As you all know, translators and interpreters are bizarre creatures. They love “learning,” they enjoy “reading” and “learning new things,” all day, e’rry day. In my opinion, this is what also makes a good language professional. It is the nature of our work that demands continuous professional development (CPD). New terms, new CAT tools, new subjects and new slang words appear on a daily basis, and we need to keep up with all of them, if we want to be ahead of our game. Some of those things need training, or extra seminars and studies, some others can be self-taught.
Nevertheless, we all know how challenging this process can be. It’s not easy to concentrate and study after a full day of work, a couple of heated battles via Skype with know-it-all clients, some invoicing and lots and lots of tea brewing. Here is some advice, gathered from my personal experience, which might help you make (extra) studying somewhat enjoyable, if not fun!
- Organization: a synonym for Success!
As I mentioned in a previous article, it is important to be organized and manage your time well. Even if you only have 30 minutes a day to spend on studying, make them count. Prepare a “studying corner” somewhere in your apartment, where you leave your books and reading material, so that they’re always set and ready for you to sit down and study. Cute stationery are always a plus (I cannot function without a Hello Kitty pen or a Minion eraser)! Also, try to keep your station clean and organized.
- Cell phones OFF!
Turn off your cell phone or set it on silent mode. Don’t look at it for half an hour, let’s say. There are so many distractions around us nowadays that we have forgotten how to concentrate on one single task. While multitasking can be beneficial in some cases, trust me when I say that it’s NOT when you’re trying to study.
- “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast”
Why don’t you pick some soothing, ambient melody to black out all other external noises? I personally prefer fantasy movie soundtracks, which do not bother me with lyrics but also make me feel empowered and ready to take on the world! A few suggestions: Conan the Barbarian OST by Vasilis Polydouris, everything by LOTR, GOT fan tracks, playlists from kasetophono.gr. For the love of all that is holy, Wagner is a no-go. You’ll probably end up smashing your laptop on the floor, grabbing a chainsaw and running off to conquer the apartment next to yours. Of course, music is not for everyone. Some people prefer to study in silence. Whatever floats your boat, I say!
- Combine your daily tasks with learning opportunities.
I have learned tons of terminology while watching TV series. House MD, Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs for medical stuff, CSI for police procedures, The Good Wife and Suits for legal stuff, Supernatural for exorcisms, Doctor Who for time travelling and so on. I’m not saying that this is deep knowledge, but at least you’ll know that the clavicle is the posh term for collarbone and not an Italian pastry (mmm, clavicle, delicioso!!!), that in some alien cultures the air from your lungs is considered as a precious gift and that salt can be used to scare away ghosts, apart from seasoning your food.
For y’all interpreters out there, I like interpreting in my mind the dialogues while watching movies or series or even the news. Again, that’s not proper training, but it helps you build a learning state of mind!
- Reward yourself!
Why not? After all, you’re working hard and aced that difficult translation, or you managed to interpret for 3 hours straight because your colleague got sick or whatever. Well done! Two birds with one stone: extra learning experience plus the reward you promised yourself! Tap yourself on the back and go out for a walk, meet up with friends, shop that cute t-shirt you had your eyes on since last month. Take care of your body and mind, you only have one of each!
- Motivation is always important
You can find something or someone to motivate you. It could be a real person or a fictional one, someone from books or movies (Sherlock Holmes: handsome AND intelligent, the perfect role model!). You can also put up motivational posters on your wall.
- Have fun!
As we said before, translators and interpreters always enjoy learning. Curiosity is in the job description. Therefore, you don’t have to separate learning from fun. This doesn’t mean that you need to make watching science fiction your all time hobby. Just try to use learning in your day to day life. Learn the name of a flower, about the history of your local centre, etc. We’re lucky enough to have been born in the era of information. Cell phones are not just for updating your Instagram account (#haaaayyyy, #YOLO #whatevs), but also for looking up things, even if that thing is just a word you overheard from a song and do not know its meaning. Take phone off purse, Google word and BAM, you know it now!
Finally, keep in mind that you’ll probably spend a great part of your life working. Understand that you’re not a robot. If you work constantly, you will burn out and you’ll have no one but yourself to blame. Keep doing your work, but make it fun!