Chartered Institute
of Linguists

Introducing Karen Stokes, new Chair of Council

Find out what brought Karen to the languages industry, her involvement with CIOL, and why she loves stomping along a Norfolk beach!

Karen Stokes

What or who influenced you to study languages?

My first experience of learning a foreign language was at primary school: probably a rarity back then, but our headmaster was very determined about the need for us to learn French, so learn we did! As I went on I was lucky enough to be taught by some outstandingly dedicated linguists, at both school and university. I should also mention my late mother, who – faced with a headmistress who was about to renege on a promise to let a small group of us take German O-level as well as French – memorably marched into school for a showdown. The people I’ve mentioned couldn’t have been more different but in retrospect they were all driven by a deep-rooted conviction that language learning really mattered.

How did you first get involved with CIOL?

I remember going to my first meeting of the Industry & Commerce (now BPG) Division in 2002, where we were presented with both a plea for volunteers and a challenge: if you just want the letters after your name, fine; if you want to make a difference, get involved! And as various friends and colleagues will tell you, I never could resist a challenge …

What do you find most challenging about CIOL?

Sometimes I feel we’re a bit too inclined to divide ourselves based on our particular area of work. Our translator and interpreter members rightly want to build a network of colleagues in their own area, but I’d also like to see us create more opportunities for members from different disciplines to come together. A member with a query on an engineering translation, for example, might want to speak to another technical translator – but they might also benefit from talking to a bilingual engineer. Between us, we have a vast array of knowledge and expertise and I’d like to find more ways for members to support and learn from each other.

If you could change one thing about CIOL, what would it be?

I’d like to see more of our newer members get actively involved and bring all their energy and enthusiasm to CIOL. That doesn’t mean I’m not hugely grateful to people who have shown tremendous commitment to CIOL for many years, but we need to find ways of encouraging the next generation of linguists to play their part if we’re going to be able to support them in ways they find relevant.

What do you think will change about CIOL over the next five years?

Ultimately, that’s for the membership to decide, through its elected representatives on Council. That’s why it’s so important that members not only put themselves forward for election but also vote. I think it’s fair to say we have some work to do on giving potential Council members better information on what the role involves before they commit, so that’s something I’ve flagged for us to think about at our next meeting.

What do you do when you aren’t translating or working for CIOL?

On the work-related front, a lot of CPD – one of the aspects of being a Chartered Linguist I find most valuable is the fact that it makes me think about the areas I want to develop and put a plan in place each year. Outside work, I’m lucky enough to have a (very patient) husband, three fabulous sons and some great friends. Otherwise, you’ll probably find me buying (more) artisan knitting yarn or stomping along a Norfolk beach – nothing like a blast from the North Sea to blow the cobwebs away!