Considerations regarding credentials
Thread poster: williamson (X)

williamson (X)
Local time: 07:22
Dutch to English
+ ...
Dec 5, 2001

I have known a pilot, who had an ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License):

This license authorizes a person to fly wide-bodied aircraft. Mind you, it is not a license for life. Every six months a pilot has to prove a minimum of 150 hours of flight and take a test to keep his/her license. This is true throughout the entire career of an airline pilot. Would you step into an airplane which is piloted by a pilot without a license?

Is this true for translation too?

Yes and ... no.

I have also known a clerk without a degree in translation and without any certification, who succeeded in a translator exam at a telephone company. After 30 years as a translator, he was more or less a walking dictionary and a polyglot.

He did something very \"unethical\" (bromide in North-America if you want to point out how bad a business opponent is): he translated into languages, which were not his mother-tongue.

Mind you, he lived in an officially trilingual country with a bilingual capital, which at the same time is a Tower of Babel due to the international institutions this capital harbors.

It took him 20 years to become fluent in English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. He translated into any combination of these languages. If he had never started to do so because of ethical reasons, he would never have become so good.

Do translation and learning by doing match? Or do you have to enter into the profession with a degree?

Who will be the best translator: someone with formal training and certification or someone, who has a natural gift for languages, who is eager to learn and who learns by doing?

With regard to rates: I can only refer to Aquarius: The minimum bid rate is €0.07. This \"compromise\" chases away cheapskates. After all, (except for a few pro bono translations), we are all into freelance translation for money or do some of you work for a kind of higher spiritual morale?

Until now, I did not see any reaction on this forum of translators, who work at international institutions such as E.U., NATO, and U.N. Some feedback of their part on the issues discussed here would be very valuable.


Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:22
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Hey dolphin... Dec 5, 2001

You said: \"Do translation and learning by doing match? Or do you have to enter into the profession with a degree?

Who will be the best translator: someone with formal training and certification or someone, who has a natural gift for languages, who is eager to learn and who learns by doing?\"

I would say the best translator is someome with a natural gift for languages, who is eager to learn and learn by doing, with formal training and certification as well.



Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO) (X)
Local time: 01:22
German to English
+ ...
Right on, Giovanni Dec 5, 2001

Fully agree!


williamson (X)
Local time: 07:22
Dutch to English
+ ...
Formal training Dec 6, 2001

What has to be on the curriculum of such formal training? Due to the importance of the I.T.-industry, more possibilities have become available for the translator e.g. localization. Some schools for translators and interpreters will have to catch up with regard to this important branch of translation.

There are 3 years, 4 years and 5 years formal translator educations. If you are pro-standardization, shouldn\'t these educations and degrees (“licenciado”, B.A., M.A.) be streamlined too, offering a wide choice of opportunities? It would mean the creation of something like the European Masters in Conference Interpreting, which is recognized by the European Commission, by AIIC and throughout Europe.

According to which neutral criteria should a student be evaluated? If a student of exact sciences his/her calculation at an exam is correct, he/she passes, whether the professor likes him/her or not. At formal linguistic educations, the opinion and the mood of the professor counts more with regard to your marks than the correctness of the translation.

If you are pro-certification, isn\'t it better to sit at a certification test every six months (like a pilot). If you succeed, you can continue being a translator, if you do not succeed bad luck.

After all, a degree and a certificate prove that once upon a time you were able to deliver good translations to your professors and to the assessors of the professional body, who evaluated your exams and your test.


Paul Roige (X)
Local time: 07:22
English to Spanish
+ ...
more cetacean thoughts Dec 6, 2001

Dolphin: Your sonar sounds on the matter are quite interesting. Please allow me to follow your wake with a few more questions, if I may:

Is a degree or diploma or certificate real proof of a translator\'s worth? What\'s more valuable: a degree after 5 years hard work at a university or 10 living abroad doing all kinds of jobs and mingling with (nearly) all kinds of people (from seed factories to, ae, universities too) and soaking the language and civilisation of that foreign country? How do you learn more?

And how bad in the eyes of a Canadian translator who charges $$$$ can be a translator from, say, crisis-stricken Argentina who will steal the job for US 5 cents a word? Is it really true that the more $$ you charge the better you are at translating? Or is it at business? Or both? Or none of the above?

As for the pilot\'s test: don\'t you guys think that EACH and EVERY translation we take IS a test which we HAVE TO pass with the highest mark, every time, every day of our lifes? As I see it, in the sense of doing the best job, we are as much under scrutiny as pilots and especially, at least in my case, from ourselves. Or how am I going to feel when I know my last translation was crap? (Because we do know, we don\'t need to be told).

Who can say they never made that embarrassing mistake, no matter how much experience or degrees we have?

What was first: ¿el huevo o la gallina? Should you get a degree first and experience later, or the other way round? What if you are a Quetchua native speaker but spend 20 years living in Iceland speaking and mastering Icelandic? Does that mean you can\'t translate into Icelandic, just because some regulation says so?

So, how can a translator\'s worth be measured realistically? Is this possible at all in today\'s world?

I\'ll appreciate all points of view and inputs on these matters.

Chao icon_smile.gif


Patricia Myers
United States
Local time: 22:22
English to Catalan
+ ...
There's no substitute for education Dec 6, 2001

I beleive that to be a translator you have to be good at languages but I also believe training is necessary. Someone can speak two or more languages perfectly and be an awful translator. Translation is not only being able to translate from one language to another. There are lots of things to consider such as translation strategies, handling cultural references, and more. When you go to school and take a degree in translation you learn things you wouldn\'t typically learn on your own.

Some translators don\'t even know the grammar of their own language. Such a translator isn\'t likely to produce quality translations. For example,some native Spanish speakers don\'t seem to know when to hyphenate words. They conjugate verbs incorrectly or write articles where they shouldn\'t. I could give more examples. Translators have to have a deep understanding of the construction of their own language before attempting to translate into another.

Bottom line, translation degrees exist for a reason. If producing quality translations was normally possible without training there would be no need for such a degree to exist.


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