Report: Continuing professional development survey for translators, interpreters and editors

Authors: Ian Mac Eochagáin, Kate Sotejeff-Wilson

The Survey

Between 18 December 2019 and 31 January 2020, we invited our members to respond to an 11-question survey on Continuing Professional Development (CPD). The survey was open to members of NEaT and our sister organizations Mediterranean Editors and Translators (MET), the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and the Society of English-language professionals in the Netherlands (SENSE). With a total of 364 responses, members of NEaT were strongly represented. Thirty-nine (39) NEaT members responded to the survey, of which 82% lived in Finland and 13% in the Netherlands.

A Snapshot of NEaT Members

The NEaT respondents were an educated group: 11% held a PhD, 26% had a master’s degree and 19% had a bachelor’s degree. Just over 70% had earned their degrees in languages, and 21% had degrees in translation studies.

NEaT respondents describe their professional activities with a broad range of job titles. The most commonly used were translator (47%), editor (23%) and language professional (26%). In practice people use several titles to describe their work, so this question gives a mere snapshot.

A large majority (72%) of respondents said English was their source language, while 54% said Finnish was. Swedish was in third place with 26%. Respondents could choose more than one answer to this question. At first glance this would seem to show that most respondents worked exclusively with English, i.e., as monolingual editors or revisers. This may seem to contradict the apparent low share of self-identified editors shown by the previous question. However, it must be remembered that many members are native Finnish speakers who translate into English, and that some members at least anecdotally identify as translators although most of their work is not in translation.

When asked about their “target/native languages”, another question which permitted multiple responses, respondents overwhelmingly (97%) indicated English, with Finnish a distant second at 34%.

Professional Membership

NEaT members are part of a wide-ranging international professional network. Respondents were asked which professional organizations they were members of. All indicated NEaT,  and the most popular other organizations were MET (26%), the Chartered Institute for Editors and Proofreaders (CIEP, formerly SfEP, 15%), SENSE (13%) and ITI (10%). Others included our sister organization, the European Association of Science Editors (EASE), Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), the Finnish Association of Translators and Interpreters (SKTL) and Kieliasiantuntijat (formerly KAJ, Finnish language experts, a member of the Akavan Erityisalat trade union).

Respondents networked most often at professional association events (90%). Other in-person meetings were also popular: for example, language group events and client events were each indicated by 36% of respondents. Members also network through online channels: 56% named LinkedIn, the same proportion named Facebook, and 36% stated they used online forums. 

Professional Development

NEaT members are interested in a broad range of continuing professional development (CPD): the survey allowed them to choose more than one. The most popular were editing (64%), revision (64%), translation (62%), tools/apps (62%), writing (56%), grammar (44%) and punctuation (41%). The free-form “other” responses contained many specialist fields people would like to learn more about, including medicine, technology and social sciences.

When asked to “describe one CPD event you found useful” and explain why it worked, at least five respondents mentioned either NEaT events in general or English Today in particular. They wrote that the programme was informative, current and practical. Several respondents highlighted the hands-on nature of events they had attended:

Rewriting English texts. That is what we non-natives mostly need. Marketing, business or similar workshops are less helpful – they tend to turn out somewhat homespun. You really cannot learn business in an afternoon. Besides, there are specialized agencies for that: uusyrittäjäpalvelut and the like.

A recent statistics seminar where we compared how we would approach different problems. I learn best when I see how other editors solve the same problems I confront.

Native proofer/editor/translator’s briefing on problem points in translating from Finnish into English. Very useful as he pointed out ways to tackle the problems, we got to ask questions etc.

MET meetings are great because of in-depth topics and hands-on workshops. Tired of marketing and business hype. Text analysis and subject-special case stories are my favourites, and grammar is always fun.

Joy Burrough-Boenisch workshop on editing non-native English writing: perfect combo of theory and praxis; imparted concepts and principles and skills in how to apply them to real examples; let us try our hands at it.

Several responses also touched on the sense of community that good CPD events created:

An English Today session with professionals talking about their work. The benefit of these events for me has more to do with the feeling of belonging to a community, not so much anything to do with substance.

Professional events with peer presentations are often useful, give new ideas for specialization, running my business etc. – networking at events often as important as topics

SENSE Professional Development Day A variety of presentations on a range of topics, by members for members. A full day of learning experiences.

NEaT members are preprared to invest in their professional development. The final question asked people how much they spent on CPD annually in euros, excluding travel costs. Thirty-two per cent said between €0 and €50, 26% said €51–100, and 19% said €151–300.

Shaping our Future CPD

The NEaT board and committees are using this important feedback to shape our future CPD programme. Thank you again to everyone who responded to the survey.

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