Working together to improve

Working together to improve

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An idea whose time has come

Usually at the end of December I look back at the old year and forward to the new, and for 2018 one theme stands out above all: cooperation. Over the past 12 months it has come in various forms. I’ve worked on big projects with other translators, particularly a fascinating art book which I’ve been involved with over the past six months with my colleague Kate Major. I’ve also had my work revised by colleagues more than ever, and have got involved in frequent cooperation on French-English translations with Catharine Cellier-Smart, based on Réunion, in the Indian Ocean. My regular “accountability lunches” with the legal translator Rob Lunn, who happens to live just a ten-minute train ride from me, have also continued to be useful and enjoyable.

More than anything else, though, 2018 has been about RevClub, the mutual revision group that Victoria Patience, Tim Gutteridge and I set up a couple of years ago now, which is why I want to return to a subject I’ve already written about here, because it’s beginning to look as if it’s an idea whose time has come.

Tim, Victoria and I presented RevClub to about 20 colleagues at a successful workshop at the METM18 conference in Girona at the beginning of October, after Tim and I gave a pilot version of the same workshop with a smaller group, also for MET, in Barcelona in June. And next year we are moving on to the UK: Victoria and I will be presenting RevClub at the ITI conference in Sheffield in May, and Tim and I will be giving an extended, full-day version of the workshop for the ITI’s ScotNet group at the beginning of June.


So what exactly are we talking about? RevClub is a really simple idea, conceived as a response to a blog post I wrote back in 2016 wondering how I could possibly improve the quality of my work. What the three of us do is take it in turns to send the other members a short piece of our work for review. The others then review it and send it back with comments, which means it takes three weeks to get through a cycle of everyone’s work. Then, for the fourth week. we have our own translation slam, when we take it in turns to choose a text and all translate it, holding a Skype meeting at the end of the week to discuss our different versions.

This helps in a variety of ways, most obviously pointing out areas where we might be coasting in our work and need to sharpen up. It also shows us different ways of looking at real translation problems. What I always tell people is that, even when I’m doing everyday work that isn’t going to be shown to the other two, I feel as if they are there, looking over my shoulder, not letting me get away with anything that is lazy or slack.

It goes further than that, of course. Over the two years we’ve been working together, we’ve not only learned a great deal from one another and supported each other in pursuing new directions and projects in translation, we’ve also become good friends. Because we live so far apart – I’m near Barcelona, Tim is in Cadiz and Victoria near Buenos Aires – we had never actually all been in the same room until Girona in October, but when we did all get together it felt as if we’d known one another for a long time.


Overall, then, RevClub has been something very positive for us, and that’s exactly why we want to spread the word about it. After all, the financial cost is zero and the cost in time really very little – only an hour or two a week. It’s something any small group of translators can do, although we continue to believe three is the best number. Already, following Girona, we’re getting news of groups of translators following our example and starting their own RevClubs. There is one in Finland, another one of Spanish-English translators between Spain and the UK, a possible Portuguese-English group and one of English-Italian translators based in Italy. What’s even better is that they’re adapting the idea to suit their own requirements and circumstances, whether those are thematic (the Spanish-English group is for legal translators) or organisational (one of the groups hold only slams, while another includes regular face-to-face meetings, something we certainly couldn’t manage).

To support the new RevClubs, we’ve decided to start a new Facebook group, to exchange ideas and information. If you’ve started a similar group and for some reason we haven’t included you, please get in touch and we’ll add you straightaway. There’s also a Facebook group here intended for people looking for revision partners and potential RevClub members.

So this is what we shall be explaining for the ITI in England and Scotland next year, and we intend to include plenty of hands-on examples to show exactly how it all operates. There’s nothing complicated or even very original about it, of course. But often it’s the simplest ideas that work best in practice.

Photo of our workshop in Girona by Cesc Anadón, courtesy of MET.



  1. Isabelle Redon

    Hi Simon,

    I’ve stumbled upon your blog by chance and read both articles on the ReVClub topic. What a brilliant idea! As a starting Eng to Fr & It translator, I’d really love to be part of such a group.It’s a lonely profession and getting feedback on one’s work is very difficult unless you pay for that service- my agency rates certainly don’t allow such luxury. As a fairly newbie in the profession, I’m not sure whether my contribution would be as appreciated as a more seasoned translator and I’m not sure where to start looking for this type of collaboration.One of my new year resolution is to get to network more and I’ve sent you a request to join the FB page you’re mentioning- that’s a start:). Any other insights, tips you may have would be most welcome. Thank you. Isabelle

    • Simon Berrill

      Thanks for your comment, Isabelle. I would say that for everyone to get the full benefit you would need to look for RevClub partners of a similar level of experience to yourself. I think you’ve joined Standing Up Revision Club. Why not try posting in there and see if anyone’s interested in joining you? You could also try asking any contacts you already have.

  2. Mar Illescas

    What a wonderful idea! So simple and yet (I think) so effective. It took me about 3 seconds to request to join the group 🙂

    • Simon Berrill

      Thank you, Mar. I hope you can find some people to form a RevClub with you.


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