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Julian Zapata Rojas

Julian Zapata Rojas
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Why (not) professional certification?

Published by Jzapa026@uottawa.ca on 2011-07-11

Many times since becoming a translation student, I have been asked by family and friends what exactly it is that I am studying: “Simultaneous translation?” ask those who already have a slight idea. But even then, I have to explain the difference between written and spoken translation, that translators are not necessarily interpreters, and that interpretation is not only simultaneous. (When I don't want to get into a debate about the marginal status of professional translators and the importance of their work throughout history and in today's society, I give no further explanation...)


Another explanation that often needs to be given is that being a professional translator doesn't necessarily or automatically make you a “certified translator.” Indeed, holding a degree in translation doesn't mean you can “officially” translate diplomas, birth and wedding certificates and other official documents, and stamp them as “certified.” On the other hand, you could be a “certified translator” without holding a degree in translation. You are certified when you are member of a professional association. You need to meet the association’s requirements: having the proper education and/or experience, and/or passing an examination. But many -or most of- professional translators are not members of any association, be it at a national or provincial level. And this is not only the case for freelancers, but also for translators working in the public and private sectors. Why (not) professional certification? It is the question that I ask myself without receiving a clear answer in my head.


I will let you reflect upon this matter and give your own impressions and feelings about association memberships, the benefits and the drawbacks for individuals and for the profession.


On that note, I would like to introduce the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO) which offers student tutoring programs and free student memberships, as well as an array of services to its members. Even though most of Canada's university translation programs are offered in Québec, I think it is important to explore other provinces' associations in order to get a good feeling of what they are and what they do. Students from Québec, Manitoba and New Brunsuick universities can also apply for ATIO memberships.


I suppose that it all depends on what your professional goals really are. We have not chosen translation for all the same reasons. Professional associations could, indeed, help you in reaching those goals and living an exciting career as a translator, interpreter or terminologist.


Julian Zapata Rojas



1 comment

Hi Julian,

Here is my opinion: translators working for the government do not need to join an assocication since they are already in the "government assocation", with its own rules and tests.

Translators working in companies or cabinets are usually covered and must pass exams too.

It can be interesting for them to join an association, don't get me wrong.
But the ones that get the most out of it are the freelance translators.