starting out in Austria
Thread poster: Kay Fisher (X)

Kay Fisher (X)
German to English
+ ...
Nov 13, 2002

Before I start - I am aware of the post below about starting in Vienna, but my question is a different one.

My question is to do with professional qualification / recognition.

Translation is a \"freie Gewerbe\" which means that legally you don\'t need certification to practice, however I feel it would be a good idea to have some kind of certification to put in front of potential clients. I plan to take the IoL Dipl.Trans in Jan 2004 (couldn\'t manage 2003 for various reasons): is this going to get me any kind of recognition in Austria? Are Austrian agencies familiar with it?

My second question is to do with Universitas. When I looked at their web-site, it seemed that they will only take you as a new member with two references. The question is - how would I go about getting references? They don\'t appear to have an entrance exam (unlike IoL which requires the Dipl.Trans), and they don\'t appear to have an associate program for someone preparing for full membership (though not on a university course in translation).

I don\'t have a degree in translation, which seems to be the norm in Austria - am I going to have a problem with agencies?

The background for all of my questions is that I am currently working as an engineer, and starting freelancing (for about a year now) on the side. I have one regular customer and some occasional customers and would like to start doing some agency work, but don\'t really know how to market myself.

I\'d be pleased to receive any comments, advice or (constructive) criticism.




Giuliana Buscaglione  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:09
Member (2001)
German to Italian
+ ...
Accreditation is an option, but not a must.... Nov 13, 2002

Hi Kay,

I have been working as a translator for quite a time now, but I have never seen an accreditation as a direct way to success. I have the impression you think that a piece of paper is more important that \"qualification\" itself or practical experience. I admit I am a Diplomdolmetscherin and have a degree, but I have only met people, clients and agencies looking for my qualification, not for my diplomas, PhD or accreditations. BTW, it\'s true: you need to know two Universitas\' members. An accreditation doesn\'t mean necessarily that you are a good translator and that you are a professional: I know a couple of very good and well-paid translators without any. Success is somehow a matter of timing, too. I mean, you have to be \"there\", when an agency is looking for someone with your expertise, qualification and experience. I agree that an accreditation is another \"flower\" on your visit card, but personally I don\'t give it more than that importance. This is my very personal point of view, based on my personal experience. Maybe some colleagues\'ll have different experiences.... Okay, an accreditation is good in terms of \"coming together\" with other colleagues, but sites like ProZ or MLs do their job well.. it is only up to you to learn how to get the best out of each chance, the first step being that of recognizing what is a chance and what it is a waste of time.

Wish you all the best,



Kay Fisher (X)
German to English
+ ...
I appreciate your points Giuliana Nov 13, 2002

Actually, I think we\'re thinking along the same lines. This was the reason I asked the question. Personally I have faith in my ability to translate and I am slowly building up experience. I think I can get through to direct customers with this approach - especially as I\'m looking to target companies involved in the line of work I got my degree in.

My point was that knowing Austria\'s \"hang\" for beurocracy, I was wondering whether agancies would feel the same way.

Thanks for your input.


PS Please excuse my spelling, its late where I am...


Kay Fisher (X)
German to English
+ ...
from a universitas member... Nov 13, 2002

I\'ve been asked to post this from a guy who replied to me personally by e-mail but is not a member of proz.

I found it useful. Maybe someone else will too.

Dear Kay,

I have been a member of UNIVERSITAS for almost 10 years, and I have also served on their executive board.

Things are changing fast in Austria. Yes, having a degree is almost a must, but there are many translators without a degree too.

I have also been told, at the recent ATA conference in Atlanta, that you must have a \"Gewerbeschein\" now to work as a freelance translator. Whether this is true or not, I don\'t know. An Austrian translator, who works for the Austrian central bank, told me so.

How does the UNIVERSITAS system work?

1. You join as an associate member, for which you need 2 sponsors. A degree in translation is preferred, but not mandatory.

2. As an associate member you will translate and/or interpret and gather more experience. If you wish to interpret as well, you may contact UNIVERSITAS to be put on their list of \"stagiares\" (sort of \"interns\"): experienced interpreters will take you along to their conference assignments and let you practise in a silent booth; sometimes, they may also allow you to get practical experience by \"going live\".

3. You can apply for full membership only if you have a degree in translation or if you can show proof of several years of experience (plus 2-3 sponsors).

4. As a full member, you can submit your documentation (sample translations, list of translation/interpreting assignments done so far, etc.) for peer review (plus 5 sponsors, I think). A committee will then vet your papers, and if you \"pass\", your name will appear in the directory of translators and interpreters. This is their form of \"accreditation\" or \"certification\".

According to that Austrian colleague I mentioned earlier, there is also a movement towards \"accreditation\" under EU standards, a new system that would also be administered by UNIVERSITAS. They are conducting a trial run right now.

I hope this helps.

Best regards,

Werner George Patels


Sonja Tomaskovic (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:09
English to German
+ ...
I don't have an accreditation Nov 14, 2002

Hi Kay,

I\'d like to point out - even though I am not working in Austria - that I do not have an accreditation as translator. I have not studied translation or so. It happend to me that I was asked to do translations. Later on I\'d like the job and so I tried to get more jobs, so I could show more references to potential clients.

I think, an accreditation should not be seen as a \"free ticket\" that opens any door.

Some agencies do not work with translators who don\'t have accreditation. However, there are still quite a lot of agencies who rely on your references and the work you have done before, rather than to ask you what kind of accreditation you have.


Sonja icon_wink.gif


Kay Fisher (X)
German to English
+ ...
more specific "Austria" question... Nov 15, 2002

To all those who have replied: Thank you for taking the time.

Giuliana, you wrote: I have the impression you think that a piece of paper is more important that \"qualification\" itself or practical experience: No, from practical experience I know that there are some translators around who have that piece of paper, but who do not do good quality work (a minority). On the other hand there are many around who do not have the piece of paper, but who do very good work.

Giluliana, could you define what you mean by “qualification”? I don’t think you’re talking about “pieces of paper”, right? J

You wrote further “it is only up to you to learn how to get the best out of each chance, the first step being that of recognizing what is a chance and what it is a waste of time.” I couldn’t agree more!!!

I have already seen that this discussion has been rehashed many times on the boards, so I’d like to put it more specifically. To you all:

Given that Austria as a nation values people with titles, and has a rather tightly controlled idea of who is qualified to do what, (yes, I realise this is generalising) what are my chances of getting work from an Austrian agency without these pieces of paper?

I think the general culture in some countries is more open to people without the bits of paper, and my feeling from being in Austria for five years is that this is not necessarily one of them. I am not sure, however, how this fits into the translation world.

Personally, I’d rather do without the bits of paper. It cannot however hurt to have them, specifically Dipl.Trans., and this is why I intend to do the exam – not because I feel that having the piece of paper will make me a better translator.

OK, I realise I am coming across as defensive here, but I didn’t intend to re-ignite the debate.

Tayfun, thanks for the comments on marketing – I am indeed planning on a “mix”.

Sonja, I think we started out the same way – this is exactly what is happening to me at the moment.

Thanks again



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