Getting the most out of CPD training

20 or so tips for getting the most out of CPD training

Below you’ll find 22 simple tips that will help you learn, remember and enjoy when you take training courses.

Continuous Professional Development for interpreters can mean lots of different things. AIIC, for example, breaks it down into 4 types – interpreting skills; language learning; ancillary skills (relevant but not actually interpreting, like accounting or negotiating); and knowledge-based courses.

The tips below apply to all of the above, but for the purposes of this post I have chosen to distinguish between formal and informal CPD; and between online and face-to-face courses.

Getting the most out of informal CPD

Informal CPD is what interpreters do in their free time… living in a country, watching foreign-language TV, reading, going out etc. The benefits come on their own, but you can tweak things to improve the process.

0. Align your language consumption to the markets you work on, or want to work on.

So if you want to work at UNESCO read, listen to and watch material from, and about, UNESCO and its work! For a European Works Council… read union news at the EWC database and so on.

1. Develop your curiosity

Look things up. Look everything up. Where does that street name come from? What is that powertool called in my other languages? How does a turbo-fan work?

2. Record terminology

Write down all the interesting stuff you discover above!

3. Practise skills

Great sportsmen and women are not great through talent alone. They have also done a lot of focussed  (deliberate) practice. Practise sub-skills in isolation before reintegrating them into the complex skills that are consecutive or simultaneous.

4. Join practice groups

Lead by the pioneers of the Brussels Interpreters Practice Group interpreters all over the world have started setting up practice groups. Join one! Get feedback, get better. Network, get work!

5. Join mentoring schemes

If an interpreters’ association near you is offering mentoring schemes then sign up.

Getting the most out of formal CPD

The following tips apply both to online & face-to-face courses

6. Be actively involved

React! Ask questions. Answer questions. Don’t just sit and think you are listening. Check the course program in advance to see if it allows for this sort of interaction.

7. Prepare

Don’t just turn up and attend. Revise what you already about the subect know as a platform to build on.

8. Set goals

Set yourself goals (targets) for the course. What do you want to achieve?

9. Take handwritten notes

…during the course. On paper or tablet.Studies have shown that handwritten notes are recalled better than type-written. Probably because of the analysis/processing involved (cf. Oppenheimer study) in creating the notes and perhaps also because of the spatial association that is made possible. It’s easier to put things in different parts of the page when writing by hand… and remember where you put them as a result.

10. Get feedback

Does the course format include feedback? Is the group small enough for individual feedback?

11. Review

Go back through your notes immediately after the course. This repetition and review will help you mentally organise and remember the content.

12. Practise

Practise what you’ve learnt soon after the course. Use it or lose it.

13. Pace yourself

Frequency is better than cramming.
Take courses and practise in small doses but regularly. Don’t cram it all into a busy weekend if you don’t have to.

Getting the most out of formal CPD online

One of the real positives to come out of the Covid pandemic has been an explosion in the number of CPD courses available for conference interpreters and the number of interpreters attending. Here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of this particular format…

14. Make a learning space

Make a space that you use to “attend” all courses. Make that space comfortable, functional and professional.
Don’t be in Starbucks or the park – it’s harder to concentrate.

15. Keep up with the times

Check OS & app updates and your connection 1 hour BEFORE the course. Login in early! The waiting room may have extra info or be a chance to meet people.

16. Dress up

Putting on smarter clothes so you take it seriously. Create some atmosphere and adrenalin.

17. Tidy up

Participants are sometimes also on screen, particularly in smaller groups. Make a good impression by tidying up your background – all interpreting events are also networking events!

18. Don’t multi-task

Don’t do social media, including posting about the course. If it takes you 3 minutes to think of a cool post you’ve missed 3 minutes of the course! Don’t do the ironing. Don’t wander around. Don’t read or write emails.

19. Collaborate

Adult learning is a collaborative journey. Peer interaction and feedback is often missing online, as is a group dynamic and the sense of belonging to a group. Ask the trainer if webcams will be on, or if there will be breakout rooms and networking. Get involved.

20. Create a backchannel

with other participants (on WhatsApp or Telegram etc). Use it during the course to check things you haven’t understand and in coffee breaks. It’ll help you
process & understand the course content.

21. Participate!

Use the chat to share your own knowledge, to network, to share reactions to what is going on (the trainer can’t always see your faces). Ask questions. Use breakout rooms and networking events. In this way you contribute to creating a buzz and positive vibes at the event. That makes it better for everyone.

22. Be generous

Because it’s nice to be nice… OR out of self-interest… It doesn’t matter. Interpreting is a VERY small world. You will meet again! Or your name will come up in conversation. Be kind in comments to the trainer and participants. Don’t hog the mic. Don’t ask questions that are all about your specific circumstances and unlikely to be of interest to others.

Andy Gillies

This article is half of a presentation made first & live at TerpSummit 2021