Three Recommendations for Maintaining Polished Skills

Have you seen the Crest commercial, “if you’re not whitening, you’re yellowing?”  In my opinion, if ever there was a motivating catch phrase, this would be it.  No one wants to be found dead or alive with yellow teeth.  What does this mean for language professionals and their clients?

You may find it difficult to believe, but you may be in danger of possessing dull skills. Yes, your renditions may be yellowing, a discordant sound to the ear.  Lackluster performances do not garner encores.Indeed, there is not much difference between training for an interpreter certification and a sprint triathlon.  It’s typical for interpreters to believe that more work will enable improvement and efficiency.  You would be wrong, dead wrong.   Well then, how do you avoid tarnished skills?

Roller coasters and goals are similar:  an uphill battle with a glorious outcome.  Without continuous goals, your abilities stagnate, like a rain puddle festering with mosquitoes.  It behooves you to ponder questions like:

  • What terminology do I need to learn?
  • When do I plan to attain certification?
  • Where will I pursue professional development?
  • How do I demonstrate excellence and demand it of others?

A goal is your official destination.  Without it, you are that hamster on the wheel, running faster and faster to nowhere.  Your objective needs to be SMART:  specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

After you select a goal, a sound foundation is key to its success.  I’m not reinventing the wheel here, just chiming in with good reminders regardless of your experience level:

  • Sufficient rest (7-9 hours depending on your personal need)
  • Fitness routine (5-6 days weekly, minimum 30 minutes daily)
  • Adequate water intake (2 liters or more)
  • Healthy Diet
  • Limit dairy consumption (my 2nd greatest weakness)

Well-oiled machinery allows for smooth production.  At the core, you are selling your voice and the body that supports it.  Strengthen your foundation.

With your body at its optimal performance setting, it is time to implement your study plan.  “STUDY; Are you serious?” you ask.  Absolutely.  Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt stated, “miss one day of practice, I notice; miss two, the critics notice; miss three, the audience notices” (credited in 1894).  Therefore, it is vital that you add study to your schedule; treat it with the same respect as you would an interpreting appointment.  

Another avenue to maintaining your skills is attending annual conferences.  Mary Kay Ash stated, “you will remain the same until the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change.”  It is ludicrous to repeat the same behavior and expect different results.  For many, it will be the cry of no money that stops them from attending conferences.  Most likely, your rates are too low.  Your rate encompasses all your past learning curves, education, current and future knowledge, as well as delivery.  If it hurts you more to stay where you are, then you can embrace positive change.  Your professional development will be an investment in your greatest asset, which will allow you to deliver effective results to your clients.  There are many local events around the country.  Find one near you and open your eyes and mind to the possibilities.

Finally, there are many online courses, webinars, and local workshops taught by top-notch movers and shakers in the translation and interpreting professions.  Lawyers, nurses, and other professionals must continue their education and receive credits for them.  Many certified court and medical interpreters must submit continuing education units.  Do yourself and your clients a favor and attend them. I promise that a respectable workshop will pay dividends far into the future.

Fine wine ages gracefully, our skills do not.  By setting goals, building supporting foundations, and continually educating yourself, you are on your way out of oblivion and on the path to polished professionalism.  Everyone loves a bright smile with a smashing performance.

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