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Poll: Should translation be a regulated profession?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Oct 26, 2006

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Should translation be a regulated profession?".

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A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Andrey Lipattsev  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 12:50
English to Russian
+ ...
Regulated by whom? Oct 27, 2006

I have answered "No", since I am not much for regulations in any field really. But, I suppose the real issue here is: who could regulate translation? An international body at the UN? A government agency? A consortium of Universities? A body made up of industry representatives? There are a lot of options of regulation and I would be a lot happier with some of them than with some others.

[Редактировалось 2006-10-27 01:38]


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Anne Patteet  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:50
English to French
+ ...
What should be the conditions Oct 27, 2006

What should be the conditions if it were to be regulated?
I imagine some kind of diploma (certificate, MA ...) to start with, but I regularly see members complaining that too many people/translators just lie about their qualifications, and it is true that often clients don't ask for any kind of proof, so it is really easy for that kind of person.

On the other hand, I am sure many translators who don't have any diploma (in relation with translation) are excellent, while some of the ones who do have a diploma may not be as good. I am far from being against any form of diploma (in fact I am trying to find which one of the online/distance learning programs is going to work for me), but it is a fact (and this has been discussed before, if I am not mistaken).

It is interesting that at least for now, the number of "for" and "against" are very close.

Anne


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
It Depends Oct 27, 2006

That was my answer, and I would say mostly no, but it does depend on the circumstances.

I think where regulation is most appropriate is in situations such as courts, for instance, where good quality interpreting (or translating as the case may be) can be critical in providing proper justice. There are other areas as well where human rights (or lives) can be at stake. This most often involves interpretation, not translation, and we all know (or should know) the difference.

That said, there are many factors that weigh against "regulation".

The main problem is that of testing or certification. We know there are many languages in the world, so which pairs can we test? In the USA, for example, it is quite difficult to design a proper test even for English and Spanish, which is a very common pair, but it has been done. But then going on other levels, how can we handle such pairs as Slovenian to Thai, or Gujarati to Dutch? Or maybe an Indian dialect spoken in Guatemala to Arabic? We could go on to ridiculous extremes.

On an overall basis, "regulation" is impossible.

Our profession in itself is impossible to define, so I cannot see how the situation could be otherwise.

Plus the above considerations apply mostly to interpreting, which as we all know is not the same as translation.

I'd be interested in hearing the opinions of others on the subject.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 17:20
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Regulation may be desirable Oct 27, 2006

Translation is perhaps the most chaotic profession in the world. There are thousands of languages and the permutation and combination of language pairs can be mind-boggling. This would make regulation desirable, to bring in some order to the professtion. Also to establish standards and methods to regulate quality.

As of now the word of the translator is law. And superstitions like only natives can do a good translation abound. If we can have a good regulatory body which can test and certify translators and translations, it will be to the good of the profession. It can weed out the non-translators, both native and non-native, and restrict the field to only real translators.

I have answered only the question "Should"; the "how" part is a separate issue, and according to me does not come under the ambit of this survey question.

[Edited at 2006-10-27 04:49]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
But... Oct 27, 2006

Balasubramaniam, you have some valid points, but just how do you propose what you say can be done?

The very points you make defy any practical solution.


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 06:50
English to Russian
+ ...
No easy solution Oct 27, 2006

For one, I don't believe in the international level of regulation in our case.

On the one hand, I would love to see something equal to The American Bar Association in each country, an organization strong enough to protect the market and enforce professional regulations of this nature: http://www.abanet.org/cpr/regulation/home.html. An influential lobbyist, if you wish. ATA is nowhere nearly close. But I certainly do not want any "regulators" who would make me go through hell paying, studying and passing the exam while being in fact some idle and impotent bureaucratic monster, a thing in itself.

Too bad the translator/interpreter community will hardly ever get rich enough to reach such heights in power:-) so I'd rather stay without regulations. Some regulations could and would be nice but I realize not only the utter impossibility of such organization but also certain horrifying consequences that might come out of an attempt to do another good deed, which, as we all know, never goes unpunished. In fact, real regulation would mean that practicing translation without a translation degree and/or a certificate from such association would be illegal and punisheable under the civil code. Well, I have a gut feeling that some colleagues might scream with joy "Yes!! This is how it ought to be!" Well... Oh, boy, next comes an issue of specialization. A PhD in translation working on bridge construction project? Could I sue the guy for fraud because he accepted the job while not being a construction engineer? See where it leads? To a perfect absurd. Do I need to say more than "get real":-)

In today's world the sheer demand for translation will kill any attempts to reduce the number of at least somewhat able bodies to the privileged few - this world will stop spinning.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 17:20
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Something on the lines of Unicode might work Oct 27, 2006

Henry Hinds wrote:

Balasubramaniam, you have some valid points, but just how do you propose what you say can be done?

The very points you make defy any practical solution.


Dear Henry,

I agree it will be well nigh impossible to regulate the translation profession. But I am a firm believer in human ingenuity and it should be possible to work out something.

The situation that prevailed before the coming of Unicode in the sphere of fonts was somewhat like what prevails in the translation profession today. There was a plethora of fonts, each having different code tables, and key boards. Any one could develop a font and place symbols any where he/she liked on the keyboard, and only he/she was able to type or use that font. The situation was particularly bad in Hindi, where there existed at one time more than 25 different keyboard layouts.

Order was established on this madness almost as if a magic wand had been waved, when the Unicode standard was made which specified where each symbol of a language should be placed.

There was a time when it was feared that the internet would finish off non-English languages because till about 25 years ago computers supported only the ASCII key set used by English. Today, with the Unicode standard in place, the internet and computers have been made language-neutral.

May be we could work out some such miracle for our profession too. It won't be easy, but I believe it can be done.

It is comparatively easy to establish a person's competency in a language by means of scientific tests. TOFEL, etc., are examples. A person who has passed these tests with a good score has a demonstrable good command over the language.

Translators (both native and non-native) too can be made to pass similar tests in both the languages they work in (source and target) and only after they pass these tests can they be recognized as translators.

The agency that administers this test would have to be an international agency, as so many languages are involved. It won't spring up overnight. It might have to be a very decentralized model consisting of regional chapters of the agency in all countries which would conduct these tests.

This kind of standardisation routinely happens in the IT field, I have taken the example of Unicode, and we can draw lessons and parallels from these experiences to devise our own standards and regulatory body.

[Edited at 2006-10-27 07:09]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 17:20
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Translator's Oath Oct 27, 2006

We can begin by small (and ineffectual) measures, such as making translators take a Translator's Oath, on the lines of the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors.

It should not be too difficult to word a sufficiently emotive and idealist oath, which could be translated into all languages and translators can take this oath and specify that they have taken it.

Hopefully, moral force (as Gandhi believed) would prevent them from straying from the straight and narrow path.

Wishful thinking? I am afraid it is. But wouldn't it be a good beginning?


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:50
Flemish to English
+ ...
In Canada Oct 27, 2006

Well, I have a gut feeling that some colleagues might scream with joy "Yes!! This is how it ought to be!" Well... Oh, boy, next comes an issue of specialization. A PhD in translation working on bridge construction project? Could I sue the guy for fraud because he accepted the job while not being a construction engineer? See where it leads? To a perfect absurd. Do I need to say more than "get real
---
In Canada, the profession is regulated. If it can be regulated there, why can't it be regulated everywhere?
I am one of those who voted (not screamed with joy) "yes".
But then most institutes for translators (and interpreters) should adapt their curriculum and status and besides language training, they should offer specialist courses, be it of an economic, technical,...... nature.
Diploma : M.A.in Translation and Economics for instance. Such degree would be also be more useful in the real world. A knowledge of at least two foreign languages combined with say a knowledge of accounting, financial management, marketing is a good starting-point both for freelance translation and/or a regular job/career.
Or attend translation courses first followed by a specialisation or vice-versa.
Now, you have the phenomena of the "overnight translator". One day, this person has a regular job, he or she looses it and the next day.... he or she becomes a translator.
It are also those kinds of overnight translators screaming the loudest that one should translate into their native language only. Logical, they did not have to pass translation exams in both directions.
Fortunatly, by its nature conference-interpreting is one of those professions regulating itself.
" A PhD in translation working on bridge construction project?"
-Working together with a construction engineer seems to be out of the question?
The best results are usally achieved when linguist AND specialist work together. Not when either of them works alone. Reason: The linguist dominates the language better and the specialist knows his/her business, but is not so skilled in languages.
---




[Edited at 2006-10-27 08:01]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 17:20
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Eureka! Kudoz! Oct 27, 2006

I have hit upon a bright idea, and will share it with you!

It is to use kudoz! In kudoz you get translators at their worst and at their best. Let us use their worst to pick out translators who are merely masqurading as translators. Both questions and answers can help in this.

Is a "translator" repeatedly asking questions that no average translator in that language-pair woud ask or should ask?

Is an answerer repeatedly giving answers that are full of grammatical errors and scream of a poor command over the target langauge?

Both cases are indicative of psuedo-translators who need to be shown the door from translation circles.

Most of us who frequent kudoz forums already know who these people are, but can't do anything about it.

Could we somehow put this knowledge to good use to regulate our profession, at least in this site?


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klghemil ghseil
Equatorial Guinea
Local time: 12:50
Precision please? Oct 27, 2006

It is impossible to answer this question in any meaningful fashion with out knowing what is meant by a "regulated" profession.

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Michaela Müller
Germany
Local time: 12:50
English to German
+ ...
Not so bright for me ... Oct 27, 2006

Balasubramaniam wrote:
I have hit upon a bright idea, and will share it with you!
...
Could we somehow put this knowledge to good use to regulate our profession, at least in this site?


Hello Balasubramaniam,

Thanks for sharing your idea - but I suppose this wasn't thought to the end. To implement your idea would mean several measures and lots of restrictions and regulations. I for myself am fed up with the regulations that are put already on Germans (maybe you don't have that many in India and this explains your wish for new regulations), so I won't need more of them in my life.

- Everybody on ProZ.com had to be forced to take part in KudoZ and to answer a certain amount of questions.
- Who defines what question should be asked and what question is absolete? For you it may be a silly question, for others it is important.
- You would have to employ or pay colleagues who define if a KudoZ question was answered correctly enough or not
- You had to pick those "jury" members by certain standards - and what should those be and who defines them?
- Do you want to play God and say "Hey - you shouldn't be a translator, go away"?

I think the disagrees and comments are enough, and everything is regulated by them automatically. If someone gets a lot of disagrees, he won't present his wrong answers after a while - because his reputation is on stake (there are, of course, people who like to be screamed at or to get bad feedback, but that certainly isn't a majority).

This is what I think of this kind of regulation.
By the way, I said "no" to the poll question. Some years ago, I think I would have answered "yes", since I recognized there are so many people out there who call themselves translators when I had to study five years for getting a translator's degree.
But now I see it differently - it is just like in all other unsubsidized industries and in nature: The strongest ones will survive. The customers pick the ones they like best, so it is your task to tell the customers about the difference in quality caused by the large number of translators with different qualifications, and to tell the customer what makes you different and your work the best.

Best regards,
Michaela



[Edited at 2006-10-27 09:34]


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Arianna Tremayne  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:50
German to English
+ ...
Regulated Oct 27, 2006

I understand it to mean governed by a legal body who can impose laws and regulations.
Here in the UK a plumber for example HAS to do a certain course in order to touch gas - if he does not he gets fined etc. This might look as a bad example as it involves safety issues, but does it really? Just imagine a translation of a highly sensible machine gone wrong!

This just to claify...

I have voted for 'no' as lots of rules and regulations make work conditions just more difficult!

Just take a look at the attempts of regulating art! When is one an artist and when not? (Useless)

I am of the opinion that a profession - if left alone - regulates itself, as it is the service, knowledge and professionalism that wins in the end.
My 2 pence...


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:50
Flemish to English
+ ...
Regulated by law. Oct 27, 2006

Jennifer Hackney wrote:

It is impossible to answer this question in any meaningful fashion with out knowing what is meant by a "regulated" profession.


A pilot has to earn an ATPL (airline transport pilot license) and built up logged hours before (s)he can fly at a commercial airline.
A lawyer has to study law and pass the bar-exam before being allowed to practise.
An M.D. has to graduate at med.school before he can call himself M.D. and practise medicine.
This holds sway for a lot of professions, like pharmacists, vets,....

If an M.D. practises medicine without having a degree (s)he could end up on jail. Why, because there a laws stipulating conditions for practising medicine.
Would you go to a gyn. who does not have a medical degree and specialised in gyneacology?


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