Communities of Practice and Other Ways to Break lsolation

In this unprecedented health crisis, language professionals are fortunate because they can work remotely. But the downside is that, while videoconference platforms like Zoom and MS Teams allow us to keep working, the loss of opportunities to meet with clients and colleagues in person can make all of us, but especially self-employed freelancers and teleworkers, feel isolated. Fortunately, there are lots of virtual ways of reaching out. So, here are a few suggestions to break the isolation language professionals can experience.

Start up or join a community of practice or online forum

A community of practice (CoP), sometimes called a support group, is a type of group or forum for professionals with a common interest to share ideas or work on a particular project. While they are often formed inside a government organization, anyone involved in a trade or profession can form a CoP to stay in touch, consult their peers, and share information.

Feeling stumped about something? Need software recommendations? Ask the hive mind. The real value of these consultations becomes evident quite quickly, especially when there is a mix of ages and experience. Participants gain insight by hearing different points of view. Since the CoP has a limited membership determined by certain criteria, the members get to know each other and often work on the same projects together. It’s win-win for the employer and the professional.

If you can’t find a community of practice, start one yourself! There are a lot of resources online describing them and how to form one.

I love this quote from the publication I linked to above. To me, it captures what is special about a community of practice:

“Many of the most valuable community activities are the small, everyday interactions—informal discussions to solve a problem, or one-on-one exchanges of information about a tool, supplier, approach, or database.”

While less formal than a true community of practice, discussion forums are a terrific resource. NAJIT has a listserv, Facebook page, and the NAJIT Observer, all of which invite active participation. But there are many others, including excellent groups sponsored by professional associations or started by individuals. Ask around to find them.

Here are a few Facebook groups for language professionals that I know of and participate in (many are for the French<>English language pair I work in):

• Language Students and Professionals Community

Groupe d’entraide entre langagiers

Groupe de discussion du Carrefour des langagiers entrepreneurs/Language Entrepreneurs Forum (CLEF)

FR <> EN Translators

I appreciate the fact that the vision for the Language Students and Professionals Community includes “acting as a safe haven.” That means you can ask questions without being judged. Newbies are often welcome and can learn an incredible amount from these groups, which include highly experienced members. It’s also a great way to hear about events and webinars, meet other people and find contracts or jobs.

Attend virtual conferences, talks and webinars

When in-person meetings are not possible, we are all spending more time in virtual meetings. If you’re not already doing it, why not expand your skills by taking webinars?

Webinars are a particularly good way to branch out or learn new skills. For example, translators are increasingly being asked to revise rather than translate, so why not take a revision course online?

One tip I’d offer is to look beyond language groups and associations. For example, the Canadian Bar Association posted a very interesting webinar about MS Teams and Virtual Hearings in the Provincial Court of BC. You can probably find the equivalent in the United States.

Learning about the perspectives of others involved in the judicial system, and helping them to hear our perspectives, can be extremely useful.

For French<>English interpreters and translators, the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés or OTTIAQ, Editors Canada, Magistrad, and AILIA, the Language Industry Association offer webinars, conferences and talks. They also have online newsletters and other publications.


Find something you like to do and it will never be a chore. Moreover, you will meet people and live enriching experiences while volunteering. Why not write a blog post for the NAJIT Observer? If you’re like me and love your commute from your bedroom to your home office, writing is the ticket (sorry about the pun!). There are many organizations that need volunteers, such as Translators Without Borders to only name one.

Whatever you choose to do, remember that we are members of an important and established profession. If you start to feel isolated, reach out and connect with others who share our passion.

Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels


Barbara McClintock is a Canadian certified translator from French to English with over 20 years of experience in both the private and public sectors. Barbara is a contributor to OTTIAQ’s Circuit magazine, Editors’ Weekly, and the Language Portal.



3 thoughts on “Communities of Practice and Other Ways to Break lsolation”

  1. Thais Garranchan says:

    Thank you!

  2. Gladys Gonzalez Matthews says:

    Thanks for your post, Barbara. Communities of practice are great, and I love practice groups. They come in so handy to prepare for a qualification test, but once certified, interpreters and translators ought to maintain and improve their skills and knowledge. Canon number six of NAJIT’s code of ethics is about this principle. As an interpreter and interpreter trainer, I seek to help colleagues and students in their search for ways to improve or hone their skills. To that end, I have put students in contact with each other so that they can practice interpreting.

    As to communities of practice, the Toronto Interpreters Group (TIP) is one close to my heart as it includes several of my students from the Glendon’s Masters in Conference Interpreting program. I am encouraging readers of the NAJIT Observer to look at TIP’s website to check out the practice material available there. I know there are other groups out there like the one in Toronto and would like to hear about them.

    I love that you say “If you can’t find a community of practice, start one yourself! What a great way to break isolation.

    1. Barbara McClintock says:

      Thanks, Gladys!

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