A never-ending journey: CPD and the importance of continuous learning in translation

If you’ve just completed your studies and are about to embark on a career in professional translation, you probably can’t wait to throw yourself into work and gain your first hands-on experience as a professional linguist. You might be glad to put an end to rifling through the endless pages of dry theory and translation strategies. In reality, however, your journey of lifelong learning has only just begun.

Like most professionals, translators need to keep up with new developments and trends in their profession – the evolution of language, innovations in subject-specific fields, not to mention the tools and techniques commonly used.

Continuous professional development, CPD for short, refers to the lifelong learning that you undertake to maintain and deepen your professional knowledge and skills. Whether you’re taking your first steps into the industry or have been working in translation for decades, CPD is crucial.

If you’d like to find out more about the importance of learning for translators, what you should consider when looking to embark on professional learning, as well as what we do at AJT to support our in-house team with their professional and career development, then keep reading!


The importance for translators to develop their skills

The continuous evolution of language

Languages are constantly evolving, which makes it all the more important for translators to stay up to date with their working languages. Translators must be fluent in their source language and understand it perfectly, which translates into (no pun intended) never-ending learning to keep up with the ever-changing vocabulary and jargon.

The same goes for our target language. Translators usually translate into their native tongue, which means that keeping up with the shifts and changes occurring in their native language is just as important. This holds particularly true for translators who do not live in their native country and as such are no longer immersed in their first language.

So what’s the best way to keep up with a language? Well, here’s the best part – CPD doesn’t just consist of formal training. Apart from watching films and listening to the radio or podcasts, the best way to refresh and maintain your language skills is to read, read and read some more. This could be anything from newspaper articles to books and blog posts.

If you’re noticing any shifts in language that you would like to explore more, look out for CPD opportunities that specifically address these changes. Take German for example. The move away from gendered language towards a more gender-inclusive approach has opened up a debate around whether we should favour the ‘gender star’ (asterisk), a colon or an underscore to denote multiple genders – or indeed make use of gender-neutral terms.


The English word teacher is gender neutral, and can refer to a male or a female teacher. In German, a male teacher is a Lehrer, and a female teacher is a Lehrerin. To translate the word into German in a gender-neutral way, we have several options available:

Example of translating in a gender-neutral way

Here at AJT, we felt that we needed a bit of help finding our way amid all of these options. So we arranged to run a workshop with communication specialist Sigi Lieb on gender-inclusive language, which provided us with the tools to use inclusive language with creative flair. Read my colleague Julia’s article to learn more about the use of gender-inclusive language in translation.


The importance of subject matter expertise

Subject matter expertise refers to the knowledge of the material being translated. Most translators will eventually specialise in a specific subject area, such as law, medicine, marketing, fashion and beauty, travel and tourism – the list goes on.

There are compelling reasons why translators choose to specialise. As you become an expert in your chosen field, you become much faster at your work, which leads to increased productivity and, in turn, a higher income. However, you don’t become a subject expert overnight. It takes a great deal of time and effort, and here’s where CPD comes in.

Whether you simply want to enhance your understanding of your chosen field or are looking to learn a new specialism, courses focused on a particular subject area offer a great way to improve your expertise in a specific domain. They are also a great way to boost your confidence and enhance your reputation among existing and potential clients.


“In general, I have come to realise that I get much more out of courses that focus on a specific topic, such as ‘Translation for the Beauty Industry’ rather than ‘Tips and Tricks for translators’.”
– Julia, German Editor


At AJT we receive regular reminders about the various short courses offered by the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), which are designed to enable translators to produce high-quality, fit-for-purpose translations in their chosen specialism.


Keeping up with new tools, methods and technologies

The increased reliance on technology in translation has led to the emergence of key trends that are revolutionising the industry. The use of computer-assisted translation (CAT) and translation memories (TMs) have long since become a vital part of the day-to-day life of translators and have led to increased productivity and consistency in the translation process.

Luckily, most CAT tools work in similar ways and knowing the ins and outs of one CAT tool makes it much easier to pick up another one further down the line. At AJT, we use several tools and whilst most of our in-house translators join our team with some basic knowledge of CAT tools, we do not expect any prior knowledge from them as we provide full training to new recruits on the various tools we use.


“I had classes during my studies dedicated to learning how to use CAT tools, but it was still very beneficial to receive complementary training at AJT to jog my memory. I discovered functionalities that I never knew existed. I am very grateful that my colleagues Eve and Eva took the time to go into all this in detail and answered every one of my questions with great clarity.”
– Constance, French Translation Intern


Are you looking to become better acquainted with CAT tools? Keep in mind that many CAT tools such as Memsource, Smartcat and SDL Trados offer either free trials or free basic versions.

Just as CAT tools and translation memories have fundamentally changed the way we translate, the adoption of machine translation is on the rise, with machine translation post-editing (MTPE) becoming increasingly common. This is a trend that linguists simply cannot ignore and in order to future-proof your career, you may wish to familiarise yourself with the process involved.

Whether we like it or not, machine translation is here to stay. With this in mind, the team at AJT are regularly invited to training sessions on MTPE best practices to ensure staff are well equipped to face the technological advances in our industry.


What we do to support our in-house team with their CPD needs

We are committed to investing in our team and helping them hone and improve their skills. Every year, we grant all in-house team members a dedicated budget for external training to support them with their professional and career development goals.


“I’ve been using my training budget to take Korean classes. I had been thinking about taking lessons for a while and the budget encouraged me to go ahead as it helped me fund this project.”
– Lucie, Senior French Translator


We receive regular reminders and emails detailing any upcoming training from external providers, as well as discounts on certain courses such as those run by the Cornwall Marine Network.


“I think the internal training opportunities are great, because they’re a free way to learn more about the diverse field of language services.”
– Lisa, German Translator


On top of all that, in-house team members can benefit from the numerous internal training opportunities that are on offer each year. These include training sessions on copywriting, desktop publishing, SEO, editing, project management and many, many more.


“I watch the recordings of the project management training sessions. They allow me to see things from a different angle – one that I am not too familiar with from my daily work as a translator.”
– Martine, Junior German Translator


Most internal courses and workshops are run by our talented colleagues themselves, who are more than happy to share their experiences and best practices with the rest of the team. To help colleagues keep track of training and CPD, AJT has also set up a Google Sheet where the training completed by colleagues is logged and managed.


“I really enjoy learning from the rest of the team, it’s brilliant that we have people with various skills and insights. It’s also good because we can follow up on the training afterwards if necessary and ask our colleagues questions.”
– Alicia, Senior French Translator


If language service providers (LSPs) are keen to deliver outstanding services to clients and attract and retain talented linguists, CPD is absolutely crucial. For us at AJT, professional development is always at the forefront of our minds as it helps us achieve high standards of professional conduct in translation.

Are you looking to join the AJT team? If so, get in touch – we’re always looking for talented people to join our freelancer pool!