Australian regulator NAATI: petition to improve
Thread poster: Zoltan Vandulek
Zoltan Vandulek  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:36
Hungarian to English
Mar 31, 2016

I am a professional translator from Hungarian to English, living and working in Australia and accredited by NAATI.

I also run a mid-size law firm (BELAW | Bottoms English Lawyers) as legal practice manager - therefore I'm intimately familiar with continuous professional development (CPD) requirements for lawyers, as well as with a range of regulatory frameworks and bodies.

I'm interested to find out, primarily from other Australian translators, whether you are happy with the current standards of NAATI. Because even though they are doing a great job in testing and accreditation - if it were up to me, I'd love to campaign for two significant changes.

1. NAATI should publish guidelines about how translations should look like

I have never found a sample that would list, what information is required to put on translations. There isn't a guide on the NAATI website, or at least I haven't found it in the last 6 years.

Today our Department of Foreign Affairs published a statement saying that translations submitted to them are required to include:
• Your NAATI stamp (with your NAATI number); AND
• Your language and type of accreditation; AND
• Your name as the translator; AND
A statement attesting to the truth and accuracy of the translation of the document presented e.g. "this is a true and accurate translation of the text provided on the attached document/s"; AND
• Your signature.

Really? I have to attest that it's accurate? What else would it be?... Would anyone assume, that if I got accredited by NAATI and recognised as a master of both languages, then when I translate a birth certificate I'd change the data on it???

It wouldn't be a translation of the original information then. Why would I put my stamp on it, if it was different information than the original; how would that qualify as a translation?

I suggest that this requirement is pointless. However. IS IT ACTUALLY A REQUIREMENT? I can see that DFAT now requires it on stuff submitted to them only. What's NAATI's position though? What information is required by NAATI to be listed on translations?

2. Get rid of the CPD requirement

In other industries the concept of CPD is valid. In medical, the scientific position changes constantly (cause of obesity from fat/cholesterol to sugars and microbiome diversity) so you do need to stay on top of the changes. In education curriculums change, in legal the legislation changes - as a licensed practitioner your professional knowledge needs to stay current.

But in translation??? Once you speak a language well enough to get accredited, it's impossible to forget it.

The changes to a language are surely not significant enough to justify spending hundreds of dollars and waste work days on CPD. The only one circumstance where I'd see it justified if the CPD was educating translators about recent additions to the world's vocabulary (e.g. "IMHO", "LOL", "WTF", "Rickrolling" etc.) because of some ideological importance of staying current on internet slang. But that's surely not the case, and the birth certificates and driver licences we translate will never feature "WTF".

No matter what argument NAATI presents about the importance of CPD - I argue it must be an invalid one.

Any thoughts, fellow Australians? Is this worthy of a petition?

Zoltan Vandulek | MBA
Hun>Eng NAATI 71120
Bottoms English Lawyers

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I agree! Apr 4, 2016

So very true! I agree with both. Especially the second point.

Last time at NAATI renewal, I struggled to collate enough volume of translation to substitute the requirement of having to undergo CPD. The renewal form allowed for commenting on the new CPD system: I expressed my view of how useless this new requirement was but of course, received no response or feedback.

But my volumes dropped down since, and this time I won’t be able to claim renewal just on volume of work. Do you know where we might raise this submission to fellow translators? Like a local translators’ forum maybe?

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Melissa McMahon  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:36
Member (2006)
French to English
Disagree... Aug 2, 2016

Hi Zoltan,

I'm a NAATI-accredited translator and have had lots of dealings with NAATI staff as a member of AUSIT.

1. On the first point, NAATI can't "set" what is required on an official translation, because it is up to the end user what they require. DFAT requires X, Y, Z, other clients will ask for specific wording, some want your contact details and street address included with the certification statement, etc. etc. etc. Even if NAATI did "set" something, they wouldn't have any way to enforce it.

There is not in fact any "legal" (legislated) requirement even for an official translation to be performed by an NAATI-accredited translator, but this has become a de facto requirement, ie the end user requires it and won't accept any other kind, and that extends to what they want to be included on the document. Some require you to sign an affidavit containing a statement of the accuracy of the translation in the presence of a JP, even when there is already such a statement on the document and (as you say) it is implied in the NAATI stamp. Legal folk like things to be explicit rather than implicit - you must be familiar with that preference elsewhere in your practice?

2. As for the necessity for CPD, you mention recent changes to the language like WTF, but I find language and usage changes all the time. I know French speakers who live here and every time they go back to France they see changes from their previous visit, not just in areas such as slang - one reason why spending time in a country where your "other" language is spoken counts as CPD.

There are also lots of changes in translation technology and even changes in official document translation like the one you mentioned in your first point. Things like networking, participating in forums like this and other community activities also count as CPD.

Changes in any subject area will have an impact on a translator specialising in that area, so changes in science, medicine, law, education are also changes in the translation industry and a subject of translator CPD. There are 100s and 100s of CPD seminars on this site and they are not expensive.

Having said all that, you are certainly not alone in objecting to the revalidation system. Organisations like AUSIT work with NAATI and communicate the opinions of practitioners, they also have forums where these things are discussed.

Best of luck with your work!

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Zoltan Vandulek  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:36
Hungarian to English
Petition posted Aug 10, 2016

Hi Melissa,

Thank you for taking the time to reply.

I'm a bit over the first point: in my ideal world if NAATI were the accrediting authority, they'd prescribe that the contents of the translation have to be accurate and your stamp would attest to that. Then the DFAT should not tell translators where and how to repeat the same, already confirmed information. But of course I realise this will never happen.

On the second point however, I maintain my position.

I just had to complete my revalidation package, and although your points are valid (e.g. spending time in your LOTE country or participating on forums can gain you CPD points) the level of prescribed intricacies is mind blowing. I personally can't meet the minimum 30 point is the field of "translating and interpreting skills development" because I haven't attended
- translating webinars by a professional org
- formal translation training
- higher NAATI accreditation
- translating qualification
- etc.

Never mind that my bread and butter (birth certificates) remain the same forever. Never mind that I completed over half a million words this year only (the complete syllabus of a university was the greatest contributor to the volume), never mind that I speak the LOTE at home with my wife and friends, while working in a language-intensive English environment. I still can't meet the points, unless I invested further research into which specific webinars would be acceptable for this field, then spend the additional money and time.

I genuinely take the current requirements to be ridiculous. And I can see the slogan of "having consulted industry stakeholders" before the introduction to revalidation, but it seems to me like they failed in doing so.

To me a translator is much like a cook. You learn to cook, you know the basics, there are dishes you cook every day - and you will not lose that competence automatically. You should not be required to continue to train in the field of cooking, otherwise your accreditation would lapse.

(Although I'm afraid this is the way of the future, and much like NAATI wanted to catch up to the standards of solicitors, soon some cooking regulator body will introduce the above forecasted requirement for cooking CPD.)

Therefore I made it official and launched a petition on

I would appreciate it tremendously if you read it and, if agreed, signed this attempt of simplification.
Thank you again; it was great to have your feedback.

Zoltan Vandulek | MBA
Hun>Eng NAATI 71120
BELAW | Bottoms English Lawyers

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Blair Denholm
Local time: 04:36
Russian to English
I agree with the big Z Aug 11, 2016

Zoltan, you are spot on. I am fortunate in that I achieved my accreditation in the early days and, as such, am not required to undergo this arduous and unnecessary re-accreditation nonsense. It's hard enough to pass the test in the first place, so (generally) only excellent translators qualify, at least at the professional level.
My job is as a full-time translator and I know what you are talking about with the cook comparison. In translation, you are learning every day, even without trying!
I have a feeling the whole CPD requirement is a revenue-raising exercise. I shall sign your petition with pleasure!

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MarionHG  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:36
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Yes and no Aug 15, 2016

Hi there,

I agree with the fact that the revalidation exercise is an overwhelming task which requires a very tedious account of every single translation done in the past 3 years, that is far too detailed in its requirements. In addition, to make it easier for myself I had used the form of my previous revalidation to record my translations as they happened over the last three years, only to find out that the form had changed, so that I had to retype everything into the new form! Not happy.

However, I do think some professional development is useful and should be required. I've never attended a session where I hadn't learned at least something, and it presents the invaluable opportunity to network and exchange ideas with other translators, at least when it's on-site training. Without regular refresher course, the ethics of the profession could get neglected by a number of translators, which would damage the profession. And I do not agree that once you know a language, you are a translator for life. If you fill your quota of translations, then of course the practice keeps you up to scratch. However that is not my case, for example, as there is a lot of competition in my language (French) so I have to compensate by many other activities in my language. When you don't practise your language, your vocabulary decreases because you don't call on it often enough (especially if you only translate birth certificates and driver's licences!). I have met people in Australia who are from French or Belgian or Swiss background and whose French has become pretty poor because they hardly ever use it. It's vital to keep your language current (language evolves, as Melissa quite rightly pointed out) and new technologies make for example a medical procedure report vastly different from what it would have been 20 years ago because the medical profession has changed so much. The same is true for most other fields. The cook Zoltan mentions can keep cooking from the same recipes over generations; that doesn't at all apply to our profession. I frankly don't like the comparison with the cooking trade which doesn't require at all the same level of general knowledge in a variety of fields and high ethical standards.

But I agree with the bottom line: the revalidation process is a revenue-raising exercise which is extraordinarily demanding on translators and it should be much simplified, with some evidence of keeping up to date with your language, with the ethics of the profession, and proving a sufficient level of activity in translation which, in case the required 'number of words' is not reached, could be provided in other ways, for example appreciation on the quality of your translations by clients, evidence of returning clients or evidence of immersion in the relevant country/countries or activity in the relevant language(s).


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Local time: 04:36
English to French
+ ...
What are we doing PD for? Aug 21, 2016

In general I agree with Zoltan's argument: the current PD revalidation system is too onerous. While desirable, there can be no justification for it in an industry where rates have been falling for the last 15 years due mainly to globalisation.

And we also have to ask, why are we doing it?

After all, we work in a marketplace where we provide a certain service, and if we do a crummy job, clients simply won't use us again. So the idea that we need to 'weed out' sub-standard translators is irrelevant. The idea that 'professionalisation' will also somehow stop crummy translations from coming in from abroad is also nonsense - you might as well try and stop the tide rising.

NAATI and academia principally claim that by 'professionalising' T/I, rates will magically rise and we'll all start earning a decent living in an idyllic future where T/Is are accepted as professionals.

My life experience and observation of the T/I marketplace tell me that this argument has about as much validity as Ronald Reagan's 'trickle-down' economics.

The marketplace doesn't give a stuff about either our qualifications or, for that matter, the quality of our work. The mere fact that 'Google Translate' exists means that there is now a durable idea out there that translation is just a click away. Even major law-firms, though they won't use machine translation, will now use cheap-as-chips foreign translations that are often woeful. They deal with the consequences down the track. That is our reality.

All of this to say: the strict and onerous PD requirements (which I never opted into) are inappropriate given the level of our remuneration and futile in their stated aims of transforming the industry. Everything points to T/I remaining durably fragmented and provided largely (even by competent T/Is) on a part-time basis.

As I see it, the only real hope at least for interpreting is unionisation and collective labour action (and such moves overseas in the US and UK seem to bear this out). The PA experiment in Vic is to be supported and watched closely (though they are proving a bit half-hearted in their approach).

John B, French T/I, Sydney

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Local time: 02:36
PD system doesn't solve problems Sep 9, 2016

My professional level accreditation was obtained in 2000, well before the 2007 change, so I have not been following the PD revalidation system closely until last year when I upgraded my accreditation to advanced level and became subjected to the requirements of PD.

I remember one of the main reasons offered by NAATI for the introduction of the PD revalidation system was that there had been a lot of complaints by clients about the quality of service, and they thought this revalidation system would help encourage practitioners to improve their skills so that the industry could offer better quality service.

But in my opinion, the poor quality of the service was due to the failure of the testing system. I have seen many very poor translations done by accredited translators (and interpreters, too), while some people who demonstrate excellent language skills in their L2 language failed the NAATI test. The test system is very secretive and all the testing paper is taken away from you once you complete your test, so it is very difficult to argue about your testing results with just a piece of paper listing, out of context, the mistakes you supposedly made.

I think the revalidation system is just an effort made by NAATI to clean up the mess created by the failure of the testing system, and to make some money along the way.

I think a more effective way of solving the quality problem is to make everyone go through a more transparent testing process, and for everyone who pass the new test, give them a new designation.

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Australian regulator NAATI: petition to improve

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