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Moving to Australia : need to take the NAATI exam? and other questions
Thread poster: Geraldine Oudin

Geraldine Oudin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Japanese to French
+ ...
Jul 24, 2008

Hello everyone.
I am a french national working as a translator in Japan. I work mostly from Japanese or from English into French, and more rarely from Spanish or Portuguese. I can work the other way round providing native check is available.
My partner is going to Australia for a couple of years and asked me to get on the same plane (we're not married and no plans of doing so for the moment).
I would like to keep on working as a translator, but the more I check about it on the internet, the more it sounds very difficult (if not impossible) to work as a translator without a NAATI acreditation.
As you can see from my profile, I have a BA in Japanese Language and Litterature and a MA in Spcial Sciences, but I have not graduated from a translation school, which suggest I cannot get the accreditation without sitting this test.
So my questions are :

1. Is it possible to work in our field without the NAATI acreditation?
2. Do I need to sit the test in all my languages?
3. Is the test difficult? From what I could read on the Naati HP, it doesn't sound very difficult, but what about reality? Anyone took the test into French or from Japanese?
4. Once you take the test, how long do you need to wait before you can actually work?
5. Since it sounds difficult to get a work visa until getting acreditated, is it possible to work as a translator under a working holidays visa in the meanwhile? (Since I am under 30, this is also an option)

I know it's a lot, but I'll be really grateful for your answers

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Kemal Mustajbegovic  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:00
English to Croatian
+ ...
my 2 cents Jul 24, 2008

Hi "Edith" (sorry, but I do not know you name and france japon is no person's name in my book)

Let me try to be as brief as possible yet up to the point.

1. In Australia - hardly.
2. No. You can chose the language pair you are the most confident in.
3. It's individual. Some find it hard some not. Try sample test available from NAATI.
4. As soon as you receive you results.
5. This is the question for the Immigration Department (DIMIA).

Good luck and welcome to Australia!

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Susanne Creak  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:00
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
It won't be easy Jul 24, 2008


From what I know and have personally experienced:

1. Being accredited is not a compulsory requirement to work in the profession. However, most professional translators in Australia are accredited, and you will find it hard to find customers if you're not. Agencies in particular tend to use accredited translators only.
2. You have to sit the test for each language pair and direction that you want to be accredited in.
3. Each test is different - the source texts and the questions on ethics etc are never the same. Personally, I struggled with the time limit. But really, that's different for everybody.
According to NAATI, only just over 20% of people who sit the test actually pass.
If you already know you need a native speaker checking your work when translating into English, my guess is you will find it very hard to pass a NAATI test for that language direction.
4. You can work as an accredited translator once you have received the test results (and passed of course). The results can take a few months (this mainly depends on whether you sit one of the regular tests that take place every year, or an individual one). Have a look at the NAATI website to find out.
5. As Kemal said, check that one with DIMA.

If you want to do the test, my advice is: Start with the language combination that you're most comfortable with, into your native language, and see how you go. Good luck!


[Edited at 2008-07-24 15:27]

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lexical  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:00
Portuguese to English
Just a question... Jul 24, 2008

I know nothing about Australian law and have no intention of moving there, but would the rules described above still apply if france japon worked exclusively for clients outside Australia? After all, we all work via the Internet these days and across frontiers, and I dare say that many of her clients are in Japan or Europe.

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Allesklar  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:30
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
NAATI Jul 25, 2008

As stated before, you can work as a freelance translator in Australia (or anywhere else) without NAATI accreditation.

It is only a requirement if you want to provide certified translations. Since Australian authorities only need translations into English, an accreditation into English is the only one that will give you some tangible benefits.

I only got accredited into German as well because it is the only professional credential available here and it helps me marketing myself with overseas clients/agencies.

Normally, agencies who would assign certified translations to you would also want proof of residency, some even require a police records check.

Technically, nobody will be able to stop you from offering and providing freelance services over the internet. This is not covered by the working holiday visa at all because it is considered self-employment. Not sure about the visa and tax implications, check that with DIMIA. Also, if you have been together long enough, you should qualify as a "de-facto spouse" without being married.

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Geraldine Oudin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Japanese to French
+ ...
Combinations that does NOT include english? Jul 25, 2008

Thanx everyone for your kind responses, which were more helpful that the NAATI pages.
I think I will sit the test from English into French, and maybe later from Japanese into English.
I'll also get in touch with DIMA as adviced by several people.

BTW, one more question : as far as I could understand, all combinations tested include English, right?
That would mean I cannot get tested in my favourite combination (Japanese into French)...I guess it is quite rational since most work available will be more likely be from/into English. Does anyone get work from Australia in combinations that does NOT involve English?

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Sarah M Dillon  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:00
French to English
+ ...
Depends on your prospective/ existing client base Jun 17, 2009

I moved to Australia last year and got NAATI accreditation based on my overseas qualifications (for French, Spanish and German into English). Based on this, here are my answers to your first 2 questions:

> 1. Is it possible to work in our field without the NAATI acreditation?

Yes, it is definitely possible. For example, almost all my clients are businesses or organisations based in Europe, Africa or South America and 99.9% of my income comes from outside Australia. None of these overseas clients have heard of NAATI, nor are they especially interested in this form of accreditation.

NAATI accreditation is generally a requirement if you want to work for translation agencies based in Australia (search for these on Google if you want to know how many there are, what language pairs they cover, etc. A lot of them are also registered here on Proz). NAATI is also necessary if you want to translate things like driver's licences, birth, marriage, death certificates, etc. My impression is that the Australian government in some shape or form is a key source of work for many translators in Australia. On the one hand, there is generally a steady trickle of this kind of work as individuals (like ourselves!) who are going through the immigration or visa process must use a NAATI accredited translator - NAATI was created to ensure a pool of translators for this kind of work. On the other, there are a lot of translators with NAATI accreditation, and this exerts a downward pressure on rates.

I spent a lot of money and effort on the whole NAATI accreditation process last year, but I have already come to the conclusion that it makes no financial or even professional sense for me to renew it when it runs out in 2 years. Bear in mind though, I arrived in Australia with strong qualifications in translation, several years' experience, a thriving business base and professional recognition from overseas associations that were recognised by my prospective client base. To be fair, I'm not sure that I would have come to the same conclusion had I been starting from scratch.

> 2. Do I need to sit the test in all my languages?

If you want the kind of work from the sources I describe above, you will need accreditation for those language pairs. But before anybody sits a NAATI test, I strongly recommend doing careful research to decide which pair is most likely to be a source of *profitable* work, and *only then* decide which tests to sit (if any). That way, you are making a sound business decision that you know will pay off.

Finally, with regards to the combination tested: remember you are being tested only for a very specific kind of work, covering a limited range of contexts and language pairs. If there is no test for a combination it simply means there is little/ no demand by the Australian government for that kind of translation - nothing more, nothing less. Find another form of recognition that will actually mean something to the people you hope will actually pay you for your services!!

Good luck with the whole process.

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Geraldine Oudin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Japanese to French
+ ...
Thanks Jun 17, 2009

Hi Sarah and thank you very much for this detailed answer.

I have posted this thread almost a year ago and I have been in Australia for a long time now but for some reason the thread has been moved to the new category "Translation in Australia" today...I am sure it will help other people anyway.

I have been in the translation business for years and I kept working with my Japanese and French customers when I arrived to Australia. Still, I decided to sit the NAATI examinations in both Translation and Interpreting, and I passed. I have to say it was much easier than I expected (and I found a few big mistakes in the translation practise material, discussed in the French forum) considering only 20% of candidates pass. But it was also much more expensive.

Like you, I wouldn't renew if I had to pay to sit the Translation exam again in three years, but I will apply for revalidation which is much cheaper (and one month of work was enough to reach the volume one is supposed to translate over 3 years to be eligible for revalidation, which I think is very low).

To conclude, I would say getting accredited is not very important for Translation (especially if you don't specialise in birth certificates), but it is crucial for Interpreting (as most of the clients/agencies are Australian and insist a lot on NAATI accreditation).

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