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Is ATA certification worth it?
Thread poster: conejo

conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:57
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Oct 31, 2007

Hello. This question is directed to people who have passed the ATA (American Translators Association) certification test, or those who know someone who has, and can speak about it.

I have thought about taking the ATA test many times. However, when I calculated the costs, I figured out that it would cost me probably $800 to take the test (forms, fees, practice tests, registration cost, airplane ticket, hotel, etc.). Then, assuming that I passed, with the new continuing education rules (to keep the certification, certified people have to amass 20 of these ATA 'continuing education' points over 3 years), assuming that I met this by going to the ATA conference once during a 3 year period, and did other activities to fill up the rest of the points, that would be maybe $750 per year (including airfare, hotel and all costs of the conference) if the cost is divided over 3 years, just to maintain the certification.

I mean of course it would be nice to be certified, and it looks good and all, but this seems like a lot of money, and I'm not sure I want to go through the cost and trouble, unless I feel that I can actually make more money from the certification than what I am spending.

To people who have gotten the certification:
Is having the ATA certification really worth all this extra cost?? For example, you got a lot of extra business because of having the certification, or you were able to charge more, or new agencies don't ask you to do translation tests if you are certified, etc.?

Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you.




[Edited at 2007-10-31 14:25]


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Elizabeth Adams  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:57
Member (2002)
Russian to English
+ ...
Some suggestions Oct 31, 2007

Hi,
I don't have any suggestions for bringing down the actual cost of taking the test, but I did want to mention that you can purchase a dvd of the ATA conference every year. The dvd costs $60-80, and you can earn the same number of points for listening to sessions that you would have earned for actually attending them. It's very convenient. Not as much fun as actually going, but when you're pressed for time or don't live anywhere near the conference city, it's a great bargain.

Hope that gives you some ideas.
Best,
Elizabeth


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The Misha
Local time: 20:57
Russian to English
+ ...
I have the same concerns Oct 31, 2007

I have always felt the way you do and never bothered to get certified. I think ATA, just like any other trade association, is by and large a self-serving organization whose interests do not necessarily coincide with those of poor grunts like us. Let's now hear what those who actually did go for it have to say on this matter.

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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
I've "gone for it" several times Oct 31, 2007

I have three ATA certifications and I get the distinct impression that they've convinced some agencies to take a chance on me and agree to pay a fair fee, even though they'd never heard of me before.

The general consensus seems to be that the certifications are most useful at the beginning of your career, when you don't yet have a reputation that can open doors for you. In my case, I got them because I had left freelancing for a number of years and had to build up my client base almost from scratch. I figured any credentials I could add to the CV would be a positive thing.

When the ATA instituted the Continuing Education requirement, I assumed what a lot of members assumed: that it was just a cheap, money-grubbing ploy. I'm glad to say I was proven wrong. ATA has been very good about approving credits for conferences unaffiliated with the organization. In fact, I don't think any of my Continuing Education hours on this last cycle were for ATA seminars or conferences. I tend to go to conferences in other countries since it's a good opportunity to use my source languages, and ATA has always counted them as CE hours.

However, the main thing to remember is that the exams seem to have a relatively high fail rate. So it could be a big expenditure with little payoff.

[Edited at 2007-11-01 00:12]


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sokolniki  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:57
English to Russian
+ ...
I am with The Misha Oct 31, 2007

The Misha wrote:

I have always felt the way you do and never bothered to get certified. I think ATA, just like any other trade association, is by and large a self-serving organization whose interests do not necessarily coincide with those of poor grunts like us. Let's now hear what those who actually did go for it have to say on this matter.


I totally agree with The Misha. In those years in the US as a freelancer I only had one or two occasions when the ATA certification was a must to get a job (translation or interpretation). "Self-serving" is mildly put. Each time I look at their prices, whether it is a certification exam or a conference where each sneeze and each cough is extra, I know of better ways to invest this kind of money.

Continued education: what is travesty. I once attended a health care interpretation seminar out of curiousity. A total waste of time.


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conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:57
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
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TOPIC STARTER
*Nods (response to S. Capsuto) Oct 31, 2007

See that is the thing: the ATA has such a high fail rate, probably translators getting started in their careers aren't good enough to pass it yet. And once your career is built up, you already have a client base, so maybe you don't need it as much.

Also, I have heard a couple of agencies say they go for certified translators first. But with such a high fail rate, I am wondering how many actual certified people are out there in a language pair. Is it like a needle in a haystack??



[Edited at 2007-10-31 20:55]


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Heike Behl, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:57
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
Travesty Oct 31, 2007

Elizabeth Adams wrote:

Hi,
I don't have any suggestions for bringing down the actual cost of taking the test, but I did want to mention that you can purchase a dvd of the ATA conference every year. The dvd costs $60-80, and you can earn the same number of points for listening to sessions that you would have earned for actually attending them. It's very convenient. Not as much fun as actually going, but when you're pressed for time or don't live anywhere near the conference city, it's a great bargain.

Hope that gives you some ideas.
Best,
Elizabeth


Which actually shows what kind of travesty this continuing education is (or has become?). You can fulfill the requirements by buying a DVD, nobody checks whether you actually watch it or not, but you earn your points that are supposed to indicate that you are a better qualified translator... What a joke!

This approach undermines the idea of continued education completely! I don't earn a degree or professional qualification by just buying the course book after all. There has to be at least some kind of verification of the qualification.


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 19:57
English to Russian
+ ...
Good one without and bad ones with Nov 1, 2007

Never bothered to get one but asked many people around. I mean good, honest people, friends and colleaques who got it years ago when it was much easier (logistically) and substantilly cheaper, not some greedy deceivers worrying about extra mouth:-D). At best, the definition of the amount of work coming from ATA directory, if any, can be described as negligeable.

Relying purely on ATA credentials for outsourcing is suicidal (been there, done that, learned and now live).

There could be cases when unexperienced or overly bureaucratic clients (who often know zilch about really significant requirements) might be impressed with an extra piece of paper or a logo on a business card yet it surely isn't worth the trouble.

Were I younger, less lazier and in search of more clients I'd go for ITI (Institute of Translation and Interpreting). I've heard real stories of new doors being opened internationally with these letters on the resume. Check their site out. Of course it would be nice to hear from actual ITI members to confirm my indirect information.


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Needle:haystack | Certified translators:workforce Nov 1, 2007

conejo wrote:
I am wondering how many actual certified people are out there in a language pair. Is it like a needle in a haystack??


In your language pair, there are exactly forty-seven (according to the ATA web site). The competition is tighter in most of my language pairs, particularly Spanish>English and English>Spanish.

On the other hand, the high failure rate is the reason clients take it seriously. If you can pass, you clearly know your stuff.

[Edited at 2007-11-01 01:40]


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Heike Behl, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:57
Member (2003)
English to German
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High level of subjectivity Nov 1, 2007

Steven Capsuto wrote:

On the other hand, the high failure rate is the reason clients take it seriously. If you can pass, you clearly know your stuff.


I would not be so sure about that.

cf. http://www.proz.com/post/574148#574148

I've also seen enough instances of ProZ answers provided by ATA-certified translators which clearly illustrated their incompetence.


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Pieter Botjes
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:57
English to Dutch
Total waste of time and money Nov 1, 2007

I think it's far much better to be member of a professional organisation in your own country (your native language). Rather spend your money in approaching customers!

[Edited at 2007-11-01 10:38]

[Edited at 2007-11-01 11:08]


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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
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Absolutely Nov 1, 2007

Heike Behl, Ph.D. wrote:

Steven Capsuto wrote:

On the other hand, the high failure rate is the reason clients take it seriously. If you can pass, you clearly know your stuff.


I would not be so sure about that.

cf. http://www.proz.com/post/574148#574148

I've also seen enough instances of ProZ answers provided by ATA-certified translators which clearly illustrated their incompetence.




Keep in mind that ATA translations are graded by other ATA translators, not by an official board of nationally recognized experts.
I must say I've had to same reaction to questions asked and answers given by a few IOL certified translators as well.

[Edited at 2007-11-01 15:56]


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conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:57
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
To Irene: Nov 1, 2007

IreneN wrote:

Relying purely on ATA credentials for outsourcing is suicidal (been there, done that, learned and now live).


Hmm. Did you outsource something to someone who was ATA certified and had problems?


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 19:57
English to Russian
+ ...
Yes Nov 1, 2007

It was long ago but "problem" would be a huge underestimate. Desperate, not too experienced and pressed for time then-PM (me:-)) sent a few urgent files to the unknown people from ATA directory... What saved my butt was the prior oral approval by the agency owner...

Can you imagine BAD legal translation coming from a supposedly experienced certified native, paralegal by education?!?!? It happens. The person, who otherwise might have been well-versed in a non-translating environment turned out to be very poor translator scared to death to deviate from the Russian original by a micron. He produced an inlerlinear translation and the impression was that he switched off his native abilities, maybe under pressure, forgot that he was talking to the audience speaking the same language and gave us nearly broken English, sort of what one would do trying to somehow communicate something by "simplifying" the language hardly known to the listener.

I was not the one to assess, we had a native editor who made me to show him guy's advertised credentials to prove that the job was done by a native.

Things happen...

[Edited at 2007-11-01 16:42]


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Chunyi Chen
United States
Local time: 17:57
English to Chinese
It's worth it. Nov 1, 2007

Before I was certified, no one really inquired about my services even though I was willing to charge cheap rates.
With the certification, I can work at decent rates, can afford to turn down not so good offers, and can be in a better position to negotiate.
I think there are ways you can minimize the cost associated with the certification exam and continuing education points. If possible, wait until an exam that happens in your city. Then you don't need to pay for flights and hotel rooms. Remember to take the practice exam(s). To save money, I only took one exam and got an idea how the practice exam was graded.
I would say go for it, unless you are already doing pretty well without it.

[Edited at 2007-11-01 20:28]


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