Re: Certification

Subject: Re: Certification
From: "Robert Sette" <robert -dot- sette -at- verizon -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 27 May 2003 13:33:42 -0400

Hello all:
I am a professional translator translating several foreign languages into
English, and I subscribed to this list based on a recommendation from a
colleague.  It is very interesting that your profession is struggling with
the issue of certification.  I am a member of the Board of Directors of the
American Translators Association (ATA), and I may have some interesting
input to this discussion.
For many years (30+, I believe) our association has run a credentialing
program which has to this point been called ?Accreditation?.  (This
technically a misnomer ? Universities or similar institutions are
accredited, while individuals are ?certified? ?so we are currently in the
process of changing the name of the program.)  In order to obtain ATA
Accreditation, a person is required to sit for a 3-hour exam in a given
language direction (i.e. French into English), and during that time he/she
is required to translate 2 passages (out of 3 that are available).  This
credential is considered by most in the profession as an entry-level
credential, since it does not test a candidate in highly specialized fields,
but rather is more of a general exam which includes many of the translation
issues that are common in a given language pair.  The ATA offers
accreditation in 27 language combinations.
Having given this background, I want to share some insights regarding the
?professionalism? of our industry.  Many people (i.e. customers and
potential translators) feel that because one is able to speak a foreign
language, one is also qualified to perform written translations in that
language.  Not so.  I would assume that professional writers face some of
the same prejudices, along the lines of ?We all speak English, so why can?t
our engineers just write the software manuals??   We have been working to
promote our credential as well as an awareness of the need for people to
take the translation process seriously, and not just use the cheapest vendor
(or a machine translation website, for that matter!).  These are client
education issues that we face daily in the translation industry, and having
a credential available, that we can point to as a basic qualification
showing aptitude and skill in the profession, is invaluable.
We do not view our Accreditation credential or any other university-issued
certificate or other national credential (they do exist in some countries)
as a requirement for this field, but certainly having such a credential can
be one factor to consider, and one sign that a client is dealing with a
professional who has a certain level of skill and commitment to the
I hope my comments are helpful, and I apologize for such a long message.
Robert Sette
Translator, Romance languages
Pittsburgh, PA


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