Continuing Professional Development

Continuing professional development (CPD) is a thorny issue. All too often it involves companies paying large sums of money for their employees to sit in a room with a course leader showing PowerPoint slides and spouting pop psychology and the sort of spurious information that More or Less debunks. A prime example of this is “93% of communication is non-verbal”. I question both the usefulness and the validity of this claim – especially as participants in that particular course had had to choose whether they wanted to do it in English or German!

However, not all continuing professional development courses are simply a corporate jolly and/or a box-ticking exercise. I’m pleased to say that there are some very interesting ones available, including for translators who already have a lot of experience. A little over a week ago I went on a very interesting course for translators and interpreters which covered contract law and various other aspects of the English and Welsh legal system and how they differed from other legal systems. The course, which is run by David Hutchins, a solicitor of many years experience, covered all sorts of useful topics such as the difference between “evidence” and “proof” – basically evidence is what is shown and heard in court. It includes oral testimony, documents, expert opinions, objects etc. Evidence is objective, proof, on the other hand, is subjective, i.e. a conclusion or verdict based on the evidence. So when translating words about court cases that the dictionary says can be either “evidence” or “proof”, David’s advice was to choose “evidence” unless you had a strong reason not to. On the other hand, outside the courts and the legal profession, these words are generally used interchangeably, which is probably why bilingual dictionaries tend not to clearly distinguish between them.

Another fascinating discovery was differences between UK and US English. The one that really stands out in my mind is that “professional negligence” is a UK term. In the US the same thing is known as malpractice, a phrase I had frequently heard on LA Law, but never associated with professional negligence, even though, if you think about it long enough, they do mean the same thing (leaving a scalpel inside someone you’ve operated on is quite obviously malpractice, but it’s also negligent).

So, overall, it’s my conclusion that CPD can be incredibly useful, but it’s well worthwhile doing your homework and finding a course which provides genuine information in a relevant field.

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