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Professional Indemnity Insurance and academic qualifications
Thread poster: xxxtnkw
xxxtnkw
Local time: 16:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sep 29, 2004

For various reasons, a university education was impossible for me at what most people would regard as the appropriate time in life, with the result that I had to work full-time and pursue language-learning at night-school. Unfortunately, this simply added 1 'A' level and 1 'O' level to the tally of GCE passes obtained at school.

When I finally took up languages full-time on a professional basis - having used invaluable contacts in Europe over a decade to extend my knowledge of railway-related terminology and of everyday language - and having had access to the Literature in three foreign languages, I found that I soon settled into the work at British Rail and found it rewarding and challenging.

After leaving the railway and training with the NHS to RGN status, I spent 2 years working in the NHS before moving out to take up full-time freelance translation work.

That was 17 years ago, since when I have worked, with very few problems indeed, for a small number of UK agencies.

During this time, I have been introduced to new agencies and have struck up a good rapport with one or two of them. Despite the lack of formal academic qualifications, my work appears to have been found to be satisfactory, even at a fairly advanced technical level.

Now, I find that agencies are, increasingly, unable to accept my application to be taken onto their books, since their professional liability (PL) insurers require that their sub-contractors 1) be graduates and 2) have their own PL insurance.

When I enquire about obtaining PL cover, the premiums that are quoted are too high to be realistic in the context of income at my level, simply because of my non-graduate status.

Similarly, it is impossible to join any of the UK professional bodies, since, according to what I have been told, they also insist on graduate status.

My concern is that the PL insurers are ultimately going to squeeze people in my situation out of the workplace and into permanent unemployment (since it is all but impossible to obtain work at my age). What I would like to know is whether or not other members have noticed such changes taking place amongst agencies and whether or not my fears of unemployment are, ultimately, realistic.

For fairly obvious reasons, the idea of taking a degree at my age is risible, since I would not be in a position to spend a lengthy period abroad and I still have, somehow, to earn a living.

I certainly don't want to sound unduly plaintive in my tone, but I am now deeply concerned about the prospects for freelance translators in my situation.

Any constructive comments would be warmly welcomed.

TNKW


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:17
German to English
IoL Diploma Sep 29, 2004

As somebody who also outsources some work to external contractors, I'm curious about the PL insurance issue, as it's not a criterion that I would judge a translator on.

I can only imagine that this is important for agencies that are basically no more than "envelope-shifters", i.e. they merely repackage what they've received from the independent translator without any sort of revision.

"Similarly, it is impossible to join any of the UK professional bodies, since, according to what I have been told, they also insist on graduate status."

What you might consider is the IoL Diploma. Although it's nominally a postgrad qualification, it may be possible to do it on the basis of longstanding experience as a translator. I know it's not easy studying when you're that bit older, but a lot of people do manage it very successfully, especially in the UK. And it does appear to be something that an experienced translator can manage without sacrificing too much of their time.

Details at:

http://www.iol.org.uk/qualifications/default.asp

Above all, don't give up hope. Many of us with degrees, often gained decades ago, recognize that they are no more than marginally relevant to the work we do as translators. Unfortunately, we seem to be living in a world where paper qualifications are more highly regarded than ability....

Robin

[Edited at 2004-09-29 11:23]


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xxxtnkw
Local time: 16:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank-you, Robin. Sep 29, 2004

\"...envelope-shifters...\"

Indeed, this seems to be the case, as the agencies for which I work quite successfully check all the translations in-house and provide their freelancers with excellent feedback, which I find enormously helpful.

\"...it\'s not easy studying when you\'re that bit older...\"

I am, in fact, hoping to attend Sheffield Hallam University over the coming months, to give my German-language conversation skills a thorough overhaul. The problem lies in the fact that, given my circumstances, I need to be able to take as much work on as possible within my area of competence. I do, however, welcome your suggestion regarding the IoL and will look further into this possibility.


\"Above all, don\'t give up hope.\"

I\'m not quite at that stage yet, but alarm bells are ringing more loudly than usual of late.

On the subject of degrees and of how good a guide they are to quality of translation, I have been heartened by the fact that one of the most gifted linguists I have ever met has expressed far greater confidence in my work that in that of certain highly-qualified translators. However, in the days of obsession with risk assessment and quantification, where the lawyers and bean counters rule, paper appears to be accorded greater value than experience....

Thank-you, Robin, for your very supportive and positive comments.

Kind regards

Nicholas

[Edited at 2004-09-29 11:23][/quote]


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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 17:17
French to English
Maybe try prospecting in France and Germany Sep 29, 2004

I am a U.S. native working in France. Although I do have diplomas in languages/linguistics, I do not have a specific translation qualification.

Since foreign qualifications (or a lack thereof) are usually not directly transferrable or even equivalent to qualifications in France, I find that most agencies do not really care what or where I studied...they tend do judge the quality of the work submitted. Occasionally they get an end customer who wants to see the "translator's CV" before validating the assigned subcontractor, but this is rare.

Maybe you could start prospecting outside the U.K. in the countries where your source languages are used. You might make some valuable contacts and expand your customer base.

It certainly sounds like you have some valuable experience and skills that would be marketable in other countries. Earning a degree at this point might not be worth the investment, depending on how far you think you are from retirement or semi-retirement.

Regards,
Sara


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:17
German to English
Academics and their qualification Sep 29, 2004

Nicholas,

>However, in the days of obsession with risk assessment and quantification, where the lawyers and bean counters rule, paper appears to be accorded greater value than experience....<

The same goes for the academic side of translation in most cases, I'm afraid. We need more professors of what they risibly now call "translatology" like a hole in the head. IMHO, what we *do* need is e.g. a comprehensive analysis of the translation value chain. Fat chance....

(I can rant too!)

Robin


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xxxtnkw
Local time: 16:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
A very helpful comment Sep 29, 2004

Dear Sara

Thank you very much for your helpful comments. I have some excellent contacts in France for language queries, since I am fortunate enough to know one or two very talented French translators. As for working with French agencies, I have rarely had the opportunity to do this and, on the one occasion when I and a colleague took on a substantial piece of work from an agency based in Paris, it took so long to extract payment that the work ultimately offered a very poor rate of return for us.

I was very impressed by the French Translators' Association and have received further information from that organisation.

I have undertaken work for a few agencies elsewhere in Europe and have developed quite a good rapport with one of them. Unfortunately, inordinately long payment deadlines make it uneconomical to work for some agencies, who pay in euros against a sterling invoice. Add to that the bank's foreign exchange charges and it loses a great deal of its appeal.

As for qualifications, I am seeking to improve my skills on a formal basis and this should result in evidence from a recognised academic institution of the level of competence that I achieve during studies there. I have also followed up Robin's kind and useful suggestion.

Thank you for having taken the time to comment, Sara.

Very best wishes

Nicholas


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TonyTK
German to English
+ ...
Nicholas, Sep 30, 2004

Fully agree with the comments made by Robin and Sara. Proven hands-on skills are always preferable to paper qualifications.

Is there any way you could take an exam for "staatlich geprüfter Übersetzer" over here (in Germany)? AFAIK this qualification would make you eligible to join the BDÜ association and take advantage of the PL insurance cover for members. I'm not sure if any of this would work from your UK base, but it might be worth looking into.

Take a look at the "Landesverordnung über die staatlichen Prüfungen für Übersetzerinnen und Übersetzer und für Dolmetscherinnen und Dolmetscher" at
http://rlp.juris.de/rlp/gesamt/UeDPO_RP.htm#UeDPO_RP_P18

as well as www.bdue.de
and http://www.mg-denzer.de/startE.htm.

Whatever you decide to do, try and make the time to get involved in the terminology queries on Proz and other translation sites. In my experience, colleagues looking to outsource work will often contact you direct once they see you know your stuff.

Good luck,

Tony


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xxxtnkw
Local time: 16:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Very useful Sep 30, 2004

Thanks, Tony.

As you observe, your comments are very much in line with those made by Robin and Sara. I certainly agree that proven hands-on skills ought, at the very least, to be considered alongside paper qualifications.

I shall look into both the French and German options for establishing closer links with translators' organisations in France and Germany. I have heard from the Institute of Linguists and was heartened by a pleasingly encouraging tone in the Institute's reply to my enquiry. Whether or not this would resolve the qualification problem to the satisfaction of PL underwriters is a different matter. The idea of access to such cover through membership of a widely-recognised professional body is very appealing. This was the manner in which such cover was (and is still) provided for nurses, through membership of the Royal College of Nursing.

I shall take a look at the "Landesverordnung über die staatlichen Prüfungen für Übersetzerinnen und Übersetzer und für Dolmetscherinnen und Dolmetscher", as suggested.

I have been following translation queries in my areas of competence for quite a while now and have found that ProZ forum particularly interesting and valuable. Needless to say, I shall continue to do so. I am also hoping to become more closely involved with other translators in this area. It is a major drawback in freelance translating that one spends the majority of one's working life in splendid isolation, in front of the screen, with very little live contact with colleagues.

Many thanks for your kind wishes,

Nicholas


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