Conclusions of the Results of the Translation Qualifications Survey (Part 4)

After an overview of the initial results in part 1, in parts 2 and 3 we focused on comments made about the main survey questions.

Specifically in part 2 we examined whether the respondents were thinking of doing any of the four surveyed qualifications (MA/MSc, Diploma in Translation, ATA certification and ITI exam) and which of these four they thought was better.

In part 3 we looked at responses to three questions: Which of the four qualifications are more highly regarded by translators (1), by agencies (2) and by direct clients (3).

This fourth and final part of the results includes some general comments made at the end of the survey and also some insights given under the specific questions that I didn’t manage to fit into the previous three parts of the results as they are more wide-ranging.

One of the major criticisms of the survey is that some respondents found it difficult to choose between the qualifications. This was due to either a lack of knowledge about them, or some of them, or the fact that the qualifications cannot be compared because they differ so greatly.

“The above qualifications are all very different, although an MA is the only one that can offer such a broad coverage of many aspects of translation, both theoretical and practical … I’ve heard translators criticise some aspects of the DipTrans, MITI and MAs, but they all have a value. I don’t think there is any one qualification which is more highly regarded than the others, possibly because there is not enough standardisation across university MA courses.”

“Better in what way? If you look at the number of hours and depth and breadth of study required to get these four certificates, then the MA/MSc is a giant next to the other three. If you look at the professional competence needed, then DipTrans is the gold standard. User-friendliness and lower cost makes the ITI a very popular option. I don’t know whether the ATA certification is more comparable to the DipTrans or the ITI, which are not equivalent to each other.”

“We shouldn’t lump these four qualifications/certificates together as if they’re all on a par with each other. Each one reflects something different and has its own pros and cons. While it’s true that they all reflect a certain level of competence, some of them are much harder to get than others and the time involved is different for each of them.”

Some respondents commented that agency clients would be more interested in the results of a translation test than any qualifications the translator might have.

“Some direct clients might not be familiar with accreditation schemes and so would probably focus on MA or DipTrans. However I think they would want to see what kind of experience a translator has and would use a translator based on the standard of their translation test, however well or poorly qualified an individual might be.”

“Sane project managers will always ask for a translation test, anyway, so having a DipTrans or ATA/MTI certification will be just a nice additional item in a CV.”

“I think any of the above would attract agency’s interest but I think they would lay greater store by translation test.”

A few of the respondents pointed out that direct clients wouldn’t know much if anything about translation qualifications and would be far more interested in hiring a translator with knowledge and/or experience of their sector.

“I don’t think direct clients care much about any of these to be honest. I think they are impressed by qualifications and experience in their own field.”

“Direct clients often don’t know much about translation qualifications. I think they’re more likely to be interested in what translators have worked on before than specific qualifications.”

And rather than qualifications, some respondents highlighted that clients just seek competency.

“I’m not sure most clients care, if you can do the job, and they’re not immersed in the translation world as we are.”

“In the end, it’s what you deliver on a consistent basis that keeps the client coming.”

“The greatest value of the qualifications mentioned here are for translators themselves, as passing would mean that someone (who is presumably qualified enough) thinks you are a good translator, and you can show that proof of qualification to others when trying to convince them that you are good in order to get jobs. In short, it has to do with self-confidence in the beginning and then it becomes a marketing element. Qualifications are, of course important and necessary. But, in the end, whether you are ‘qualified’ or not will mean nothing—what will matter is the consistent quality of your translation output as judged by your clients, not by professors or colleagues.”

One mentioned that direct clients are more interested in the cost of the translation than any qualifications.

“I didn’t really want to choose any of the items as I think that many direct clients are most influenced by price!”

The same could be said about some agency clients.

“Agencies may be aware of professional certifications simply because that means they will be charged higher rates.”

Some respondents pointed out that translation qualifications don’t necessarily make you a good translator.

“I think it really depends on various factors. In Germany, there was a time when a MA/MSc equivalent was considered by many to be the only true qualification, but I think that has changed somewhat … To me, no qualification per se says much about a person’s translation abilities.”

“I think experience and recommendations are the better credentials.”

“I have found that degree courses (e.g. MA in Translation) don’t necessarily produce good translators and that this instead comes from practice. I feel that the MITI qualification is a much better way of assessing translator quality.”

Others said that translation qualifications aren’t the be all and end all because other factors are equally or more important.

“My hunch is that the time and money might be better spent investing in specialised training in (e.g.) economics, engineering or law. This seems to be what the more premium translators have done.”

“Because I have an MA in translation I’ve never been bothered about gaining an additional translation qualification – why would I need to prove my skills again?? If I were to take an additional qualification, it would be in one of my specialist subjects so that it can complement my translation skills”

“A degree or certification is important, but the more you market yourself, the better your chances to work!”

As we have seen in the comments provided in the previous parts of these results, which translation qualification you decide to get can depend on where you live and/or where you are marketing your services.

 “I believe this varies widely according to the region we live. I feel closer to the USA, because most of my clients are in the USA. So, I’ve always heard more about ATA. However, I believe people who live in Europe may prefer MITI or DipTrans.”

“My experience is that I have obtained clients on the basis of DipTrans and MITI qualifications, although a disadvantage in respect of Norwegian clients is that they find more acceptable Norwegian government authorisation.”

“DipTrans and MITI are not familiar at all in Japan. ATA certification is known to some people, but not much popular.”

Conclusions

One takeaway from the survey is that the CIOL, the ITI and the ATA could do more to advertise their qualifications, what they entail and their advantages.

“More awareness needs to be made about DipTrans and Chartered Linguist.”

“I’d like to see ITI market (= sell the benefits of) its unique, real-world and post-experience exam more clearly.” (Agency owner)

This need for better marketing was also highlighted by some criticism of the MITI membership process—the most popular qualification the respondents would like to obtain out of the four featured in the survey—in the final comments.

“The annoying thing for me is having to have 3 years’ experience additionally to passing the exam to achieve MITI. I think I will have to use my teaching experience and apply for CIOL membership. A shame.”

“MITI status is hard to achieve. There are so many conditions to fulfill and evidence to be found…difficult for someone who works with agencies only.”

“The only thing putting me off applying for MITI membership is the cost! To some extent I can understand paying to sit an exam, because someone obviously has to read and assess that, but I would be applying via the Qualification Supported Assessment route – i.e. based on having an MA, along with relevant references/experience, and the application/membership fees seem rather excessive ‘just’ for somebody to validate that! And that’s without mentioning the approx. £4000 I paid for my MA…”

As an MITI myself, part of the appeal of ITI qualified membership is that it demonstrates professional experience of at least three years, so lowering this condition would be counterproductive.

My two referees were PMs at agencies I’ve worked with for a number of years and they were both more than happy to help me with my application despite being native Spanish speakers writing in English.

The MITI exam fee (£389) is on a par with the cost for ATA certification ($525) and far cheaper than the costs involved in taking the DipTrans. The Qualification Supported Assessment (QSA) fee is currently £270. It covers more than just validating an MA in Translation or DipTrans since QSA applicants must also provide a minimum of two references and three out of six selected evidence options.

Concerning master’s degrees in translation, they could also emphasise how they differ from programmes at other universities. Given the current trend away from being a generalist towards being a specialist, MA/MSc courses on translation specialisations (financial, legal, medical, audiovisual, technical, literary, software localisation, etc.) might be the best way for them to differentiate their offering and provide the most useful education. And given that many potential students interested in such a course could be working as a translator already, a part-time distance-learning option might attract more applications.

Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone that took part in this survey. I really appreciate your time and interest and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the results.

Explore this blog by starting with the categories page., which includes a section on all the surveys I’ve run. 

4 thoughts on “Conclusions of the Results of the Translation Qualifications Survey (Part 4)

  1. I saw in one of the comments that you lose MITI status if you leave the ITI, is that true? And if so, would you have to retake the exam if you were to rejoin the ITI at a later date?

    Like

  2. The same is true of ATA. Certification is tied to membership, although the ATA Board wants to change that, it has to pass through the membership in the form of a Bylaws amendment in order for that to happen.

    Although some translators may see it as an inconvenience to have to maintain membership, I feel that clients and other stakeholders see it as a benefit.

    Liked by 1 person

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