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Professional body for translators and interpreters... the only solution
Thread poster: Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:26
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Nov 24, 2001

This might be a bit controversial, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to solve the low rates problem is to set up a professional body for translators and interpreters. Why can people charge very low rates? Because the profession is not regulated. Architects, doctors, lawyers... they all belong to professional bodies and are not allow to practice if they don’t qualify and take the compulsory exams to become a “professional”. Then, they charge very high rates because their profession is recognized and valued as important. Why should it be different for translators? Let’s set up a professional body – recognized by all states. After university (this should be a minimum requirement), if you want to become a translator you will have to sit an exam (it’s a “state exam”, in Italy). Only translators belonging to the body will be allowed to practice. At the moment, anybody can be a translator. This is no good. I believe you should educate yourself first and then become a professional translator, if you have what it takes. This way, the improvised translators (those who charge very low rates) will disappear at once .



Giovanni Guarnieri MITI



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Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
...but avoiding the duplication of bad examples Nov 24, 2001

Most countries, I suppose, already have national associations of translators/ interpreters - professional bodies that should fight for their community interests. Very often, I am afraid, their successes are limited to personal successes of their officials, because that is always the easiest thing to achieve. Otherwise, it takes favorable environment and political will to implement what Giovanni has suggested. In Poland, for instance, it took years to convince the government that the criteria for admitting someone as a sworn translator/interpreter should go beyond requiring just a university degree in the given language. Too bad, the other part of the struggle has failed, i.e. that of raising the official rates for sworn translators. So, their current rates are 50%-70% lower than the going market rates (within Poland). Now, imagine trying to coordinate these national efforts with those in the remaining hundreds of countries. Just as there is no worldwide organization for lawyers and doctors and they cannot freely practice in ANY other country, there cannot be anytime soon a \"professional body [for translators] – recognized by all states.\" No doubt, however, translators/ interpreters should stick together and, by setting up teams and by specializing, they should try to cultivate direct contacts with clients, so that when 100 pages needs to be translated in 2 days, such team can become an alternative to the agency and beat the agency in terms of quality and understanding of the client\'s requirements. And, as someone said, the quality must cost!



Jacek


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:26
Member (2004)
English to Italian
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, Jacek... Nov 24, 2001

maybe a single international body for all translators all over the world is a bit optimistic. Nevertheless, if this is not feasible, there is another solution. As you are aware, many state universities in many countries offer a degree in translation. The problem with these courses is that - although you might be more qualified that the chap next door - they do not lead to any professional recognition. My solution would be the introduction of a compulsary qualification for translators. Example: what do I want to do when I grow up? Mmmm... I\'ll be a translator. So, I go to England for a couple of months and, hey presto, I\'m a translator. Wrong!!! You go to university first - degree in translation - and at the end of the course you sit the state exam to become a professional translator and - moreover - be allowed to practice. End of story. I don\'t see why a doctor or an engineer (at least in Italy) have to sit an exam at the end of the course - to be tested and allowed to practice - and not a translator. Results: a body of highly skilled and competent professionals capable of commanding high fees. The problem is... how do you convince every single state university in every country to introduce a state exam at the end of the university course (or even a university course)? This would be of competence of the various governments, but we - translators - could put enough pressure on the politicians in order to get the recognition that our profession deserves.



Giovanni


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Sarah Wood  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 12:26
Italian to English
professional bodies regulating our services Nov 24, 2001

I\'m a bit confused with Giovanni\'s plea for a professional body... as Jacek says most countries already have them and as I presume you live in Italy Giovanni you surely know that there is already a professional association - AITI. Of course it is not an \"albo\" which is what the other professions you mentioned have in Italy; i.e. something you have to belong to in order to pratice.

As far as pricing etc. goes I think you just have to have the courage of your professional qualifications and charge a fair price for your services. Members of professional associations should be more pro-active in encouraging \"customer education\". Are our potential customers aware of the qualifications a translator should have? Are they aware that there is an association in this field with a published price guide ( so anything dramatically different will probably produce a dramatically different translation!)?

Are you sure that a degree in translation is the only path to becoming a professional? Some of the degrees in this field offered by Italian universities are mainly referred to literature - will this really help you do technical translations for example? Many ignore the need to train their students in the IT skills which are vital... and so on.

As in all fields I\'m sure that prestigious qualifications and true professionalism will win the day in the end, although it\'s a pity some customers will have to learn this the hard way either through lack of knowledge or an irresistible desire to save money. In the latter case it serves them right!



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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 06:26
German to English
+ ...
Yes, it would be the perfect solution Nov 24, 2001

In order to gain the kind of respect and recognition (as a profession) that would allow us to charge proper rates, etc., we would need a strong support organization to back us up.



In some countries, this idea has already become reality, most notably in Canada, where access to the profession and the use of professional designations such as \"translator\" and \"interpreter\" are legally protected. The reason why we have, for the most part, higher rates (and higher professional standards) is primarily due to the strong presence of our national and provincial translators\' associations.



If every country had an organization like CTIC, we would not be having these discussions on low rates, \"translators\" without qualifications/training, foreign languages vs. mother tongue, etc.



Thanks to the efforts of CTIC and the provincial associations (and some of them have been around for 80 years!!!), we now have some of the finest and highest qualified translators in the world. Of course, we also have black and grey markets within Canada, but those individuals are very marginal, indeed. And Canadian clients are \"well-trained\": about 90% of them will always ask for a CTIC translator or interpreter.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-11-24 18:04 ]


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:26
Member (2004)
English to Italian
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, Werner... and some clarifications for Sarah Nov 25, 2001

I apologize if my suggestions were a bit unclear. I meant the creation of something more than an association for translators... I don\'t believe these associations work at all, they don\'t seem to protect enough the interests of the translators. I do believe though in properly educated translators, backed up by a university degree (in translation) and by a final \"state exam\" which will allow the translator to be enlisted in a \"albo\" (like doctors). Now, Sarah is right that language degrees in Italy tend to focus a lot on literature (although I believe that in order to learn a language properly you should be well acquainted with its history, literature and culture), that\'s why I proposed a **degree in translation**. Only people who complete the course and pass the final exam will be allowed to call themselves **translators**. As simple as that. As I said, the results would be a credible body of professionals who will be able to command high fees and without the silly undercutting of unscrupolous individuals who have no idea on how to practice the profession. I, for one, would be prepare to sit the final exam in order to be a recognized translator... How many translators would have the guts or the ability to sit such an exam? I believe it would be an excellent way of clearing the ground from a lot of unprofessional vultures.



Giovanni


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Telesforo Fernandez
Local time: 15:56
English to Spanish
+ ...
but avoid this Nov 25, 2001

Giovani,

After successful implementation of what you have said, do not make the mistake made by the cows :

Once upon a time 25,000 cows were invited to be sheltered under a huge cowshed. The smart cowshed owner started to auction their milk.

Soon they realized that their milk was quoted at a rate bordering the value of water.

Some smart cows tried to educate the milkvendors about the good quality and bad quality milk.

Some started fighting among themselves, even going to say that \"you are cow of the third world and your milk is of a lower standard\".

Others alleged that the cheap milk was infected by germs and tried their level best to aducate the milkvendors not to buy adulterated or infected milk.



The clever milk vendors knew they were buying the milk they wanted at a lower rate- they refused to raise the price of milk.



Seeing that the cows were helpless, the shed owner told the cows that he will levy a fee of 5 cents or 100 grams of milk on every cow that wanted to sell her milk to the milkvendors.

He told them that with this levy no cow will be able to sell substandard milk at lower rates.

But later on what happened nobody knows, but the cows continued to complain that thier milk is countinously losing market value.



[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-11-25 03:57 ]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nov 25, 2001

This is a very interesting subject. Some comments:



A worldwide body is impossible, for very obvious reasons. Even the UN doesn\'t work very well and it\'s been around for years!



Translation courses at the national level tend to have different credibility, e.g in Spain there is a course called Translation & Interpretation which is three years study of two languages at under-grad level; the second language is !!!!started from scratch at first year!!!!. But they can call themselves translators and even interpreters. To my mind this level of preparation is suitable for soemone going into a business with \'knowledge of languages\'. They still have a long way to go to being \'professional translators\' or \'professional interpreters\'. Yet to the majority of lay people,these will be assumed - from the title of their studies (a misnomer???) to be translators and interpreters. Yet given the kind of knowledge and experience that Interpreters have to have, and Translators (a more accessible profession), this is a bit of a joke. Nonetheless, I have to concede that the same goes for any degree, just because you have one in Law doesn\'t mean you will defend a case expertly. But in Law, having the store of knowledge is obviously importnat, in translation it\'s the experience that counts in the end, not teh \'knowledge\' of translation theories, which are ambiguous to some extent anyway.



Basically it comes down to the fact that professional (rather than merely academic) qualifications are necessary for translators, and more than in many other professions.



The Spanish course referred to above would be more aptly called Applied Languages, when you think about it, because that\'s all it amounts to.



Given that practical, hands-on experience is the only real test for a translator, the only way to separate the sheep from the goats in a profession that is part art (the science is easily acquired) is by proven/validated experience and/or professional examinations, with each language judged only by bodies that can claim to represent that language. Note that in the UK there is the IOL Diploma, and it\'s interesting to note that inexperienced translators invariably fail this exam, a lot of them language or translation graduates or post-graduates, because they lack experience, for all teh qualifications they have.



I see two major problems taht affect rates:



1: Public perceptions of the job of translation.



At the level of what it is possible for an individual translator to do (given taht we have no worldwide body to protect us), the only realistic approach is to maintain the attitude of a genuinely professional translator and educate one\'s clients, thereby \'showing up\' (eventually.. hopefully) the non-professionals. As WGP refers to in his submission - \"well-trained\" clients. Who trains the clients? Yes, we the translators, above all, and more than any body or representative organisation!



One element of that is a having a sense of what one is worth. The fact is I will not sell myself at the same rate that I would get for cleaning houses. That may seem like an inverted snobbery to some, but I\'m not too proud to clean houses at 6 euro an hour! But I am too proud to do a job that deserves better recognition of what it\'s worth at a rate that works out at 6 euro/hour. That is the way I work at present (and always, if one is that broke, why aren\'t they looking for something else?) I turn down jobs taht demean me and the profession.



2. Non-native translators



The absolute minimum qualification for any translator is that they translate into their native language. If anything causes teh bottom to drop out of the market, this is it, because it FLOODS the market. That has to be the single factor that MOST affects rates. And that should be easy enough to control in public forums such as this (although not entirely in a foolproof way). Any individual that offers any combination of language in a PUBLIC forum should have to put their money where their mouth is!!!! And in this respect ProZ should allow members to be able to distinguish between \"translation\" combinations and \"help\" combinations (e.g I help with Spanish but wouldn\'t dream of doing a job to Spanish).



ProZ has people accredited by reputable bodies etc. Would it not be possible to organise a system whereby - in each country -each translator has to do a written test in their declared target language, and to organise testing in as foolpropof a way as possible?



Finally, in this respect, I want to comment that I am not afraid of competition from \'other, cheaper\' countries. Two issues here; firstly if they can do the job (i.e. they meet my criteria - they are \'professionals\' and the target language is \'native\'), then fair enough. Secondly, the same system that permits them to compete against me - despite geographical differences - is the same system that theoretically would permit me to switch countries, obtain work from other countries, even go on holiday with a laptop!!

So basically it comes down to accepting BOTH the advans and disadavans of a truely liberal system of competition for jobs. Let\'s not be greedy!



The cow story was very interesting, but only too true!!! Which is why I favour that each individual claiming to be a professional applies teh criteria above, as a suggested place to begin to pull the profession up by its bootstraps.





Ailish



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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:26
Member (2004)
English to Italian
TOPIC STARTER
cows management Nov 25, 2001

the milk would not lose its market value because the cows wouldn\'t have to sell it cheaply. There would be no shed owner, no rent to pay, no anything. To enter the shed, the cow will have to prove to Mother Cow that it can produce milk, according to the required standards. Once certified, all cows will be equal and there would be no reason to argue. The milk vendors wouldn\'t be able to get their milk anywhere else, because only certified cows can produce milk.



Giovanni \'mucca\' Guarnieri


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Telesforo Fernandez
Local time: 15:56
English to Spanish
+ ...
How true Nov 25, 2001

How true is your perception.

Gongratulations and long live the cow story.


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Sharon Sarah Schmitz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:26
English to German
Self-nurturing organizations Nov 25, 2001

Speaking from a German point of view, I strongly doubt that an official body for translators or overblown regulations will do any good.



We have loads of professional organizations regulating admission to all sorts of professions. They cash in on everybody trying to tread their territory. They defend their claims tooth and nail. Reminds me of secret societies.



An outsider, no matter how qualified through professional experience, no matter how gifted and talented, doesn\'t stand a chance to enter their exclusive circle. No way dropping in, saying \"Hey, I thought about taking an exam, is that ok with you?\"



A university degree, vocational training and membership in an organization doesn\'t necessarily make you a good translator. The lack thereof doesn\'t necessarily make you a bad one.



Most of the official bodies I\'ve come across just serve the purpose of generating cash via implementing a useless bureaucrazy (typo intended). And, of course, saving their members a...err...I mean, keeping their members out of trouble if they screw up *g*



Being such an outsider, I\'m adamantly opposed to setting up an official body for the sake of shutting out competition. Let\'s face the facts, that\'s what official bodies do. They\'re not concerned with quality.



It\'s not only translation rates hitting rock-bottom, BTW. Economy is screeching to a halt and shifting to reverse. With unemployment rates rocketing sky-high, it\'s no wonder that people start fighting for the crumbs. Falling translation rates are just one of the signs that the whole system is on the verge of a vast sell-out.



Uh-oh, enough armchair strategist\'s talk for now


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Alison Schwitzgebel
Germany
Local time: 12:26
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Its a nice idea, but.... Nov 25, 2001

I love the idea of an international body for translators, but cannot see this happening.





I Germany, the BDÜ (German Translators and Interpreters\' Association) has been lobbying the German government for YEARS, trying to have the designation \"translator\" or \"interpreter\" legally protected. The government has refused.



Legally protecting the profession and setting up an international body is one way forward, but does not seem feasible to me (even within a single country in which almost everything else is regulated!)


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 06:26
German to English
+ ...
Show me the milk! Nov 25, 2001

Well, well, well, very enlightening!



Giovanni: perfect plan! Basically what you are suggesting is a system not unlike that used for lawyers: go to law school first, then take the bar exam.



This is pretty much the system we have in Canada now: get your translation degree, then take the certification exam.



I understand why you would be frustrated with associations, but CTIC is not like the associations you know. It is actually exactly what you are proposing on a global scale. In other words, CTIC should \"go global\" and do for the rest of the world what they have done for Canada.



But I must agree with Ailish: a global organization like that will never work because each country is so different from the next that they would never be able to reach any agreements at all. Therefore, it would be best, I believe, if every country had a strong organization (like CTIC) of its own.


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:26
Member (2004)
English to Italian
TOPIC STARTER
University education Nov 27, 2001

I still mantain that a university degree and a professional body - like lawyers and doctors\'- would sort out the category. No more improvised translators. I\'m not saying it would be perfect, but it would be something. I suggest that translators undergo a 5 year specialization course (after a 3 year degree course) to learn the ropes. Then you sit the final exam and, if you pass it, you practice, if you don\'t, you can sit it again. Doctors and lawyers are not subjected to market forces, because they have a strong professional body behind them. These bodies might be a bit of a mafia, but they do work!



Giovanni


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Telesforo Fernandez
Local time: 15:56
English to Spanish
+ ...
Very true Nov 27, 2001

Guavani,

I agree with you that we should have a professional body.

You have rightly said \"Doctors and lawyers are not subjected to market forces, because they have a strong professional body behind them\"



But I have never seen doctors and lawyers participating in a bid. Does it not look a bit strange?



I attribute most of the problems faced by translators to bidding and intnse rivalry among them.

This rivalry or cut throat competition can be very easily exploited.



For example, even a cobbler( excuse me, I have due regard for the cobblers) can easily float a firm or pseudo cooperative and get thousands of translators and make good money at their cost.



And if he can hire a good marketing and public realtions firm, he can mesmerise the translators by using subtle marketing tools and psychological props.



It is their helplessness that he exploits.



Translators were never united and hence they have to face this situation today.

According to me this is the main problem faced by translators.





[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-11-27 04:11 ]


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