Always be curious!

I follow a lot of translators via Linkedin, Twitter and various blogs. I do this to avoid silo thinking as well as to gain impressions from the outside world and to understand the market. During the pandemic, where conferences have gone virtual, Linkedin and Twitter have become useful conduits to continue discussion. They have allowed me to converse with other language professionals, even when physical events have ceased.

Break-out sessions at online events can become frustratingly like the family Zoom calls that infuriate me (A massive hat-tip to the networking possibilities provided at the Translating Europe Forum in 2021). As an in-house translator, I also find many events slanted towards freelancer. This is understandable given the predominance of freelancing in the industry. After all in-house translators having working groups and other networks. The state of the translation market is however a common topic of discussion, but I’ll handle that in another post.

I follow translators in the local market in Austria, the German speaking world (DACHL countries), and throughout Europe and North America. This allows me to understand what is going on outside of my own language combination and immediate geographic environment. I get to see which topics transcend my own local market and also access a broader (level?) playing field.

Always be curious! Why?

Regarding my own continuing personal development, I believe that I should “Always be curious”. It is too easy or tempting to say that you are “too busy” to take on something new. I currently have more than enough projects backed up to work through in addition to my day-to-day work to keep me busy for a number of months.

However, the danger of consigning CPD to “a rainy day” or “quieter times” is that such times never materialise. My “Always Be Curious” statement has its origins in a well-known scene from the 1993 film Glengarry Glen Ross. I’m not advocating anything cut-throat, but more about the importance of not resting on your laurels.

The Always Be Closing – ABC – scene from Glengarry Glen Ross (1993).

Busy-ness is no excuse

“Busy-ness” is no excuse for stagnation. I perpetually have multiple books on the go on translation and related topics, and other CPD areas. A lot of reading is done while commuting, over coffee breaks, in the evenings and at weekends. As a caveat. This side of “always being curious” is something that is also mirrored in my leisure time.

Travel is off the agenda, so I read about history and spend less time on social media. I turn off my phone and laptop and read from a Kindle. This helps to avoid doomscrolling on social media, a very real danger given the perilous state of the world at the moment.

In addition to books related to translation, my reading focuses on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). My interest lies in potential use cases for natural language processing (NLP) for my professional work. Staying abreast of trends and developments in the field of Machine Translation (MT) includes deepening understanding of model training. I observe the progress around the European Commission’s eTranslation and Machine Translation at larger sister authorities and central banks.

But isn’t this all just nurturing theoretical curiousity?

No, there is naturally also a practical component to it all. Last year I attended and completed the European Central Bank’s AI Programme for banking supervisors. Currently I am preparing to start a hands-on course through my employer. And I am slowly chugging through Nick Lambson’s course on Python for Translation and Localization. To also get some practical experience of Python, I am experimenting with some Mindstorms, which I will also try to get my children interested in as they get older.

But surely there is more interest other than pure curiosity?

Small providers of language services face particular challenges. I am talking about ones working only in a specific language combination, or in a specific field. Lack of resources make it to keep up with the move towards machine translation with human involvement (I include myself here).

Burying my head in the sand and hoping the issue goes away is not an option. I need to actively monitor the issue, and already be proactive in handling the situation going forward. The issues can’t just be kicked down the road, until a crossroads is reached. At that point the ship is already on the horizon.

So how am I currently being curious?

Currently there are several strands to my curiosity. Python (see above) and R courses online accompany a practical course through work on AI and machine learning.

Trados Studio 2022 roadshows start at the end of this month, the 8th or 9th new full version of Trados for me. Next month, I am attending an intensive seminar on Data and Storytelling, with instructors from Zurich University of Applied Sciences. Current reading includes John R. Kohl’s Global English Style Guide and Nina Sattler-Hovdar’s Get fit for the future of transcreation. The latter is available in German and English.

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