Another look at a controversial topic
This blog has caught fire lately in terms of reactions, and before my discussion of translator online behaviour, the post provoking most comment was one I wrote about a month ago on Continuous Personal Development or CPD. In fact, there has been so much reaction to it that I would like to revisit the subject this week.
In the original post, my basic argument was in favour of translators being able to choose their own CPD and against it being compulsory and being restricted to “approved” suppliers. I was also critical of a particular course offered by the eCPD company, the approved supplier of the CPD for the Chartered Institute of Linguists, and I expressed concern about the relationship between the two organisations.
I was contacted by Lucy Brooks, the managing director of eCPD and I think it only fair to give some space to her explanation of how her company came about because it goes some way to explaining that relationship. She says (and I quote from her e-mail to me with her permission): “I began eCPD nearly 6 years ago now simply because the CIoL (I was on a committee at the time) arranged seminars in London and constantly received requests to hold seminars in other parts of the country. This wasn’t practical for a band of volunteers, and it was about that time that webinars came on the scene. So for about 9 months we ran webinars – mainly repeats of seminars.
“But eventually it became clear that it was too much for one volunteer to manage and organise, so eCPD was born. I have kept the fees as low as possible but presenters put a lot of work into their presentations and deserve remuneration. There are licences to be paid, website to be maintained, and all kinds of other fees involved.”
I think this makes it clear that was no tremendous profiteering motive behind eCPD, as some of those who have contacted me and commented on my original post feared there might have been. To be honest, I have no problem with Lucy and her company seeing opportunities and making a profit from CPD, provided they are offering translators what they want and need. Where I would be concerned would be if a certain amount of CPD became compulsory every year (as it is, apparently, for all translators in the Netherlands and for the ATA in the United States) and if one or a few companies like eCPD were the only official providers of it. This, however, is not the case in the UK or in Spain, the two countries that basically concern me, and, in the case of the UK, Lucy doubts if it ever will be.
Translator Oliver Lawrence, however, is a supporter of compulsory CPD. In a recent post on his blog, he made probably the best case for compulsory CPD I’ve ever seen, accepting the drawbacks of a CPD points system which could lead to translators getting credits for substandard courses just so they can tick a few boxes. His suggestion was for a peer reviewed system in which translators could pair up and review one another’s CPD to make sure that they were continuing to learn and develop. I’m not sure of whether this would actually work in practice, but it is the kind of system that would go furthest to overcoming my objections.
The fact is, as I’ve said before, I’m not against CPD. I like learning and I see the need for translators to continue to improve. What I, and I think many other translators, also want is to see is for us to be allowed to improve in the directions we choose, without pressure to tick boxes. One of the areas where I see worthwhile CPD could be carried out, particularly for more experienced translators, is in the area of our specialisations. For example, if I decide to do a course or take a qualification to improve my knowledge of wine, one of the areas I would like to specialise in more, I believe that should count as CPD for the purposes of translation.
I’m less sure about the value of the many business-related courses on offer nowadays because, as Oliver Lawrence points out, as customers or clients we don’t really care if our plumber does a course to improve his accounting or if our lawyer learns how to design a website. “Business and soft-skills training can form part of a balanced CPD diet,” he says, “but there’s no need to make them compulsory. What makes a difference to our clients is our source and target language skills, our writing skills, our proofreading rigour, and our subject and terminology knowledge, so those areas seem the logical and proper areas to prioritise.”
And here he begins to chime in with what I’m beginning to see as a new movement among translators for what might be termed “getting back to basics” in terms of training. No one has put it better than Chris Durban, surely one of the leading promoters of the translation profession. In a recent comment on another post on my blog she said: “I would dearly like to hear more support for the hottest tip I know of for translators looking to build their business. Ready? Here we go: ‘Become a better translator’.
“As the split between bulk and premium market segments widens, that is far, far more important than all of the life-style and business tips I’ve ever read. And I write that as someone who has, in the past, written at some length about the importance of translators pulling up their socks and adopting businesslike attitudes. Could the pendulum please swing back a bit, guys? Master your craft; do the deep work.”
And it’s that kind of CPD – the kind that makes a real difference to the work I do – that I’ll continue to look for in future. Any suggestions for finding it?