2020. What can I say? As others have noted, it’s almost become difficult to recall what happened before we went into the first lockdown in mid-March, or even what has happened since. In my mind, Covid-19 looms over everything. Our family is fortunate in many ways but 2020 was not the easiest year. And that’s a British understatement right there.

This isn’t a post to let you know how I spent the year learning to bake sourdough bread and do yoga. For the record, my biggest lockdown lesson was how to establish and defend my boundaries as an introvert who’s used to working from home, alone, and suddenly has a houseful of people all day, every day. I also had a big dip in business in the middle of the year. Although that meant I had more time to manage the household and support our three teens, what was good for the family unit in general wasn’t always that great for my own self-confidence and sense of fulfilment.

However, when I looked more closely at last year I realised that there were also lots of positives among the gloom. Here are some of the highlights – noted as much for my own benefit as for anyone else, as it’s important to take a moment to appreciate the good things and the progress.

A month of music and song

In February each year I take part in FAWM (February Album-Writing Month), which is an online event that challenges songwriters to write 14 songs in 28 days. The FAWM community is a lovely, supportive bunch of people, and for me FAWM provides just the right combination of encouragement and pressure to get the creative juices flowing. It might not sound like a work-related thing for a translator, but I find it hugely beneficial to take time to work on my own writing skills in a playful way.

Seminars and webinars

My last in-person training event before the March lockdown was a fascinating communication workshop held by Tracie Marquardt. I really enjoyed learning about the different ways we communicate, how to recognise what communication type we and others are, and how to use that knowledge to enable better interactions. Very interesting input from Tracie, and she created a safe space for us to learn and be open with each other. I came away feeling a little shaken up by it (in a good way) with lots to think about.

I also took part in various webinars throughout the year, notably BDÜ webinars on digital security and how to negotiate successfully, plus an SDL one on neural machine translation. It’s important to keep learning.

Podcasts and Instagram live

Kirsty Major and I talked about our new Conversation Club (see below) on the English with Kirsty podcast. In that same week I was interviewed by Carina Schimmel for her Wunderbare Gedanken [Wonderful Thoughts] podcast. And around that time I also went live for the first time on Instagram, talking to Kristiane Marx about my work. These are all things that took me out of my comfort zone a little bit but were fun to do.

British networking

I have a good network here in Germany, but I realised I needed more contact with entrepreneurs in the UK in order to keep my finger on the pulse. So I joined the 80/20 Club led by Lauryn Bradley. Lauryn has loads of great content plus regular Zoom calls for networking and group mentoring. There are many lovely and inspiring women in the group and I really enjoy being part of it.

It was in the 80/20 group that I met Jennifer Jones, who runs the Entrepreneurs Writing Club. Jennifer always has great ideas for getting the ideas flowing and outwitting my niggly internal editor.

Sustainability

Wanting to know more about sustainability from a business perspective, I took two Coursera courses and learned a lot about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and how businesses are working towards them. Coursera is an amazing resource where you can learn about almost anything. I plan to continue my sustainability studies this year and would love to do more translation work in that area.

A virtual conference

The BP Translation Conference was going to be held in Nuremberg, a great location not too far from me. In the end the event had to go virtual at very short notice, and massive kudos is due to the organiser, Csaba Ban, and his team of moderators and speakers, who pulled the whole thing off with aplomb. No, it wasn’t the same as an in-person event. But it was a wonderful thing that succeeded in capturing a lot of the atmosphere while enabling people from much further afield to participate. We used a networking app to chat with other translators between sessions, some of whom I met up with later for 1:1 virtual coffee breaks on Zoom.

A new editing partner

One of the best things, work-wise, about 2020 was meeting the lovely Kathryn Slater. We came across each other at the BP conference and decided to meet regularly online for quality review sessions. We each pick a sustainability-related text and translate it, then send the translation to the other for editing. Then we meet in a Zoom call to talk about the texts, our translations and any suggested changes. Kathryn’s feedback is always really useful. Working with her has helped me up my game and to be honest it’s just really fun to do a bit of language-geeking with a like-minded colleague! Kathryn and I have also ended up collaborating on a long-term client project, which felt very comfortable and right from the beginning as we were already used to working together.

A real-life, in-person event between lockdowns

I feel very fortunate that I got to go to Bavaria in October. If the BDÜ’s ‘Translate Better’ event had been a week or so later, it might well have ended up going virtual or being cancelled. As it was, we were able to meet in in person as planned, a small group of German-English and English-German translators taking two days to focus on core translation skills. Again, it was wonderful to be with people who like nothing better than doing a deep dive into a text. I love working from home on my own, but it’s also great to connect with like-minded colleagues. Being able to spend a day in beautiful Salzburg after the seminar was the cherry on the cake, and I came home feeling inspired and full of energy. Many thanks to the Translate Better team for organising such an enjoyable event.

A new venture

You know how sometimes something just clicks? That’s what happened with the “Conversation Club with Kirsty and Jane”. Kirsty Major mentioned the idea to me, I though it sounded great, and all of a sudden we were up and running! The Conversation Club is a group for English-learners who want to practise their language skills in a relaxed atmosphere. We meet for a Zoom session three times a month and I love it! It’s a friendly group and we cover all sorts of topics, depending on how we feel and what’s going on. More Conversation Club info here.

So that was a quick look back at 2020, and there was a lot more than just doom and gloom. I really do recommend looking back at the end of the year and taking a moment to think about all the good things that happened. Not only does it make you realise what you’ve achieved – and we can all benefit from a pat on the back sometimes – but it can also help you recognise patterns and progress and work out where you want to go next.

And where do I want to go next? That’s a story for another post!