Translator licensing and certification

By Slava
Jan 28, 2010 · 3 min

Translation being an ever growing profession, more and more people are getting into the bandwagon be it part time, full time, freelance, online etc. With increasing penetration of the internet, it is truly becoming a global industry with opportunities coming in from all parts of the world. Having said that, it is also getting more and more difficult to identify the good ones from the ordinary ones i.e. separate wheat from chaff. Hence some kind of regulation is called for just like other professions like lawyers, doctors, engineers etc. That brings up the question of translator licensing or certification. There is a subtle difference between licensing and certification: while the former is kind of mandatory that gives permission to practice a profession, the latter is more voluntary. While there is no legal requirement for licensing or certification at least in the US some attempts have been made in forming association or self regulatory bodies aimed at streamlining or assessing translators’ quality. The American Translators Association (ATA) offers certification in 23 language combinations involving from and into English. You have to become a member of ATA first and meet eligibility requirements before you can take up the 3 hours certification examination. Other than ATA there are private organizations like the Global Translation Institute, an Oregon, US based company that offers Certified Translation Professional program for 7 different language pairs. The candidates are tested through an online examination. Similarly there are also translators associations in countries like UK, Italy, France, Argentina and Spain that offer some kind of certification / membership programs. In many countries like Argentina, UK etc. legal translation requires translators to have license. An institution called Colegio de Traductores Públicos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires issues licenses to persons who have undergone 4 year language course at the university and want to become court translators in Argentina. One of the obvious benefits that these certifications offer to a translator is that it increases his/her prospects of being hired by a client by increasing the comfort level of the client in hiring the translator knowing that the translator possesses some level of knowledge of translating in the language combination. In addition as an added incentive, some of the certifying organizations also link you up with translation agencies or clients who have registered with them. There is also flip side to licensing or mandatory certification of translators: it increases the overall cost of translation and wastes the translators’ time in preparing and appearing for tests. Many people question the rationale behind mandatory licensing of translators and feel it restricts their freedom. They are against some bureaucrats deciding on whether they can practice their profession or not.  Also licensing and certifications offer no guarantee that a given translation will be of high quality; there are excellent uncertified translators who through years of experience offer high quality translations while there are also poor certified translators. Hence the entire question of licensing or mandatory certification of translators is a debatable issue.

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