely that can’t be right. CPD should follow a person’s interests and needs, rather than being a totting up exercise. Maybe one year there are a lot of opportunities that interest you, but the next year there are fewer. Do you really have to go on courses you’re not interested in just to make the numbers up? I think that’s a nonsense.
And this is compounded by the idea that all CPD has to be “approved”. I realise that this is meant to ensure that only worthwhile courses count, but I fear it’s likely to exclude, to take one example, just the kind of CPD I might be looking to consider next. At the moment, I don’t feel I need much more training on the mechanics of translating, for example, or even the business side of the profession, beyond what I’m likely to get at conferences I might attend. What I’m interested in is finding out more in some of my specialist areas and maybe even getting an odd qualification. This type of course, however, is not going to be “approved” translator CPD.
If we’re not careful, and with the best of intentions I’m sure, we’re going to end up with a situation where those providing training have a licence to print money as we will have no choice but to pay them to tick our boxes. With compulsory CPD they would have a captive market and be able to charge whatever they liked for providing whatever courses they liked, as long as they could get them approved. But, as I’ve already indicated, the accrediting bodies are sometimes associations of the very kind that demand the CPD, which suggests that approval might not be all that hard for them to achieve.
We’re not there yet, thankfully. The majority of translators’ associations don’t yet make CPD compulsory. But it’s a trend I can see coming if the understandable desire to professionalise translation is carried through without enough thought for the consequences. And it’s a trend that I, as firm believer that the “free” in freelance is there for a reason, am going to resist. Incidentally, have you noticed that some “professionalisers” have started telling us that the word freelance gives a bad impression and we shouldn’t use it any more? Could it be because they dislike exactly the connotation I’m so fond of?
In the spirit of free(lance)dom, you’ll find me, no more or less professional than any other translator, doing the CPD I want to do with whoever I like whenever I want to do it. I will then list the things I’ve done on my website and promotional information and prospective customers can judge me accordingly. Any organisation or movement that says I can’t carry on working like that will soon see my membership card ripped up in pieces on the floor.