It may be tempting to think we were done with learning when we left school or university, but we all learn something new every day. We might discover a shortcut to work, find out why a friend hasn’t been replying to our texts or read a word we’ve never seen before. All this new information helps us to make better decisions and improves our understanding of the world. And continuing professional development, or CPD, is a way to incorporate the learning process actively into our own work and hone our skills.
Here at LKT, we are very proud of the provision we make for CPD, as we know how important it is to stay up to date and increase our subject-specific knowledge base constantly. This is especially true in our areas of expertise (technical and commercial translation), as these are industries that are particularly fast-moving and innovative. But CPD is not just about knowing your subject. As translators, our primary job is to convey information to an audience, so it’s vital that we communicate clearly. To this end, some of our team members recently took part in an eCPD webinar presented by Oliver Lawrence about clear writing, which was a great opportunity to see how difficult it actually is.
The webinar covered a range of tips and tricks on how to make your writing style crisper – saying no to vague pronouns, getting rid of clichés and increasing your awareness of ambiguities in a sentence. One of my favourite examples was the phrase: “he saw her duck”. As “duck” can be either a noun or a verb, I spent a few blissful moments inserting the alternative meaning into various situations. The Avengers films would have been very different if everyone had owned ducks…
My main takeaway from the webinar was that there is always room for making your writing neater and more concise. You should keep asking yourself whether your readers will have to reread sentences to understand your text. If the meaning is not immediately obvious, you could end up misleading your readers, which can occasionally have expensive consequences – as this dairy company in Portland learned the hard way… So, we as translators have to be aware of our target audience at all times. In the words of Winnie the Pooh: “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” This mindset helps us to create texts that are easy to read without missing any of the vital information, making even the most difficult subjects accessible.
Although he was referring to food, Italian chef Bruno Barbieri’s quote (pictured above) is equally applicable to writing. A great writer can express complex ideas simply. A great teacher can break down the subjunctive mood into manageable chunks. And a great translator can distil the essence of a text through the filter of another language, making it accessible to millions.