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credentials: what do they mean to job posters?
Thread poster: Cathy Flick

Cathy Flick  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:33
Member (2003)
Russian to English
+ ...
Mar 10, 2011

I'm a scientific translator and like many scientific translators, I am a scientist first and a translator as my way to make a living. We spend many years training in our fields, and as translators restrict ourselves to our fields (which involve a subset of the full language). We commonly have more than one source language for this reason -- we are not claiming to be able to converse and write in a multitude of languages, but just to be able to read in our fields. I've had long-time clients even ask me to add more source languages because the need for specialists is so great in my areas.

We often become translators later in our careers, after gathering research and/or teaching experience in our fields. So quite a few of us do not bother (or need to bother) to get any kind of "translation-related" credentials as apparently defined by ProZ in our profiles. I'm not selling any broad knowledge of the culture and language of the source text. Scientific papers don't even use the full grammar ... I am essentially bicultural in the laboratory, though, because around the world we use the same equipment and even often the same textbooks (in translation as needed...). I'm selling my knowledge of specific fields, my ability to read research literature in those fields in my source languages, my ability to write comparable research articles in my native language, and my ability to sort out new terminology because of my background, since technical dictionaries are obsolete before they're published and have errors and omissions. Hasn't been a problem for me in more than 3 decades of full-time work as a translator...

So I wonder if job posters realize that if they check off "credentials required" that this will eliminate from the pool any people like me. This might not matter so much for jobs in other areas, and may be what the poster really wants if they are trying to figure out if the translator actually knows the source language without checking references.

But if the job posters think "credentials" include advanced degrees in specific fields or if they don't know that experienced scientific translators are much less likely than others to have language certification or translation degrees - this could be an unexpected problem for them. I just saw a job posted like this - they obviously wanted someone competent in chemistry or chemical engineering, but a real live chemist who has been translating chemistry for about 33 years couldn't even see their name because my profile doesn't include translation-related degrees/certification. I looked at my profile and couldn't see any place to enter my very relevant professional degrees in chemistry and physics (other than in the "about me" section).

Many times I have been offered jobs specifically because I have advanced degrees in the sciences (all the way through a Ph.D. in a joint chemical physics program). The end clients actually specify that at least a master's degree is needed in specific relevant fields. Sometimes they specify chemist or physicist. Such clients, who have highly technical docs that require extensive general background in certain fields and the ability to learn new things quickly because of that background (essential for scientific/technical translators), quite frankly are not interested in translation-related credentials such as translation degrees or certification. They can find out if you are competent in the language by simply asking your references. They need a scientist, not someone who may be brilliantly bilingual but doesn't know anything about the field. So you can see that if the job poster thinks "credentials" means "advanced degrees in the field" as it does in ordinary language - this might not be what they intended.

I would suggest two options:

1) Make it crystal-clear to job posters that not all experienced specialized translators have the "credentials" indicated by ProZ (language-related credentials) but may have advanced degrees in the specific fields of the translation, which might be exactly what the job poster needs, but such people would be eliminated if they require "credentials" according to ProZ criteria. So they should be very cautious about checking that box if they do need such specialists.

or

2) Extend the meaning of credentials on our profiles to at least include advanced degrees in specific fields (perhaps separating into "language-related credentials" and "field-specific credentials" for clarity). This would be helpful for people in other areas as well. If the separation is made, though, ProZ still has to warn job posters about the "pool shrinkage" problem if they check off "language-related credentials required".



Peace, Cathy Flick


Ph.D. Chemical Physics/M.A. Physics/B.S. Chemistry
Scientific Translator since 1978
Russian/French/German/Spanish/Italian into US English


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Maria Diehn  Identity Verified
United States
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Your comment/suggestion makes all sense, Mar 10, 2011

Your comment/suggestion makes all sense,

2) Extend the meaning of credentials on our profiles to at least include advanced degrees in specific fields (perhaps separating into "language-related credentials" and "field-specific credentials" for clarity). This would be helpful for people in other areas as well.


Regards,


Maria Diehn



[Edited at 2011-03-10 22:33 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:33
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Four types of credentials Mar 10, 2011

Cathy Flick wrote:
So I wonder if job posters realize that if they check off "credentials required" that this will eliminate from the pool any people like me.


Your post made me go have a second look at my own declared credentials. I remembered that I wasn't entirely honest when declaring my credentials... but then neither were hundreds of other people who were forced (just like me) to declare their credentials in a way that ProZ.com's system allows but which isn't 100% true (it's 99% true, in my case -- but wouldn't it be great if I could be completely, 100% honest instead?).

I think the credential declaration system needs an overhaul -- to be fair to people like you who have other degrees, but also to people like me whose credential isn't in any particular language combination but in *translation* itself, and also to people who actually have a language *combination* credential insteada of just having a credential in one other language besides their native language.

There should be four types of credentials:

1. Language communication: In other words, a member's expertise in communicating in a specific language. If you studied a language and got a diploma, certificate or degree in it, but your training wasn't specifically in translation between that language and another language.

2. Language combination translation: In other words, a member's expertise in translating between two languages. This would commonly be credentails conferred by translation associations' accreditation or certification systems, because these people would have been tested on actual translation ability, and specifically in certain languages.

3. Language industry training: In other words, whether a member has a recognised diploma, certificafte, degree etc in any language-related field, such as editing, translation, lexicography, journalism, etc. I myself would be in this category.

4. Non-language related degrees and diplomas: In other words, any post-graduate qualification in any field apart from language-related itself. This is where you (Cathy) would fit in.

In addition, members in the category #4 credential group should specify the field of study in a drop-down list. All four groups can have drop-down lists to indicate a specific type of credential (in addition to the usual freeform field), so that jobs posters can specify what's what.


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Aida Samardzic  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 10:33
Member (2009)
English to Serbo-Croat
+ ...
Absolutely agree Mar 10, 2011

Dear Cathy,

You are absolutely right about that and I agree a hundred percent with you. We all know very well that the experts in specific fields can be far better translators than those with advanced translation degrees or language certification, particularly when it comes to scientific articles. In such cases, the concrete knowledge and expertise are not an asset, but a must.

Best regards,
Aida


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 05:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
Why restrict this ... Mar 10, 2011

... to 'post-graduate' qualies?

Samuel Murray wrote (with my bold, to highlight the offending expression):
...
4. Non-language related degrees and diplomas: In other words, any post-graduate qualification in any field apart from language-related itself.


MediaMatrix


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:33
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Good point Mar 10, 2011

mediamatrix wrote:
... to 'post-graduate' qualies?


Oops, I mean post-school (but even that may be inaccurate in some countries). In other words, any tertiary or vocational training. However, there should be a way for jobs poster to filter out those with 1-year diplomas from those with 5 year degrees.


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 05:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
Why? Mar 10, 2011

Samuel Murray wrote:
However, there should be a way for jobs poster to filter out those with 1-year diplomas from those with 5 year degrees.


What do you have against those with 1-year diplomas?

MediaMatrix


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 06:33
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The fifth type Mar 10, 2011

Samuel Murray wrote:

There should be four types of credentials:

2. Language combination translation: In other words, a member's expertise in translating between two languages. This would commonly be credentails conferred by translation associations' accreditation or certification systems, because these people would have been tested on actual translation ability, and specifically in certain languages.


A fifth type, only available in certain countries (those that have laws on this matter) and for a limited number language pairs would be governmental accreditation. It could be a sub-type of #2 above, or not.

If the client is requesting credentials just as an assurance that someone has actually tested and approved that translator, it amounts to the same. However if they request credentials so that the (sworn/certified) translations will be valid for official purposes in a specific country, that's another issue.


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Jive
Local time: 10:33
English to Russian
+ ...
Fully agree and suggest that more than one specific field be allowed for each degree Mar 10, 2011

Cathy, as someone with a Ph.D., I do share your concern and completely agree with your option 2 / Sam's credential type 4 idea. I think there's a pretty pressing need to do something along these lines.

I would also suggest that more than one field of study be allowed to be specified if a list of the fields is introduced: many areas have become or are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary. Cathy's Ph.D. is in an interdisciplinary area from what I can infer and my Ph.D., for example, is in mathematics, but it is mathematics applied to biology, more specifically, to neuroscience (which is why the field is called computational neuroscience). I think this multidisciplinary aspect of many people's degrees is something that our potential clients could benefit from and should be (made) aware of.


Cathy Flick wrote:

2) Extend the meaning of credentials on our profiles to at least include advanced degrees in specific fields (perhaps separating into "language-related credentials" and "field-specific credentials" for clarity). This would be helpful for people in other areas as well. If the separation is made, though, ProZ still has to warn job posters about the "pool shrinkage" problem if they check off "language-related credentials required".




Sam Murray wrote:

4. Non-language related degrees and diplomas: In other words, any post-graduate qualification in any field apart from language-related itself. This is where you (Cathy) would fit in.

In addition, members in the category #4 credential group should specify the field of study in a drop-down list.



[Edited at 2011-03-11 00:03 GMT]


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 05:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
Why ... Mar 11, 2011

... do you think ...

Samuel Murray wrote:
...
3. Language industry training: In other words, whether a member has a recognised diploma, certificafte, degree etc in any language-related field, such as editing, translation, lexicography, journalism, etc.
...


... training or qualies in journalism is relevant when claiming competence as a translator?

MediaMatrix


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:33
French to English
+ ...
Definition is very fuzzy Mar 11, 2011

First of all, a couple of things that are clear with the current definition of "credential" on ProZ:
- it's obviously intended to be a language credential, since credentials are reported per language pair;
- job posters ARE told that requiring a credential will restrict the number of candidates, in the sense that it is actively suggested to them (along with other criteria) that requiring a credential is a way to reduce the number of notifications sent.

I think there could be some value in having, as well as language credentials, "field" credentials.

However, even with the criteria above, "credential" still remains quite a fuzzy term. As far as I can see, somebody with a "French" degree that focussed mainly on issues of Madame Bovary's hat size or how the number of lamps per square metre affected Baudelaire's depression would, on paper, be as much of a "credential" as a "French" degree consisting entirely of language and translation classes.

It's rare for somebody to have research-level knowledge of BOTH a scientific field and languages, so for a given project, some balance inevitably has to be struck and/or multiple colleagues need to work on the project. There's an argument for allowing outsourcers to fine-tune their search criteria depending on whether they require a credential in the field and/or in the language (pair). As ever, it assumes that clients can actually make an informed decision.

I should say that some outsourcers (including myself when I'm looking for collaborators in a particular field) may be cautious of translators who haven't actually studied the language in question to a high level. In my personal experience, I've had more trouble with experts in the field making extremely basic mistakes in terms of misinterpreting the "core language" than I have with language specialists with a "first year of a degree course" level of knowledge in the field being unable to research terms and concepts. But I appreciate that depending on the field and project, your mileage may vary.

[Edited at 2011-03-11 02:39 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-03-11 02:44 GMT]


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xxxManticore  Identity Verified

Local time: 10:33
English to German
+ ...
I have seen Mar 11, 2011

quite a few registered translators at ProZ.com with credentials who lack even the basics. Some of them are even sworn ones. I checked their questions and their answers; I came to the conclusion that it might be an honour not to have credentials.

If I was relying on ProZ.com for translation jobs I would be forced to use "steroids" to be able to compete. Ergo, ProZ.com should change the system of credentials into something more meaningful.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:33
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I have nothing against 1 year diplomas Mar 11, 2011

mediamatrix wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
However, there should be a way for jobs poster to filter out those with 1-year diplomas from those with 5 year degrees.

What do you have against those with 1-year diplomas?


The proposed credential feature isn't for me -- it is for outsourcers who may have certain beliefs about what qualifications a translator might have that they require. I myself have nothing against 1-year diplomas -- the distinction would be there for outsourcers who want to specify it.

But... even though I have nothing against 1-year diplomas, I do believe it would be silly not to acknowledge that on average a 1-year qualification is worth less (in terms of clout) than a 5-year qualification.

I myself am at the short end of such a stick because I only have a "diploma" and not a "degree", even though I personally believe that my training was much more thorough and industry-specific than that of many of my colleagues who have degrees.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:33
German to English
also strongly agree Mar 11, 2011

Hello everyone,
I would love to be able to list my subject-matter degrees here and I agree that a lot of direct clients and non-agency outsourcers would often prefer this as a means to narrow down their selection of translators. The current system only really addresses the needs of agencies SCHEMATICALLY applying the CEN 15038 and similar quality standards.

Samuel's system with José's supplement (is it currently really not possible to search for sworn translators?) seems like a fully functional model.

I think these points all offer very relevant criteria for searches in the translator index, serve the interests of clients as well as translators, and would give the index here a significant advantage over ProZ's competitors.

Sincerely,
Michael

P.S.: I did not quite understand Neil's post: I agree that a degree in a foreign language offers little evidence of competency as a translator - if that is what you meant. At the end of your post you wrote "studied the language in question to a high level": Are you referring to a translation studies degree here or do you really mean a language degree?
Credential 1 (foreign language degree) is also the only suggestion that I would question, but I think it should be included because specialized degrees in translation seem to be the absolute exception in many countries.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 06:33
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Sworn/Certified - a somewhat complex situation Mar 11, 2011

Michael Wetzel wrote:
Samuel's system with José's supplement (is it currently really not possible to search for sworn translators?) seems like a fully functional model.


As I said, some countries have laws on translation for official/legal purposes; others don't. It's a choice open to any sovereign nation.

So Brazil has such a law, passed in 1943. No document in a 'foreign' (in Brazil) language will be valid for any official purpose unless accompanied by its sworn translation by Brazilian government-accredited translators. All details here. However being such a translator, in my case, certified for English (an implicitly for Portuguese, the national language) also entitles me to issue certified/sworn translations from Portuguese into English.

To illustrate further, Brazil has no laws on when notarized copies and/or signatures are required. So each agency/office is free to set their own rules. Sometimes they don't, and such decision will be made ad-hoc by the attending public clerk, and sometimes may vary with their mood on any specific day.

Most English-speaking countries don't have such laws. So every agency or institution is free to set their own rules, like for notarized copies/signatures in Brazil. The only solution is to ask wherever the foreign docs will be submitted, and the 'chance' factor described here makes it impossible to build a database on who requires what.

Just to illustrate... One state professional accreditation board in the US requires certified translations of academic documents by an ATA-accredited member. A similar board in Canada demands it to be translated by whatever is deemed an 'official translator' in the country where the documents were issued. A school in the US said academic records for continuing education there could be translated by the student him/herself. Australian authorities publicly recommend NAATI-accredited translators, however they readily accept translations by Brazilian certified translators.

Spain has a similar law to the Brazilian one, the difference being that Spanish sworn translators may exist and function as such anywhere, while their Brazilian counterparts are constrained to the national territory. The regulations on the matter in Portugal are so vague that I wouldn't know for sure if a translation of mine would be valid there or not.

There are countless other details that I'm omitting here for the sake of brevity (which by now is already a forlorn cause ). So there is no way to search for sworn translators, since there are too many variables at play.

Now, back to the original question: Is government certification an adequate credential? The answer is undetermined. The certifying government will certainly be accepting, and hence sort of endorsing the translations by such individuals. However no outsider can be sure if such certification was obtained by competence or political clout.

[Edited at 2011-03-11 12:30 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-03-11 12:30 GMT]


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