Reading is a translator’s best kind of professional development

One of the challenges translators are always faced with is staying current in their working languages (and cultures). Reading newspapers, I find, is the best way.

Born a nerd (a moniker I wear proudly), bookstores and newsagents were my favourite hangouts as a kid. I was probably the only kid in my area who knew all the newsagents that carried international newspapers.

Newspapers are very handy when it comes to learning, and staying current in, a language. Magazines generally devote their pages to specific topics, but newspapers will give you pretty much every subject matter you can imagine: current affairs, business, arts, science, health, society, etc.

When I was growing up, the only way to get my hands on such precious newspapers was to find the newsagents that catered to an international clientele, but today things are a lot simpler.

The general population in many parts of the world, unfortunately, has given up on reading newspapers. Young people today, in particular, are more interested in the social media and texting.

But a translator cannot afford to be like everyone else – in fact, we are supposed to be better and brighter, and we need to be in order to do our work.

While the riffraff are busy texting and sexting, translators can use the same technology, i.e., the Internet, to their advantage. Rather than using it as a tool for dumbing down, we can use it for our professional development.

There is no need anymore to embark on a treacherous trek in search of the right newsagent. Newspapers are your friends, and they are all readily accessible online.

And with tablets, reading newspapers electronically has never been easier or more convenient.

Of course, some newspapers have erected paywalls around their sites, so you will need to pay to read, say, the New York Times. But this practice seems to be on its way out, as more and more newspapers are dropping their paywalls.

With the amount of reading required of a translator, however, it would get very expensive if you subscribed to all the newspapers you wanted or needed.

After all, professional translators need to know everything about their languages, and the countries where they are spoken. This means we have to read quality newspapers (and they are quite expensive) and also tabloids (to know what makes Joe Sixpack tick).

The best solution for me has been PressReader, which works on all tablets and also on regular computers. For around $30 a month, you can access virtually every newspaper, and even some magazines, from every country out there. If you don’t have a tablet, no problem, because PressReader works the same way on your desktop or notebook.

You don’t want to pay $30 every month? No problem, you can also just create a PressReader account and purchase individual copies as you go along (still cheaper than the regular price of the paper version of the newspapers).

Best of all, unlike before, you don’t have to read newspapers that are a day or even a week old by the time they are delivered to your newsagent. With a service like PressReader (the Netflix of the news industry, as I call it), you get the latest edition as soon as the physical paper goes to print. Yes, you can read your favourite newspaper on your tablet while its physical paper copies are being loaded onto trucks and shipped out.

Thus, you have instant access to newspapers from Japan, for example, or from Australia.

Mind you, you receive the full version of the newspaper, complete with the ads and even flyers – and those things are veritable treasure troves for true linguists. (And you can still tap on any of the articles and read a text-only version.)

This is professional development done the fun way, folks!