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The importance of association accreditation

By Catia Cassiano

With the new NAATI certification scheme being introduced soon, I wanted to return to an old blog article I wrote in 2012. In that article, I wrote about the importance of having an accreditation and formal regulation in our industry. Five years have passed and I still strongly believe in the importance of certification for the profession of translating and interpreting.

While I was growing up in Portugal, I saw a lot of high school students with good marks in English, doing translation jobs in the holidays for extra cash. I didn’t think much of this at the time. In fact I didn’t even think that anything was wrong. Once I became a professional translator and came to understand how complex the job really is, I realised how misguided this practice was. After working in this industry for 10 years, it saddens me to hear about unqualified people charging customers for a job they are not qualified for.

In my view, accreditation programs by reputable associations will increase the standards in our profession. Only people who are properly qualified and fully committed can be accredited, and can demonstrate the quality of their work. Those people without relevant qualifications or who are unable to meet the required standards, will have a benchmark to aim for, in order be able to work as a translator. Qualifications and standards also provide a guarantee for clients, identifying the work of professionals, as superior to high school students.

In today’s world we cannot just get a diploma and sit on it forever, we need to be proactive in our careers, and work together to create a profession which is seen as valuable for both clients and practitioners. One of the methods used to encourage high standards within the profession and ensure good practice is a code of conduct. Membership of an association requires compliance with a code of conduct.

Certification can be expensive, especially for professionals who are accredited by more than one association, but it is an investment in yourself and your career, and one that will certainly pay off in the long term. In supporting professionals and their practice, associations need to provide a service for their members. It’s not enough just to provide a directory, associations also have a responsibility to provide basic guidelines and initiatives to help translators and interpreters navigate their work environment.

Understanding how to keep a steady flow of stable, continuous work and methods of improving translating and interpreting skills, are two important areas where members look for relevant information. Most associations do meet this need; offering courses, workshops and other events, but there are other ways associations could help to make our profession a better and more reliable one.

The creation of appropriate avenues for translators and interpreters to work directly with their association in a positive and consultative way, with the ability to suggest new ideas or opportunities for improvement, would encourage the association to be more aligned with the needs of practitioners. Associations could also provide an opportunity for practitioners to talk about real issues encountered in their work, providing a platform where problems can be discussed and perhaps solved, offering peer support to colleagues navigating similar situations.

It is important clients are aware of language variants and localisation issues that may arise, so they can be better informed and therefore better equipped to choose the right professional for their specific needs. Creating awareness in the community about language services and localisation issues is a service that associations can and should be involved in.

Finally, achieving better communication between associations worldwide, and ensuring the same standards were adopted, would improve the quality of services internationally and serve to promote a more uniform approach to this profession.

Other professions such medicine and law have their associations. Doctors, nurses and lawyers are not be able to practice without accreditation. If we do the same for translators and interpreters, maybe in the future people no longer think that ‘if you know two languages you should be all right to be a translator’ and respect what we do more.

Cátia Cassiano is a professional Portuguese translator who has been living in Sydney since 2006. She is the founder of Updated Words. Catia is passionate about the translation industry and loves to share her knowledge with others.