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Developing Your Professional Skills: Demystifying CPD for Interpreters and Translators

CPD is still pretty 'new' for the Interpreting and transaltion profession and as such there is still some uncertainty as to what and how interpreters/translators should be documenting their progress and the best ways to develop ones own learning.

CPD UK (2018) states that ‘Continuing Professional Development exists to ensure that an individual enhances their skills and abilities once they have formally qualified.’ However, some interpreters may have qualified many years ago and not undertaken any form of academic based training since qualification, until the introduction of compulsory CPD by NRCPD. It can be daunting not knowing where to start and how to plan for your own development, especially if you are out of practice or have not done so, since training to enter the profession.

In order to meet the current requirements for CPD, registrants must complete a minimum of 24 CPD points. One CPD point = one hour and registrants must ensure that that have completed at least two structured activities in every registration year, however, there is no 'minimum' number of required hours for structured activities. In addition, registrants must also keep accurate records of their learning and maintain a personal development plan.

In the NRCPD CPD Handbook it states that the NRCPD ‘encourage you to;’

  • develop your own personal development plan;

  • adopt a reflective practice approach to developing your professional skills; and

  • keep a learning journal.

The handbook goes on to further explain that, ‘Reflective practice means thinking critically about your professional and personal experiences to gain understanding. You then use that understanding to change how you do things and evolve your development objectives.’ NRCPD (2018)

Creating your own personal/professional development plan, learning objectives and keeping a learning journal may be something that you are already familiar with, if so, great. (Hopefully you will still find this article useful as it will help you to explore relevant theory that can help you to define and reflect upon your goals/achievements more easily) If this is new to you, then this article should shed some light on the subject for you and hopefully guide you in your quest to fulfil the requirements set by NRCPD.

In the NRCPD CPD guide book under section ‘ 3.2 – What counts as CPD?’ NRCPD state that ‘ The most important part of CPD is setting your objectives for developing your professional practice. You then decide how you are going to achieve them’. They say that ‘Any activity may count as CPD as long as it helps you achieve those objectives. It is up to you to explain how it does that.’

CPD can be seen as an ‘add on’ or burdensome, just something we have to do in order to get points and be able to register with NRCPD; however, I strongly believe that CPD should be seen as much more than that – it should be seen as an integral part of being a professional, (required by a regulatory body or not) and it should be specific to your needs. There is now a wealth of short CPD courses available, even webinars that can be accessed from the comfort of your own home/office, (like the ones we offer!) which is perfect for those of us who can’t commit to attending a training session for whatever reason. However, I have heard of and seen a lot of interpreters booking on courses, not because it will benefit them in terms of meeting their own development needs specifically, but because the event is close or cheap.

Effective CPD needs planning and time put into it to ensure that your development needs are being met. If you are aware of what you need to do, in order to improve your practice, great – if not then you will need to conduct an analysis of your skills. The reason for this is that you need to establish where you are currently at. What is it that you need to start focusing on improving? What areas of your practice do you need to pay more attention to?

A way that you could start the process is to ask for honest feedback form colleagues or clients (this can count as CPD too) however, do be prepared to keep an open mind and be thankful for any feedback given, collect some video evidence of you interpreting in both directions and complete a ‘Miscue Analysis’ Cokely (1992) on it to see if there are any particular patterns or gaps that might need addressing. Dennis Cokely did a lot of research on miscue analysis (detailed information on this can be found here ) Once you have a baseline assessment of your own skills, you can then start to define development targets.

CPD should be about quality rather than quantity and to this end I would suggest not picking more than 3 areas to develop. Any more than 3 would not allow you to fully explore each area in 1 registration year and may result in you only skirting over the issues.

It is important that when working on your development plan that you follow a process or structure that will allow you to fully explore and evaluate your progress. There are many theoretical reflective models available , many of which can be accessed with a quick search on the internet. However, probably one of the most well documented models is Kolb’s Learning Cycle.

Kolb’s Learning Cycle is a well-known theory which argues that we learn from our experiences of life. It also treats reflection as an integral part of such learning. According to Kolb (1984), the process of learning follows a pattern or cycle consisting of four stages, one of which involves what Kolb refers to as ‘reflective observation’. The stages are illustrated and summarised below Leeds Beckett University (2018)

Stage 1: Experience (Kolb’s “Concrete experiences”) Life is full of experiences we can learn from. Whether at home or at work or out and about, there are countless opportunities for us to ‘kick-start’ the learning cycle. From reading a book (or blog post!), attending a training even or analysing your own work.

Stage 2: Reflect (Kolb’s “Reflective observation”) Reflection involves thinking about what we have done and experienced. What did you learn from attending the Ben or reading that chapter? What did you notice when slaying your own work or observing another interpreter at work? Some people are naturally good at this. Others train themselves to be more deliberate about reviewing their experiences and recording them.

Stage 3: Conceptualise (Kolb’s “Abstract conceptualization”) When we pass from thinking about our experiences to interpreting them we enter into the realm of what Kolb termed ‘conceptualization’. To conceptualize is to generate a hypothesis about the meaning of our experiences and how this applies to your own practice/learning.

Stage 4: Plan (Kolb’s “Active experimentation”) In the active experimentation stage of the learning cycle we effectively ‘test’ the hypotheses we have adopted. Our new experiences will either support or challenge these hypotheses. You plan for what changes you will implement or how your practice might improve because of the new experience.

To learn from our experiences it is not sufficient just to have them. This will only take us into stage 1 of the cycle. Rather, any experience has the potential to yield learning, but only if we pass through all Kolb’s stages by reflecting on our experiences, interpreting them and testing our interpretations.

Summing up, learning from our experiences involves the key element of reflection. Obviously, most people don’t theorise about their learning in this way, but in their learning follow Kolb’s cycle without knowing it.


Cokely (1992) cited in Terp Topics ‘Interpretation process models’ (2009)

Leeds Beckett University (2018) Kolb’s Learning Cycle.

NRCPD (2018) CPD handbook for registrants.


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