I had a couple of very interesting meetings with translator colleagues -- some of whom also function as very small translation agencies -- here in Vienna. Our e-mail communications are usually limited to exchanges about a specific project or topic. That is certainly appropriate for the medium and the fact that such conversations tend to take place in the middle of our workdays. A (very) occasional after-hours face-to-face meeting, on the other hand, affords us the opportunity for much wider-ranging chats.
One of the things I learned in these meetings is that the Austrian translators association, Universitas, holds summer courses on terminology at the University of Vienna. Something to bear in mind for Summer 2013, when I'll be back in Vienna for my father's 80th birthday anyway. Spending a summer in Austria would also be a good immersion course in contemporary German. Like most translators, I do try to read regularly in my "other" language(s) (i.e., the one(s) in which I'm not living), but actually living in that linguistic environment 24/7 is different.
I consider trips back to Europe part of my continuing education as a translator. So is the class in green building/alternative energy that I will attend in New York starting in early March. It should help me better understand how solar energy and similar technologies work. I have translated a few documents on photovoltaics, but wound up resorting to Wikipedia to help me understand the technical concepts behind the text I was translating. That understanding (and credentials, since the class prepares for a certification exam as an LEED associate) should pave the way for more work in the alternative energy sector.
But a translator's continuing education isn't limited to source and target languages, as well as subject matter. It should also include changing technologies both in our field and for general use. This means keeping abreast of new CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools, terminology databases and social media networks, as well as administrative software, such as CRM (customer relationship management), project management and invoicing programs. Another thing I learned in my meetings here is that the CAT tool memoQ is becoming rather popular in Europe and is apparently more flexible than Trados, which I use. I'm not sure I want to spend money (and time) on two tools, but I'll certainly investigate the program after I get back.
PS: I will be on vacation the next two weeks, so won't post again until my return in early March.