Phew, what a year 2020 has been!
As 2020 dawned, nobody could possibly have expected this curveball of a year, and neither did we. Until now, techforword primarily offered live, on-site training, which usually entailed traveling to locations within a few hours of our homes and offering courses for small groups. And that’s how the year started: Josh ran back-to-back seminars on Tablet Interpreting and Glossaries for Interpreters at the AIIC PRIMS meeting in Lyon in January, followed by Alex running a tablet training at the University of Barcelona and Josh spending a week at the University of Malaga as a Visiting Scholar for the European Master in Technology for Translation and Interpreting.
Since on-site courses require time-intensive travel and work best with small groups, we had always planned to take techforword courses virtual. Our plan for 2020 was to launch the Android edition of our “Tablets for Wordsmiths” mini-course and our “Glossaries for Interpreters 2.0” course. And then the pandemic hit.
Hitting the curveball
In early March, on-site interpreting ground to a halt. Many interpreters generously shared their knowledge and expertise in online webinars. And one fateful night in early March, we decided to launch our own weekly webinar series. We (perhaps naively) committed to running these free sessions every Thursday for “as long as the pandemic lasted.” Little did we know what we were in for! 😆
For fourteen straight weeks, we put on a webinar every Thursday, touching on a panoply of topics, from terminology management to tablets and note-taking, speech-to-text tools to audio and video gear, practice groups to sign language interpreting tech. And of course, remote interpreting.
In early April, we launched “techforword live“ - a series of consecutive small-group online training courses. In six hours of training spread over three days, we took our first foray into longer online training. It was a time of incredible creativity. But how do you run an online course that actually teaches people skills - rather than simply imparting knowledge? Our approach entailed designing a range of activities which participants would work through both during and after our live sessions. We threw everything together in a Google Classroom, and off we went.
techforword live was a ton of fun, but we were left pondering how to scale it all up. For our real-time courses, we capped groups at 20 students, but that inherently limited the number of people we could reach. Plus, many of our peers were juggling childcare and learning to work from home, while others lived in far-flung locations with incompatible time zones. Sure, we were pushing the boundaries of what could be done in a live webinar - one of our favorite tweets said “Are techforword seriously making me do consec during a webinar?”. But we were also coming up against a major barrier we were already familiar with from on-site courses: skill development takes time, but how effectively can you actually develop skills in a single session? Spoiler alert: you can’t.
Overhauling our courses and moving to an on-demand model made perfect sense, so that’s what we did. Between April and December, we released three new mini-courses and seven full courses. In some cases - like our “iPads for interpreters” bundle and “Glossaries for interpreters 2.0” course, we updated, extended and repackaged content we’d been teaching for a while. But perhaps even more rewarding than that was developing new courses that addressed the needs of our colleagues. When we had our friends from IBPG and PiPS join us for a webinar on practicing remotely, they told us their biggest challenge was finding a way to hear the original speech and colleague’s rendition at the same time. That led us to put together “Getting the Right Mix” - our most popular mini-course to date, with over 500 students. And though we never would have imagined designing a course about Remote interpreting from home even a year ago, this topic became incredibly relevant.
Somewhere over the course of the year, we coined our informal motto, “We do the research, so you don’t have to.” And digging deep into tools and finding the best options for colleagues has been an incredible source of pleasure for us.
In November, we published our first e-book: The Tablet Interpreting Manual. Interestingly enough, this was the first piece of content Alex ever put together - nearly a decade ago when the iPad saw the light of day. But after five years of exploring the ins and outs of this topic, we decided it was time to put our ideas on paper in an easily accessible format. And there it was: our beginner’s guide to tablet interpreting. Of course, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to add in new bells and whistles, too - with tons of recommendations for all three major platforms and an entire chapter on using tablets to teach interpreting.
Sharing the love
As we moved online, we published all sorts of free resources for colleagues. Early on, we also set up our own YouTube channel, which now has over 50 videos. (You’ll find the five most viewed ones below.) One highlight was “Audio and video secrets for great remote meetings.” This video came with the first ever techforword community challenge. And with help from our incredible colleagues, we were able to add subtitles in over twenty languages, making it accessible to clients everywhere. It is thanks to your efforts that at least some clients are starting to provide us with better audio and video for remote interpreting. (Please continue to share the video with them, and if you’d like to add subtitles for another one of your working languages, hit us up!)
We had so much fun with the first techforword challenge that we’ve run a few more since then. In August, we ran the summer learning challenge, where we featured twelve lessons from four different courses. Over 300 people joined us to learn new skills all month long. And three lucky colleagues won a free techforword course of their choice. 🤩
As many of you know, our colleague Barry Olsen has been an interpreting technology trailblazer, writing the Tech-Savvy Interpreter column in the popular Tool Box Journal newsletter for over five years. When he took a new position, he had to leave the column behind, and we were delighted to take it over and make it our own. Since September, the Tech-Savvy Interpreter 2.0 has featured topics like turning websites into apps, our favorite green screen for online meetings, our thoughts on whether technology will replace translators and interpreters, and a two-part interview with Barry about the past and future of interpreting technology. We look forward to sharing longer-form reflections on cutting-edge topics in both the column and our blog.
What’s ahead for 2021
Although our courses on Remote interpreting and Speech recognition were brand new, this year has primarily been about consolidating and sharing the knowledge we already had. Next year, we’ll be bringing you all sorts of brand-new content. 💪🏼 With the community survey we ran in the fall, we learned about the most pressing topics that interest you. And in early 2021, we are going to directly respond to your interests: with a new video course on Sim-Consec (which will launch with an accompanying free webinar with the minds behind this hybrid technique) and another e-book: the Interpreter’s Guide to Audio and Video. (Think microphones, headsets, consoles, limiters, green screens, and more.)
For years, we’ve dreamed about putting on a conference on interpreting technology designed specifically for practitioners, and soon, this will become a reality. In late February, join us and 25 other world-renowned experts for the Innovation in Interpreting Summit. The program includes presentations, interviews, panels, networking opportunities, co-working sessions, giveaways, and an exclusive online community just for attendees. Best of all: it’s 100% free! Hop on the waitlist now.
Speaking of community, one of the best parts of the past year has been building a community of tech-minded colleagues across the globe. We’ve connected with peers we never would have been able to meet in person and reconnected with old friends. In 2021, we want to take this to the next level. So we’re launching a brand new community for you. It will be an exclusive online space to connect with colleagues and share questions, ideas and solutions. In our new membership program - tentatively titled the “techforword insiders” - we’ll be sharing special tips and tricks, offering discounts and early access to techforword programs, and welcoming you to Josh and Alex’s “playground,” where we’ll take a deep dive and explore new tools that just might be the greatest thing since sliced bread. And this is just the beginning.
2020 has been a year of upheaval and changes, but also a year of incredible growth for techforword and our profession overall. We’d like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for joining us on this adventure, and hope you’ll keep exploring with us.
If you have some free time over the holidays, here are a few lists of our top five webinars, YouTube videos, blog posts, and free resources. Enjoy!
PS. Like what we’re doing and want to support our research? Consider a donation to techforword. We do the research, so you don’t have to. 😉