After seeing so many messages posted to this forum by people who don’t seem to understand the simple concept of “regulation”, I think it’s best to clarify and define a few things.
Of course, “regulation” has a negative connotation: it evokes images of the airline industry, the media, etc. But this is not the kind of regulation we are talking about here.
Several of you (including myself) have likened our profession to lawyers and doctors – and rightly so. Others have argued that you cannot compare doctors and translators. Fine. Well, then, take the example of stockbrokers or even lowly financial advisers: they all need to be trained, they have to take several qualifying examinations and they are all required to play by certain rules. Even the lowliest financial adviser will have to meet some of these requirements.
We have been talking our heads off about the issue of declining rates – the topic of regulation has little to do with that. We know fully well that translators’ associations will never set rates or require their members to charge certain rates (“anti-trust”); some associations, however, will issue “rate recommendations”.
Also, there will never be global standards: even lawyers and doctors have different sets of rules in different countries. But every country should and must have such rules.
Regulation in the translation industry is about setting rules of professional and ethical conduct and business practices as well as certain requirements for entry into the profession.
Just like financial advisers must be bound by rules and standards (otherwise, the financial markets would be in even worse shape than they are now), translators must comply with such rules too, because they can and they DO cause a lot of harm.
Such rules, for example, include principles such as “never accept jobs outside of your expertise”, “keep your clients’ information confidential”, etc. You may argue that we all know that; that common sense dictates that anyway. Unfortunately, some have “common sense issues” and they cannot see the “forest for all the trees”. As a result, to make it perfectly clear for everyone, such rules must be set out in a Code of Conduct and Business Practices. In addition, you will be in a much stronger negotiating position with your client if you are able to back up your promise of confidentiality, for example, by referring to the fact that you are a certified/accredited member of association XXX. This will serve to assure the client – and he will know that, if you should break your promise or violate professional ethics, he could always contact the association and file a complaint against you. With an independent maverick, he could not do that (he could file a civil lawsuit, but it would be a lot messier for him).
As for the “rate issue”, I am convinced that we would see fewer problems if every country had such rules and standards – in a way, it would be a positive “by-product” of such rules.
While I agree, for the most part, that rates cannot always be equated with quality, lack of professional ethics CAN.
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