PNS - alternative solutions
Thread poster: Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO) (X)

Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO) (X)
Local time: 21:25
German to English
+ ...
Oct 22, 2001

I still support the original idea behind the PNS mark, but since Henry has already presented us with an alternative way of implementing it, here are a few more suggestions:

  • Of course, as has been pointed out repeatedly, a simple phone conversation will never be sufficient to determine a person\'s qualification or suitability to work as a translator. Granted, that PNS \"test\" is certainly more useful for interpreters than for translators.

  • One problem I see, however, is identity verification - for example, the person wishing to be PNS-certified could ask a friend to do the phone interview for him/her. I am not saying that this would happen frequently, but it might. ProZ has over 24,000 members, so chances are that Henry (or anyone of the 4 testers) will never hear that person ever again. So, who\'s to say that the person on the phone really is \"xxxxx\", profile no. 17336?

  • As I said, this problem will, at its worst, be a negligible one. But this brings me to my actual alternative suggestion: since proper identity verification will not go beyond credit-card verification and signing a sworn statement, why not do a written test (to be sent in by e-mail or regular mail)? Let me explain:

In Canada, CTIC organizes certification examinations for translators every year; these exams are administered by the various provincial associations. In the past, those exams were very much like those used by ATA in the US. About 2 years ago, however, they changed their approach. Instead of requiring candidates to translate technical, legal, etc. texts of considerable length, CTIC now uses fairly \"bite-sized\" texts or text passages in those exams; they are not overly technical in terms of vocabulary, but challenging indeed.

The purpose is to a) establish whether the candidate is capable of understanding the source language, b) establish whether the candidate is capable of rendering the source text in a given target language, and c) to establish whether the candidate has a \"native command\" of the target language. So, in effect, these exams certify both translation skills and \"native capability\" - and this is already being done (at least in Canada)!

For ProZ and PNS purposes, these texts would not have to be very long: 250 words will do. In addition, this written test could be combined with a telephone interview.

Or: instead of such a translation test, you might also have the candidate write a short essay in his/her native language(s) (again, in combination with a phone interview).

Naturally, these alternatives are not the ultimate solution to this problem either, and they would probably go far beyond Henry\'s original concept, but it\'s food for thought. That\'s all.


Telesforo Fernandez (X)
Local time: 07:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Chances of impersonation? Oct 23, 2001

It is a good input. Somebody\'s could act for someone else. What a way to get Native Speaker certification!. How to solve these problems? Anyway, since the voices will be recorded, Proz peers could call the native speaker without prior intimation and check whether he talks with the same fluency. What a painful task!. Where there is a will there is a will.

The native speaker certification is quite useful for bilingual or trilingual translators- here I see a great point - Bilingual and triligual translators should get themselves tested positive for nativeness (or nativity or just tested positive for native.) I am just lost.


Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO) (X)
Local time: 21:25
German to English
+ ...
Honour system Oct 23, 2001

As for the identity verification problem, I would not blow it out of proportion as I said. There might be a handful of fraudulent cases, but overall we should not get too concerned about this. But basically it comes down to an honour system, and that\'s why I thought it would be nice to add a written part to the test as well (of course, the written portion could also be produced by a friend or spouse, but under an honour system, that\'s the best anyone can do).

I fully agree with you, Telesforo, the people that stand to benefit the most from the PNS mark are those that are bilingual or trilingual, but have no way of providing proof.

So, that\'s why I\'d like to see Henry\'s alternative adopted: paying members will get one PNS mark with paid membership, but they will still have the option of getting certified for additional languages.


Henry Dotterer
Local time: 21:25
Lets not confuse things: PNS has nothing to do with translation ability. Oct 23, 2001

The PNS check is what it is--a quick check of native language. Certifying that someone is a good translator is a whole other ballgame.

No one offers a native speaker check. We needed one, so we have created one. But associations around the world make translation testing available. We should take advantage of the good programs.

As for the not-so-good ones, we should push them to:

(1) Have more transparent and less biased processes

(2) Make their testing more widely available, and

(3) Stop charging yearly \"maintenance\" fees. (Ask your local association why you must be a member, year after year, for them to verify a credential you have earned.)

Though I have been we have been rebuffed on a number of occasions by dinosaurish associations, I have not given up on them yet.

So here, again, is my offer to the forward-thinking associations out there: If you have developed an exceptional translator testing program over the years, and would like to extend it around the world, contact me. would be willing to administer your test with you, as long as you are willing to decouple the credential from membership in your association. Our translators do not want to pay $100-$300 per year just for the right to claim they passed your text once.


Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO) (X)
Local time: 21:25
German to English
+ ...
Time to galvanize Oct 23, 2001

Absolutely and 100%: most of the major associations (or, perhaps, even all of them) have gotten way too self-complacent.

I agree with you, Henry: membership fees are merely \"maintenance fees\" slapped on something that you yourself have achieved. It makes no sense: if universities were to employ the same type of thinking, then we would have to keep paying tuition fees until we die or they would revoke our diplomas, degrees, etc. A ridiculous concept!

Please do not misunderstand my previous contribution: I agree with your original idea behind the PNS mark (i.e., no translation components); my suggestion merely tried to address some of the concerns previously raised by other members and show up a different route (\"food for thought\").

But one thing\'s for sure (given the discussion so far): the PNS mark will be one of the hot items for debate at the upcoming ATA conference (and maybe \"wake up\" ATA at the same time).


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PNS - alternative solutions

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