Poll: Do you think being a member of a professional translation association has benefited your career?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Local time: 12:29
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May 31, 2015

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you think being a member of a professional translation association has benefited your career?".

This poll was originally submitted by Lenah Susianty. View the poll results »



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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:29
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
On the contrary May 31, 2015

When I was a member of the American Translators Association, I ended up spending too much time on ATA business, to the detriment of my regular work schedule.

I had a full-time desk job at the time; since I started freelancing (23 years ago), I definitely haven't had the time. I value every minute away from desk; I spend that time wisely.


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Billh
Local time: 20:29
Spanish to English
+ ...
What's the point?? May 31, 2015

I have never joined anything. It might help those who have no work......

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:29
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Membership vs. accreditation May 31, 2015

Membership is usually a matter of paying dues. Accreditation is a matter of taking some kind of examination, or having some stipulated credentials.

I took an official exam, passed, and was appointed a sworn translator licensed by my country's federal government, pursuant to BR Decree 13,609... yadda, yadda...

A few months later, I joined the SP State Sworn Translators Association. Of course, if I weren't a sworn translator, no money would make them accept me as a member. However I paid their dues for a few years, saw no benefit from that, and dropped out.

I could join a professional golfers association by merely paying whatever they charge, without ever having held a golf club in my hands, supposedly if I could find three members there who would kinda endorse me as being neither a crook nor an overly obnoxious individual.

From a distance, I can see a clear difference between being a member of the ATA and being a translator accredited/endorsed/certified by the ATA as such. One is about money, the other is about qualification.


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Fabio M. Caldas  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 02:29
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Really? May 31, 2015

Muriel Vasconcellos wrote:

When I was a member of the American Translators Association, I ended up spending too much time on ATA business, to the detriment of my regular work schedule.

I had a full-time desk job at the time; since I started freelancing (23 years ago), I definitely haven't had the time. I value every minute away from desk; I spend that time wisely.


Hi Muriel, I have never been a member of any association. Thus, I would like to take advantage of your experience and comment to ask what do you mean with "spending too much time on ATA business". If I may ask, doing what precisely?


José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Membership is usually a matter of paying dues. Accreditation is a matter of taking some kind of examination, or having some stipulated credentials.

I took an official exam, passed, and was appointed a sworn translator licensed by my country's federal government, pursuant to BR Decree 13,609... yadda, yadda...

A few months later, I joined the SP State Sworn Translators Association. Of course, if I weren't a sworn translator, no money would make them accept me as a member. However I paid their dues for a few years, saw no benefit from that, and dropped out.

I could join a professional golfers association by merely paying whatever they charge, without ever having held a golf club in my hands, supposedly if I could find three members there who would kinda endorse me as being neither a crook nor an overly obnoxious individual.

From a distance, I can see a clear difference between being a member of the ATA and being a translator accredited/endorsed/certified by the ATA as such. One is about money, the other is about qualification.


Hi José Henrique, if you may as well contribute a little bit more... what do you mean when you say that "one is about money"? Money for the benefit of the association alone and no actual financial return for you as a member?

Thank you both of you!


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:29
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The devil's advocate May 31, 2015

Fabio M. Caldas wrote:

Hi José Henrique, if you may as well contribute a little bit more... what do you mean when you say that "one is about money"? Money for the benefit of the association alone and no actual financial return for you as a member?


Think as a client in need of a translator... what would make you search for one in an association, instead of merely googling for them?

Most likely, you want to spare yourself from checking qualifications. If there are such restrictions to membership in an association, you'll assume that the organization will have done its due diligence, so you won't have to check them again.

If no qualifications are required, all you'll be able to check is whether any individual you'll find there is sufficiently committed to the profession, to the point of investing their hard-earned money in membership fees, an not merely an occasional drop-in to that trade.

Many job posters here require applicants to be paying members on Proz; their job won't "open" to everyone after a while. Well, if I paid for my Proz membership, however just shoved all translation assignments I had through Google Translate and delivered as-is, Proz would NOT oust me for that. I think that this is the reason why the PRO-tag came to be... an endorsement of professional ability by peer translators. Yes, some job posters demand that.

As a member of that sworn translators association in my state, I had my financial benefits. Met some colleagues at their events, made many friends, we shared or mutually threw assignments over the fence to each other. My details also got published on their printed directory published and distributed once a year. I was included on the association's web site's search contrivance. That worked for a while, but it soon reached a limit, which was quite low.

However these benefits were limited. Of course, I am listed on the pertinent specific governmental surveillance agency's web site. I also have my own web site ranked quite high on Google (without ever having spent one penny on SEO - but this is another matter). Furthermore, I am "present" at Proz and most similar e-venues on the web. Most of all, I am an active member on a Yahogroups newslist exclusive to such sworn translators.

On the dark side, I saw the association doing nothing other than offering a few benefits I already had or could get elsewhere, such as discounts at some drugstore chains, travel agencies, life insurance brokers, etc. Some get-togethers they organized at restaurants were visibly overpriced. The association spent a fortune on some questionable projects involving legislation that were technically sketchy and, of course, never paid off (though one law office made a big bundle from that). The association failed to defend its constituents (i.e. both members and non-members) before government in most of the occasions when it was necessary. The darkest side lacks evidence, however some colleagues told me that secretaries/clerks at the association once were instructed to railroad any job-related queries by phone or mail to members of the association's elected board of directors, gone now, but who held office for several consecutive terms.

I am not accusing anyone here, merely pointing out that some people must part with a considerable amount of their most precious asset - time - to keep such an organization running, so they would be naturally entitled to some form of reward from that.

This is why I think such an association is both self-defeating and useless for most members over the long haul. Considering the currently globalized state of affairs, I consider the Proz model (also found in many other translation portals) to be more effective.


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Anthony Baldwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:29
Member (2006)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
The greatest benefit May 31, 2015

I have garnered from participating in a translators' association would absolutely have to be the acquaintance with other professionals. Other than that, I can't say I've reaped any particular benefit.
But that one benefit was worth the dues I paid for a several years; while I am no longer a member of any such association, I am still friendly with a few excellent professionals whom I regard highly and whose friendship ai value greatly.
So, for the short time I was a member has paid off in lifetime friendship with highly valued colleagues whom I respect deeply and with whom I have shared work, or amongst whom referrals are often traded, resulting in work on numerous occasions.
I dropped out about 5 years ago from such a local association, and made about 1/4 to 1/3 of my income last year sharing projects with a couple of members with whom I continue to maintain regular contact.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:29
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Precisely my point May 31, 2015

Anthony Baldwin wrote:

I have garnered from participating in a translators' association would absolutely have to be the acquaintance with other professionals. Other than that, I can't say I've reaped any particular benefit.
But that one benefit was worth the dues I paid for a several years; while I am no longer a member of any such association, I am still friendly with a few excellent professionals whom I regard highly and whose friendship ai value greatly.
So, for the short time I was a member has paid off in lifetime friendship with highly valued colleagues whom I respect deeply and with whom I have shared work, or amongst whom referrals are often traded, resulting in work on numerous occasions.
I dropped out about 5 years ago from such a local association, and made about 1/4 to 1/3 of my income last year sharing projects with a couple of members with whom I continue to maintain regular contact.


Tony, incidentally both of us participate in some PT-BR e-groups on Yahoo, and that's how it happened that we "met" online and did some jobs together. I haven't been in CT for years, and last time I was there, I merely drove thru from NJ on my way to MA. Yet this didn't prevent us from working together, referring each other etc.

Last time I was in FL, I drove across to the Gulf to meet another colleague I only knew virtually. We worked together for several months on different projects, and still do now and then.

Close to home, I made some friends on those Yahoogroups get-togethers here in Sao Paulo, and we worked together, referred to each other as well.

For the record, Yahooogroups is ad-sponsored, no membership fees in any group.

So in these virtual e-days, a brick-and-mortar professional translators association, at best, would be a chicken flight for many members. Hence there IS indeed a benefit in such membership, however the benefit is longer-lasting than the membership itself, which makes it rather difficult to render the association sustainable over the long haul.

[Edited at 2015-05-31 14:43 GMT]


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J.E.Sunseri  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:29
Member (2009)
Russian to English
+ ...
We need more up-to-date associations May 31, 2015

I quit paying dues to the American Translators Association until they get more in tune with the times. Their certification process, for example, is antiquated and obtuse, requiring investments in hard-copy dictionaries, and handwriting the 3 hour exam. One must pay, I believe, $250, to challenge, or simply see how one did so as to determine if a challenge is worth the money. The trade magazine also offers less than what we provide each other through forums on the Web.

I would like to see an international association for translators that addresses real-world issues we are facing. We operate in a global economy, after all.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:29
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not a member May 31, 2015

Unless proz counts...

I thought about trying to join the UK one, whose name escapes me right now, but their entry requirements were too demanding, even reading through them was a struggle. And the fees were ridiculous.


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:29
French to English
+ ...
Member of the ITI May 31, 2015

I suspect this is the one you mean, Neil - although there is also the CIoL - and yes, the entry requirements are demanding, bur rightly so. The ITI acts as a professional organisation that guarantees the quality of its members by making them sit examinations (or submit suitable pieces of work in some cases), before they are eligible to call themselves qualified members of the ITI. You also have to seek references from customers/colleagues and have worked in the profession for a certain amount of time - none of which is at all unreasonable if the qualification is to be taken seriously. Having jumped through the necessary hoops, you'll be listed in the ITI Directory and be contactable by clients looking for that guarantee of quality. I know that if I'm looking to outsource a translation, on the odd occasions that I do so, my first port of call, if I don't already have a contact in mind, say for a different language combination, will always be the ITI Directory. I'm not saying that there aren't good translators out there who aren't members (as I was one for many years while working part-time when my children were younger), but the very fact that someone has bothered to seek professional validation definitely stands for a lot in my book.

As for other benefits, there's a huge amount to be said for the professional community that develops in an organisation of like-minded individuals, as demonstrated by the recent ITI Conference up in Newcastle: https://clairecoxtranslations.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/window-on-the-tyne-my-view-of-the-2015-iti-conference-in-newcastle/ In an isolated profession, the value of being part of such an organisation and learning from one's colleagues should not be overlooked - be it learning about new developments in the industry to improve working processes or meeting colleagues who may in turn pass on work / contacts further down the line.

As for it being expensive, joining as an associate or student member isn't particularly expensive, although you still need to provide references and proof of experience, and the £200 or so annual membership for qualified membership is tax-deductible and worth its weight in gold. It includes a subscription to the bimonthly ITI Bulletin, an excellent magazine for all translators and interpreters, and access to other benefits such as a legal helpline and cheaper professional indemnity insurance.

Worth every penny to my mind....


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Alan Corbo, CT  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 16:29
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
ATA Certification Jun 1, 2015

I became certified almost 3 years ago, and it's been worth every penny. There's something like 600 English into Spanish ATA certified translators (according to their website), out of 2600 ATA members for that language combination, and out of who knows how many millions of English into Spanish translators worldwide. For language combinations as "crowded" as English into Spanish, becoming certified is an excellent way to stand out and be noticed.

Expensive? Definitelly. Getting certified (something you don't know whether you'll actually achieve until after you have paid, and there's no refund) can easily cost more than USD 1000 (I paid for the practice tests + travel and accomodation expenses in Argentina + plus exam fee + annual membership). Then you have a minimum of USD700 every three years if you are to remain certified (e.g., 20 1-hour webinars at $ 35 each, although I know there are other, cheaper options to collect CE points), plus the annual membership (about USD 200).

It is worth it? Well, I've had clients contacting me just because they found me in the ATA directory. Others have waived their "evaluation" process, since being ATA certified is enough for them. You generally have more "leverage" when it comes to negotiating rates, since clients know that you're serious about the business (and not just an occasional, "I-translate-on-the-side-for-pocket-money" kind of translator). Scammers usually stay away. And the rates (and jobs) you're offered are usually better.

Of course, it doesn't work on its own. You need to make it happen. Being certified (not just a member) is an excellent marketing tool, but you need to make use of it. Once you combine it with, for instance, a business website, a PRO badge in ProZ.com, several LWA comments, some nice reference letters, a solid LinkedIn profile, networking, and other marketing tools, being certified can be a definite boost for your business.





[Edited at 2015-06-01 02:14 GMT]


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:29
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not a fan Jun 1, 2015

I find my own clients and prove my own worth so I don't see any value in joining a translation association. And to be totally honest, I'm actually finding more clients through YouTube than I am here on Proz (and I can charge a lot more). I think my distaste for these large associations comes from my days as a carpenter and absolutely hating the carpenter's union I was forced to join (which is what got me started as a translator).

I did join the Association of Missouri Interpreters last year. Dues were only $15 per year and I thought that being a member of something more official (and state-run) would help me convince my clients to pay me more. Turns out that they "interpret nature" and the association was little more than a group of hippies.


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