A Twitter primer for interpreters

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have inevitably heard about Twitter, that poster child of the social media age. The little blue birdie, Twitter's logo, is just as ubiquitous as the so-called hashtags, keywords preceded by the pound sign. So why should you, as an interpreter, care about Twitter? Because, quite simply, it is a great way to keep up with what's going on in the world and to have conversations with a lot of people, even ones you have never met in real life. Here are a few quick use cases:

  • Follow your favourite newspaper or publication on Twitter to know what happens in the world and be notified when interesting articles are published.

  • Keep an eye on your home airport's tweets to know when renovation projects or sudden strike measures may impact your journey.

  • Strike up a conversation with somebody you have always wanted to talk to, but never had the chance to, by replying to what they post.

  • Follow the proceedings of that highly interesting conference you could not attend by reading what the participants write ("live tweeting").

What is Twitter, anyway?

At its core, Twitter is an interesting hybrid of a social network, a messaging service and a broadcasting platform. You can write whatever you like but it cannot be longer than 280 characters. (Or 140, back in the day.) It forces you to KISS (keep it short and simple) and that's always good for an interpreter, right? If you want to keep reading what a particular person writes, you can follow him or her. You can also add photos or videos to your tweets, or even your current geographical location if you were so inclined (I am not). If you're confused by the myriad of privacy settings on Facebook (like me), you will appreciate Twitter's approach: Everything you post is public by default. Direct messages, however, can only be read by you and the person you sent them to. On top of that, you can "protect" your tweets so that only users you have approved can see them). In my humble opinion, that defeats the purpose of Twitter, but you decide for yourself. For now, that's all you need to know. Getting started could not be easier. If you just want to get your feet wet, you don't have to sign up anywhere.

OK, I'll sign up. What next?

Once you're ready to join the conversation, just sign up here, upload your photo (yes, of you, not your cute cat!) and add a short bio to introduce yourself and link to your website. If you want to, you can download the offical Twitter app for your device. It's basic, but it works just fine. And then:

  • Read... what people you find interesting have to say.

  • Write... about what you do, what you find interesting.

  • Retweet... what you want others to read.

  • Link... to interesting stuff on the web (articles, photos, videos etc.).

  • Connect... by replying to what others post or joining conversations.

To get you started, here are some (highly subjective) recommendations:

Topics, i.e. hashtags

Accounts to follow

Twitter lingo

  • tweet - Any message posted publicly to Twitter

  • DM (direct message) - a message exchanged between two people that is not public

  • @ reply - a tweet directed to one or more other Twitter users starting with their username

  • mention - a tweet that contains one or more usernames

  • twerp - an interpreter using Twitter

  • TL (timeline)

  • RT (retweet) - a message from another Twitter user that you post to your own timeline

  • More Twitter lingo

Recommended reading

See you soon on Twitter!

[Link] An interview with Holly Behl

Interpreters versus technology? Reflections on a difficult relationship