Are you paying attention?


The world today is full of constant distractions, constantly tempting us to flit from one activity to another without a second’s thought. How does this affect our learning, its effectiveness and our productivity?

Claire broached the subject in her blog ‘The Distraction Trap’ last year with some handy tips to reduce distractions in our work. In this blog I want to focus more specifically on learning, sharing my experiences from the ‘Learning how to learn’ course I took in January.

I started the course as I felt that I had become increasingly scatty and forgetful as 2015 drew to a close, so this year I decided to make a conscious effort to reduce distractions and improve my learning.

The concept of ‘Deep Work’

As part of the background reading for the course, I read ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport, which looks at the value of uninterrupted, focused concentration on our work and study.

A state of constant distraction in which multiple things are going on in your mind at once puts a huge strain on your working memory. This means that you will be unable to effectively retain information, or concentrate on one task properly to innovate or solve problems. As regards memory, this implies that you may use the information once but will not retain it for later use. You may say that this doesn’t matter, you have Google, but I believe that this negatively affects your productivity and also means that you are likely to advance slower than colleagues who are capable of working deeply (applying focused concentration to single tasks or problems). Being able to concentrate and to fully explore ideas, to learn and apply new knowledge acquired (relatively!) quickly through effective working is desirable in all areas of life.

How does this relate to translators and interpreters?

I believe this concept is key to both our work and learning. Translation and interpreting are professions in which you need to be able to grasp new concepts quickly, while honing your language skills. Learning how to learn and to acquire periods of undistracted focus in your day will help you to improve your translation speed (both through lack of distraction and heightened expertise), will improve the accuracy and fluidity of your translations and/or interpretations and help you to gain specialist knowledge more efficiently.

Are you really learning?

I had been increasingly finding myself in the situation at work that I knew I had come across a term or concept before but I was unable to recall its translation or meaning. I recognise that at times this is inevitable, but it should not be the norm. Here are some tips that may help you to recall past information better.

Just reading and rereading doesn’t work

As Claire mentioned in her article – are you actually reading or are you scanning? Focused reading is the first step to remembering information.

Recall is in fact one of the simplest ways to properly remember some information – just think about if you tell someone about what you have learned in comparison with if you don’t. The former stays with you much longer. This works as it strengthens the links used to retrieve the memory, reinforcing the neural pathway to this memory.

Spaced repetition (reviewing new information at spaced intervals over time) is another example which works on the same principle.

Anything which requires that you manipulate the information will help you to remember it, such as answering questions on the subject or manipulating the information to adapt it to something practical (a blog post, for instance). These sorts of activities will help your brain to analyse the information, which promotes chunking, or the collation of various elements of information into one, easy to handle piece.

Why is chunking important?

  • Means you have understood
  • Takes less effort for the brain to use
  • Can help to link different aspects of information from different areas

NOTE: the more ‘real’ learning you do, the quicker you will understand texts and be able to link previous work to what you are doing now. This highlights the importance of specialising.

Do you suffer from einstellung?

The brain applies two modes when thinking: focused and diffuse, which it switches between throughout the day. Focused thinking is when you are concentrating on a specific problem and tackling it directly. Diffuse thinking is when your mind wanders, such as when you go for a walk, or look out of a train window. Both of these modes are important for advancing your learning and innovation.

Einstellung describes when our brain gets stuck on a loop, which does not retrieve the correct answer, but our focused mind does not allow us to conjure up a different solution. The course taught us about the importance of intertwining the two modes of thinking.

Focused mode is important for a specific task with specific goals, but diffuse mode allows you to open your mind up to other possibilities. Also, in diffuse mode your brain continues to process ideas in the background while your mind wanders onto other topics. This is why if you skip an exam question you can often tackle it better when you come back to it later, or that word you were searching for so desperately comes to you in the middle of the night.

Beat procrastination!

I will only mention this briefly, as Claire wrote an interesting article about time management last year for those interested in procrastination-beating techniques. I will mention however that the course emphasised the importance of not only breaking down daunting tasks into smaller chunks but also focusing on the process, rather than the product, of the task. This means focus on doing a little bit frequently (‘I will do half an hour on …’) rather than ‘I will finish the blog post today’. This way you will reduce the amount of willpower required to embark on the task, without the added stress of feeling that you have to complete it right away for it to be worthwhile.

So, are you concentrating?

To conclude, we live in an attention-deprived era, which often promotes multi-tasking as a bonus. However, it severely affects productivity and your ability to learn. Since completing the course I have applied many of the techniques mentioned by Claire, and I already feel much more focused and productive. Just being aware of your triggers can be a great start to a new, focused you.

What do you think? Do you think multi-tasking is detrimental to your work-life? I would love to hear your thoughts on how you learn best, any tips you may have.







Last Night We Had A Dream

By Felicity Pearce

ANOCHE TUVE UN SUEÑO Ph- Luis Malibran_LM06578.JPG

Spot the translators! Credit: Luis Malibran

Welcome to our first bilingual post! Last year Paula wrote about our trip to Madrid as part of an ongoing collaboration between us (and a number of other translators) and what was then a Spanish-language magazine Anoche Tuve Un Sueño. Now the global magazine (just a few articles can take you to places like Paris, South Africa, Rio and Mauritius, to name but a few) is beginning it’s English journey as Last Night I Had A Dream.

To celebrate this success and all the hard work, love and perseverance that is behind it, we asked publisher Julia Higueras and editor-in-chief Fernando López del Prado to share the story of the magazine and their experience of the translation process, naturally in both Spanish and English.

We hope you enjoy this interview and the magazine as much as we have enjoyed working on it and with Julia and Fernando.

In Spanish:

ANOCHE TUVE UN SUEÑO Ph- Luis Malibran_LM06350.JPG

Julia at the Premios de los Optimistas Comprometidos, the awards ceremony organized by the magazine. Credit: Luis Malibran


FP: Primero, ¿nos cuentas un poco la historia de la revista, cómo empezó y qué representa?

JH: Hace 5 años tuve un sueño, rescatar la vocación de servicio público del periodismo y liderar un nuevo estilo de vida: el pensamiento sostenible. Así nació Anoche tuve un sueño, una global magazine, la revista de los optimistas comprometidos. Desde ese instante nos hemos dedicado a conectar causas, personas y marcas que creen que nuestras acciones de hoy tendrán un efecto positivo en las generaciones del mañana y en eso trabajamos cada día, con ilusión y optimismo, aportando soluciones y siempre desde la esperanza. Somos la generación del cambio, somos gente bio-tiful.

Después de todos estos años remando a contracorriente, nos hemos convertido en pioneros y referentes del nuevo periodismo comprometido, responsable, crítico e independiente. Hemos creado una comunidad internacional integrada por personas optimistas y comprometidas, de multitud de países, que hablan distintos idiomas pero que tienen un nexo común: creen en el pensamiento sostenible y actúan en consecuencia, y luchan por mejorar la sociedad en que vivimos.

Hace 5 años tuve un sueño: unámonos NO para hacer lo posible sino para HACERLO posible.


FP: ¿Cómo y cuándo surgió la idea de la revista en inglés, o siempre era el plan?

JH: La revista nació con la vocación de ser una Global Magazine, pero la crisis económica – que ha azotado de forma especialmente virulenta a los países del Sur de Europa- retardó mucho los planes de la revista en inglés… La gran lección que aprendimos es que  nunca hay que dejar de creer en los sueños. Nosotros NUNCA dejamos de creer que Anoche tuve un sueño sería: Last Night I Had a Dream… ¡y el sueño se hizo realidad! ¿Cómo? Pues gracias a un grupo de traductores maravillosos que creyeron en lo que hacíamos y decidieron poner lo mejorque sabían hacer – traducir- a disposición de los demás… traduciendo dan a conocer el trabajo de mucha gente anónima que trabaja para conseguir hacer realidad los sueños ajenos y para ofrecer, además,  a las generaciones venideras un legado digno… La revista en inglés te enseña que los sueños no tienen fronteras, los sueños unen y dan sentido a nuestras vidas…   A Fernando – hacedor de este éxito- siempre le suelto una frase de la escritora Gabriela Mistral que me motiva mucho ante la dificultad (ahora a él también):

‘Donde haya un árbol que plantar, plántalo tú. Donde haya un error que enmendar, enmiéndalo tú. Donde haya un esfuerzo que todos esquivan, hazlo tú. Sé tú el que aparta la piedra del camino’

Y en eso estamos ahora, apartando la siguiente piedra del camino…


FP: ¿Fue tu primera experiencia trabajando con traductores, y cómo ha ido?

FLP: Sí, ha sido la primera vez. También la primera vez que tenía que coordinar el trabajo de nueve traductores a la vez, a los cuales no conocía y estaban haciendo un trabajo voluntario, desinteresado. La experiencia ha sido positiva. Me ha ayudado a entender el todo el trabajo que hay detrás de una buena traducción. Desde luego es mucho más que cambiar palabras de un idioma a otro. Traducir un texto es algo muy complejo. Un idioma es la manera que tiene un país o toda una región de comunicarse, de expresar sentimientos y pensamientos complejos. El ejercicio de trasladar toda esta información de un idioma a otro y conseguir que mantenga su significado original es muy difícil. Implica conocer el idioma y la cultura que lo rodea. Además el traductor/a también tiene que tener un poco de escritor.


FP: ¿Has aprendido algo sobre el proceso de la traducción?

FLP: Por supuesto que sí. Como decía antes, traducir un texto es un proceso complejo y aprendí que hay que preparar muy bien cómo se aborda el trabajo. Para empezar, es fundamental entender bien el texto que se va a traducir. Para ello es necesario hacer una lectura en profundidad. Hay que entender cada palabra, cada expresión, cada coma, cada punto. Si no, es imposible realizar una traducción de calidad. Además, hay que contar con un buen conocimiento sobre el autor y el marco en que el texto se concibe, por lo que una investigación previa es siempre muy útil. También aprendí lo importante que son el número de palabras y la fecha de entrega, sobre todo para los y las traductoras que trabajan por cuenta propia.


FP: ¿Por qué ha sido importante para vosotros tener traducciones de calidad y producidas por escritores que tienen el inglés como lengua materna?

FLP: Al fin y al cabo, Anoche Tuve un Sueño es un medio escrito y la calidad de los textos es un componente al que una revista no podía renunciar. Además de las imágenes, la otra herramienta de trabajo son las palabras y hay que tratarlas con mucho mimo.

Las personas que traducen, idealmente, tienen que ser nativas y conocer bien  la cultura que rodea a ese idioma. Solo así, se hará una buena traducción. Para mí, la traducción perfecta es la que no se sabe que es una traducción. Cuando es simplemente un texto bien estructurado y bien escrito, cuando se lee de manera fluida, que logra trasladar los mismos sentimientos que el autor imaginó en el texto original. Y eso es lo que sentí cuando leí la primera edición en inglés de Anoche Tuve un Sueño.



Dreams come true

And in English:

FP: Firstly, could you tell us a bit about the magazine, how it started and what it stands for?

JH: Five years ago I had a dream: to rescue the public service vocation of journalism and to lead a new lifestyle – sustainable thinking. And so Anoche Tuve Un Sueño was born – a global magazine created by and for the committed optimists. From that point onwards we have been connecting causes, people and brands that believe that our actions today will have a positive effect on the generations of tomorrow. This is what we work towards every day, full of drive and optimism and providing solutions from a place of hope. We are the generation of change – we are the bio-tiful people.

After all these years of uphill struggle, we have become pioneers and leaders for a new type of journalism that is committed, responsible, critical and independent. We have brought together an international community of people who are committed and optimistic, from all over the world: people who speak different languages but who share a common bond: we all believe in sustainable thinking and we act on it, striving to improve the society in which we live.

Five years ago I had a dream – not to come together to do what is possible, but to make it possible.


FP: How and when did the idea of having an English version of the magazine start, or was that always the plan?

JH: The magazine was born to be a global magazine, but the financial crisis – which has been acutely felt in southern European countries – really put the brakes on the plans to launch the magazine in English. The lesson we learned was to never stop believing that Anoche Tuve Un Sueño would become Last Night I Had a Dream. And the dream is coming true, thanks to a group of wonderful translators who believed in what we were doing and who decided to use their skills to ensure that the texts could be enjoyed by a wider audience, and to spread the word about the work of many anonymous people who work to carry out the dreams of others and to provide future generations with a worthy legacy. The start of the magazine in English teaches us that dreams do not have boundaries, dreams bring people together and give meaning to our lives. I often share with Fernando – the man behind the successful start of the magazine in English – a quote from Nobel Prize Winner and writer Gabriela Mistral that often spurs me on during difficult times (and now spurs him on too):

“Where there is a tree to plant, plant it yourself. Where there is a mistake to undo, let it be undone by you. Where effort is needed and everyone shirks, put yourself forward. Let it be you who removes the rock from the path.”

And this is where we are now, removing the next rock from our path…


FP: Was this your first experience working with translators? Was it positive/negative?

FLP: Yes, it was a first for me, and also the first time I was responsible for coordinating the work of nine translators at once – people I did not know and who were working voluntarily and selflessly in support of the magazine. It has been a positive experience. It has helped me to understand all the work that goes into a good translation. It is certainly more than changing words from one language to another. Translating a text is very complex process. A language is the way through which a country or a whole region communicates and expresses complex feelings and thoughts. Transferring all of this information from one language to another while ensuring that it retains the original meaning is extremely difficult; it requires a knowledge of the language and the culture surrounding it. A translator also needs to have a talent for writing.


FP: Did you learn anything about the translation process?

FLP: I certainly did. As I said before, translating a text is a complex process and I learned that good preparation is needed when approaching a translation. This means an in-depth reading, understanding each word, each expression, each comma and full stop. Without this, a high-quality translation is not possible. The translator also needs to have a good understanding of the author and the context within which the text was written, so some preparatory research is always helpful. I also learned about the importance the wordcount and the delivery date have for freelance translators. J


FP: Why was it important for you to have good quality translations by native English writers?

FLP: Last Night I Had A Dream is ultimately a written medium and the quality of the texts is one factor the magazine could not compromise on. In addition to the images, the other tool at our disposal is the written word, so this has to be re-produced with great care.

Ideally, people who translate should be native speakers and should have a deep understanding of the culture surrounding the language – only then can a good translation be achieved. For me, the perfect translation is one that does not read like a translation. A text that is simply well structured and well written, that can be read fluidly and which communicates the same feelings that the author conveyed in the original text. And this is what I felt when I read the first edition of Last Night I Had A Dream.

Some thoughts on networking events and using an ‘elevator pitch’

By Claire Harmer

Last week I attended an LRG networking event held in central London. The committee has held similar events before but this one had a special focus: creating an elevator pitch. Nathalie Reis, the LRG’s publicity officer, hosted the event and spoke about her experience of using an elevator pitch at various networking events (more details below). Working in groups, we looked at the different elements that should be included in the pitch, which sparked some very interesting conversations! I wanted to share some of the things we talked about and it would be great to hear your thoughts on what you find works well (or not so well!) when meeting new people at a networking event.

I was interested in attending the LRG event as I’d been in several situations before where I felt like an elevator pitch would work really well, such as at trade fairs, networking events, or business gatherings, but I’d never had anything rehearsed to say. I thought that being able to introduce myself in a concise, confident way would be a good skill to have, and that having something already prepared would help me to do just that.

A few things to think about when putting together an elevator pitch:

  • Focus on what will interest your potential client: language combinations, areas of expertise, services offered, etc.
  • Touch on the problems faced by your potential client and explain how what you are offering would help them to solve these problems. The aim of this is to pique their interest so they will ask you more questions afterwards.
  • Include something memorable about yourself. It is likely that the person you are speaking to will meet lots of new people that day (particularly if they are on a stand at a trade fair) so having something memorable in your pitch will make you stand out.

One of the discussions that took place at the LRG event revolved around how far you should go to educate a potential client. The verdict was that if you were meeting them for the first time it was best to answer their questions politely and try to inform them about the profession. Most of us had experienced people saying things like ‘oh, so do you work in a hospital/booth/court room’ at some point in our careers, i.e. mixing up translators and interpreters. With this issue in mind, I added the fact that I help companies with their ‘written documents’ into my elevator pitch. Here is the one I came up with at the event… it’s a work-in-progress!

Hi, my name is Claire and I am a London-based translator specialising in the medical, pharmaceutical and packaging sectors. I work from French and Spanish into English (which is my native language) and work with companies from French and Spanish-speaking countries to transform their written documents into idiomatic, fluent English. By doing this, I help these companies to increase their chances of success in English-speaking countries such as the UK and the US.

We also discussed how to deal with comments like ‘some people in our office speak English, so they take care of the translations’. The consensus was mixed in my group; some stressed that we should inform them of the dangers of this producing an inaccurate translation (particularly when carried out by non-native speakers of the target language!). While myself and a few others thought that if they didn’t know why this would look and sound unprofessional, they probably weren’t the best people to do business with. A few of us mentioned that the ITI translation guide for buyers: ‘Getting it right’ would be useful here, but we weren’t sure when giving it out would be appropriate. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?


I’ve compiled a list of the general networking events and groups which were mentioned at the LRG event, in case any readers are interested:

Apparently this is ‘the most successful business networking referral organisation in the world’! Members are part of a ‘word of mouth’ programme whereby they can develop relationships with other professionals. They have branches or ‘chapters’, as they call them, all over the world, with each ‘chapter’ allowing just one representative from each trade or professional to join the group, so there is no competition between members. It also means that there is a wide variety of professionals at their events and not 10 accountants at one meeting, for example! The downside is the expense attached (around £400 yearly subscription fee plus registration costs) and it’s a fairly hefty time commitment – most chapters meet on a weekly basis and attendance is mandatory.

  • Chambers of Commerce (as an example, this is the French Chamber of Great Britain)

People at the LRG event seemed to have varying reviews of COC events. The main point that came up was that most of the other individuals attending the events were in finance, so it wasn’t great for those wishing to network with people from a variety of trades. On the other hand, perhaps it would be a great networking opportunity for financial translators!

London-based networking group, although there are lots of groups like this out there, particularly in and around big cities. Any individual/company can attend two events as a non-member before deciding whether or not to join. The events are fairly low-cost (around £25 for London events) and unstructured, i.e. they don’t follow a fixed agenda, unlike the BNI events. I’m planning on going to one of their events next week. I’ve not been before so I’ll let you know how it goes…. watch this space!

  • Speed networking

Trade fairs and exhibitions often run speed networking sessions alongside them. I recently found out that has groups specifically for speed networking, but I haven’t managed to get to an event just yet. You often only get 60 seconds to explain your business and introduce yourself; a perfect opportunity for trying out your elevator pitch! Speed networking means that you’ll meet lots of people in a short space of time, and the cost of these events is generally low. Some people argue that 60 seconds isn’t enough time to build a relationship with a potential client, but since people tend to hand their business cards out to each person they meet during the event, they can always contact you later.

If you’ve been to any of these, or any other networking events for that matter, what did you think of them? It would be great to get your feedback!


The LRG event I attended, held at the Devereux pub in London.

Courtesy of Nada Photography

Using corpora in translation

by Sandra Young

With the beginning of a new year come new ideas, challenges and resolutions. For the first blog of 2016 I wanted to invite you to explore what I consider to be an invaluable tool for our work as translators, particularly when working in technical fields with very specific terminology. One of my professional resolutions for the year is to succeed in fully harnessing the benefits of corpora for my work.

Corpus: “A collection of written or spoken material in machine-readable form, assembled for the purpose of linguistic research.” (Oxford English Dictionary)

I first came across corpora in a professional sense when working on a dictionary project with the Oxford University Press (OUP). The examples for each sense (the different meanings of a single word in specific contexts) in the dictionary entries (the collection of these senses under one headword) had been extracted from a European and Brazilian Portuguese corpus, purpose-created by the OUP. To search this corpus the translation team had access to an online corpus building and mining tool called Sketch Engine.  We used this tool to find entry words and phrases in context, search for additional or more appropriate examples for senses of words and suggest further meanings, which was essential to producing appropriate translations. Words without context have no meaning at all, any choices of translation without this would be arbitrary.

On the target language side, we could also use the British National Corpus (BNC) to search for examples of our suggested translations in context and to cross-check against contexts and usage in the original language, in this case Portuguese. This made us confident that our choice of translation was fit for purpose.

Throughout the two-year dictionary project I found working with corpora not only useful, but fascinating. With very little effort you can produce lists of in-context words or collocations that appear in your conglomeration of text (which is about 100 million words in the case of the BNC), facilitating the quick analysis of information. For the dictionary project I used corpora to check the usage of specific words in context to be able to make informed decisions on the correct translation of said words, their most common grammatical forms and common collocations; however corpora can be used for many other purposes too.

When the dictionary project drew to a close, I continued to dabble with corpora in my work, but for some time I failed to follow a clear path. I started a MOOC course on Corpus Linguistics but, as with many free courses, I found it difficult to juggle both work and study and work won out. This course, run by Lancaster University, is of particular use to researchers, so there are elements that may not be directly applicable to our day-to-day work as translators.

However, last year at the MedTranslate Conference in Freiburg, I attended Anne Murray’s talk on corpus building and mining. In the talk, Anne took us through the steps to building our own corpora within Sketch Engine. It is a subscription-based tool costing £78/year, with a discount for MET members. The tool allows you to search existing official corpora, from Arabic to Yoruba, as well as building your own corpora up to a total capacity of one million words.

There are two main ways to build your own corpora within Sketch Engine. The first is WebBootCat, in which you input specific search terms that the program uses to dredge the internet for matching websites and files. The other option is to upload specific documents you have found (and vetted for reliability) and compile a corpus from them. The table below outlines the main tendencies of each.

WebBootCat File-based corpus
Quick to build Slow to build
Less reliable content More reliable content
Reliant on usage of appropriate and thorough search criteria Based on the assumption that with hand-picked documents you will have had more time to refine the search criteria and collate a sound base of information

As WebBootCat automatically dredges the internet, you gain quick access to a lot of information but you have less control over the content, so it can be assumed to be less reliable on the whole, as it is more difficult to check the quality of the information. You can vet the websites included in the final corpus to exclude any outliers, but this will not ensure same the quality as hand-picked material.

If you work from a file-based corpus, it will be considerably more time-consuming as you will have to search for and check each and every document for reliability and appropriateness before compiling (e.g. native author, correct spelling variation if required, correct subject matter and register). However, once you have built the corpus, you can be confident that the information within it is reliable.

Despite this, with Sketch Engine you should always be able to go back to the original text of each entry, which can help you to make a judgement on the reliability of the results produced whether using WebBootCat or your own file-based corpus. Also, as you can see, both styles offer viable options for different situations. Often we do not have the time to produce a specific, well-researched corpus for every single job we have.

How do I use corpora now?

I usually use corpora to analyse the usage of terms in the target language text, for correct translations of unfamiliar terms. Corpora are also very useful for familiarising yourself with a specific style of writing, or with common collocations in a specific subject area. In case you miss these on our twitter feed, here are some other blogs on corpora that you may find useful:

I often use WebBootCat for efficiency, but recently I had 35 thousand words of pharmaceutical regulatory reports to translate. It was a sizeable job, so I decided to compile my own file-based corpus on this subject. Given the subject matter, it was relatively easy to find official, reliable documents as the FDA publishes a great deal of food and drug product guidance, compliance and regulatory information. I selected documents and compiled a corpus in Sketch Engine.

As a result of the corpus, I was confident in my choice of vocabulary as I could see clear evidence of how terminology and collocations were used in verifiable English texts, and I could see how sentences were structured around these terms to mimic the style of the official texts. Also, if the client were ever to query my use of certain terms, I would be able use results from the corpus to provide evidence to support my choices.

There are many other corpus building and analysis tools out there. I use Sketch Engine for its ease of use (you can upload documents in a variety of formats, the interface is very user-friendly, I already knew how to use the tool, etc.), but you do have to pay for it. In a later post I will go into detail about AntConc, Laurence Anthony’s free corpus tool. This is an incredibly powerful and useful tool which I aim to master this year and further develop my corpus techniques. I attended his workshop at the MET Conference in Coimbra at the end of last year and in addition to the corpus analysis tool there are a number of other interesting tools he has developed that may be of use to translators. For those of you who are interested, the corpus linguistics course by FutureLearn uses AntConc, so you could learn to use the tool that way.

Do you use corpora? If so, what do you use them for? What are the advantages and disadvantages of corpora?

Thanks for reading and happy 2016! I wish you all a great year.



Merry Christmas and blogger update!

A very Merry Christmas to our followers from all of us at the Deep End!

We would like to take this opportunity to let you know that Katharine Mears and Paula Pitkethly are currently on maternity leave so will be taking a break from blogging until they return to work later in 2016. Katharine had a baby girl called Ettie in October and Paula’s baby is due in January. Don’t fear, however, as it will be business as usual for the blog, with plenty of posts and updates from Claire, Felicity and Sandra, as well as some guest bloggers in the early part of next year.

We look forward to continuing to engage with you in 2016!

Guest post by Lucy Brooks

by Paula Pitkethly

In September Lucy Brooks kindly hosted us as guest post writers on her blog eCPD Webinars. We are now able to reciprocate by hosting Lucy’s informative post on CPD and its importance to succeeding as a freelance translator. Over to you, Lucy.


At the start of this year I wrote a blog post about the difficulties faced by translators straight out of an MA, degree course or paid employment as they start out on their own as a freelance translator.

Today’s economic situation has meant that traditional routes into translation work have become scarcer. Previously, many would-be translators left university with their degrees and sought employment with in-house translation departments where they would hone their skills. Others entered different careers and applied their language skills within their chosen career, thus acquiring an extensive background in their field.

But the market in the 21st century has changed beyond all recognition. There are very few in-house or supervised translation positions available, and the competition for those that remain is fierce. It’s harder than ever for recent graduates to get a foot on the employment ladder. An article published in the Guardian in 2014 provides some statistics. Graduates from an MA course in translating are therefore increasingly turning to freelancing as possibly the only practical option open to them if they wish to pursue a full-time translation career.

Recent graduates and practising translators at all levels of experience need constantly to update their skills and knowledge. Learning simply cannot stop once a person has left full time education. As the modern world evolves, so must we. The tools we use to do our job, the sectors in which we ply our craft, and the markets in which we operate are subject to constant change. This kind of learning is known as continuing professional development (CPD) or continuing education.

Established in 2010, eCPD Webinars was the pioneer of online professional development for translators and, while not neglecting established translators, has increasingly been developing courses and talks for new translators.

One of eCPD’s most successful courses, the Business School for Translators, developed by Marta Stelmaszak, is a fantastic resource for new (and indeed established) translators to build and expand their business and create their own niche in the market.

Freelancers have to plan, pursue (and pay for) career development, unlike those in paid employment. But on the upside, they can plan a precisely tailored career path that precisely fits in with what they want to do.

So, while ultimately it is the individual who is responsible for developing a career, I am now offering my services, through eCPD Webinars, to new and established translators in an online consultancy service to help them along the way. eCPD’s consultancy service for translators and interpreters is aimed at helping language professionals set up and work on a professional development plan and is based upon my, and my fellow directors’ many years of experience in the profession.

I will discuss with you what you are seeking, how you want your career to develop and how you can be fulfilled in your work. After the initial online interview, I will carry out research and advise you accordingly.

All advice is unbiased and will not necessarily recommend eCPD’s own courses. However since eCPD covers so many topics, it is likely that they will figure somewhere in the mix! Work-Life balance is hard to gauge, and every individual will want to work out their own balance. We will be discussing this aspect of your work, as well as ideas for directions in which to move forward and tips for organising your business and work.

My credentials to do this are set out on the information page, along with several recommendations. The service started in September 2015.

The information page also contains a video to explain how it works.

Following a career in industrial PR and IT training, Lucy Brooks became a professional translator in 1991, working from German, French and Spanish into British English. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, and attained Chartered Linguist status in 2008. She has always taken a keen interest in continuing education for linguists, having served on the Translating Division committee of the CIoL during which time she pioneered Internet-based training for translators. She is the founder of eCPD Webinars in the UK and works closely with the ATA, the CIoL, ITI and AUSIT on webinar training. She continues to translate for many of her longest-standing customers.

Following a career in industrial PR and IT training, Lucy Brooks became a professional translator in 1991, working from German, French and Spanish into British English. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, and attained Chartered Linguist status in 2008. She has always taken a keen interest in continuing education for linguists, having served on the Translating Division committee of the CIoL during which time she pioneered Internet-based training for translators. She is the founder of eCPD Webinars in the UK and works closely with the ATA, the CIoL, ITI and AUSIT on webinar training. She continues to translate for many of her longest-standing customers.

The Distraction Trap

By Claire Harmer

This week I wanted to share some insights from a book I read recently: ‘The Distraction Trap: How to Focus in a Digital World’ by Frances Booth. This post follows on from the last one I wrote on time management for translators.

In The Distraction Trap, Booth looks at how demanding email, smartphones, social media and the Internet can be and to what extent they distract us: ‘Digital distraction means that our behaviour has suddenly changed. We’re damaging our relationships and literally rewiring our brains. We are convinced that we can do 10 things at once – it all seems so high-speed. But the reality is that we’re failing to get anything done. We’re constantly overwhelmed and never have time… we are losing the ability to pay meaningful attention to anyone or anything.’

I should mention that this post is not meant to discourage people from using social media, email, the Internet etc. (far from it!), rather to encourage us to be mindful of how much time we spend ‘plugged in’. After all, couldn’t we all benefit from more ‘unplugged’ time? I must admit that I often find myself feeling ‘wired’ and as though there is a background buzz (caused by my smartphone bleeping and pinging, perhaps?!). I hope that Booth’s tips will help if anyone else feels the same.

The author talks about the importance of deciding how long you will stay ‘distracted’ for once you’ve lost focus. She suggests that you should try to stick to the time you set so you don’t spend half an hour browsing the Internet when you’re trying to work, for example. Being distracted by something online for 5 minutes might be fine, and perhaps a much-needed interruption. In non-digital terms this is a bit like going to make a cup of tea: something to break the work cycle and refresh your mind, but not tempt you into spending ages on the net (suddenly you’re looking up the average temperature in Greece in July and it’s October… oops!)

What I found particularly interesting in Booth’s book was her description of some of the things we are losing through digital distraction:

  • Reading

Do you ever find it difficult to really immerse yourself in a book? Research shows that we are so used to analysing text, clicking on links, scanning information etc. that we find it hard to read deeply and in an engaged way, without distraction. I read a really interesting article about this yesterday. Take a look:

  • Solitude

Sitting with our thoughts and being alone can provide us with ‘creative space, new thoughts, and a sense of calm’.

  • Memory

Not being engaged in ‘the moment’ (due to digital distractions) means that we only process what is actually happening at surface level. In addition to stopping us from making memories, we forget facts, dates etc. Have you heard of the Google effect?

  • Sleep

Using the computer or other light-emitting devices before bedtime can stop the body from making and releasing melatonin, which helps the body to prepare for sleep properly.

  • Journeying

Next time you take the train somewhere have a look at how many people are on their phones/computers/tablets…‘what about the world going by outside?’ Booth asks.

  • Creativity

Blogger and author Leo Balbuta argues that creating is a completely separate process from consuming and communicating – he believes that the two things can’t be done simultaneously. Perhaps translating could be seen as a form of ‘creating’?

  • Learning

Learning new things is hard work! Surely you have more chance of absorbing the information when you’re not distracted?

  • Relationships

Bringing your phone to the dinner table, not switching your phone off when you’re having some much-needed family time, etc.

So, how do we regain these things?

By creating a strategy for managing emails and your mobile devices. I’ve recently adopted the Inbox Zero approach, where you aim to keep your inbox empty or almost empty all of the time. We explored a few more strategies in time management for translators.

  • Taking regular breaks and doing something you enjoy every day, preferably something that also recharges your batteries and helps you to switch off from everything else. Perhaps yoga or mindfulness? Booth mentions that putting these activities into your diary and making them part of your weekly routine might make you less likely to skip them.
  • Sometimes, the constant stream of information can leave you feeling tired and overwhelmed. If you are planning on going on holiday, consider making it a ‘digital-free’ one, i.e. no computer, tablet or email and (if possible) no phone. At the very least, you’ll feel refreshed when you return to work and it will encourage you to make the most of your time off, rather than spending it staring at a screen! These holidays are becoming increasingly popular and more structured ones are sometimes referred to as ‘tech cleanses’ or ‘digital detoxes’. Have any readers ever been one of these?
  • Having a bit of ‘unplugged time’ everyday
  • Getting back to nature and out of an urban environment, to restore attention (Booth even talks about something called ‘Attention Restoration Theory’ – which I didn’t even know existed!).

It would be great to hear your thoughts on ‘digital distractions’ and what you do to keep these at bay!