As in all industries, there exist nuances that when we’re on the outside looking in, aren’t necessarily easy to understand. I’m often asked “Are your translators certified?”.
It’s one of those questions that seem to be asked to only reassure the prospect or to tick off an item on a mandatory verification list. After some discussion, you discover what they’re really asking is “Are your translators professionals?”.
Herein lies the nuance which most prospective translation buyers don’t realize. A professional translator (is typically) a translator who has studied and obtained a degree in “Translation Studies” or an equivalent program.
A certified translator has been recognized by a governing body such as an association as adhering to their self-defined criteria as to what a translator can be and has thus been subsequently allowed to “carry out and certify a translation”. This doesn’t take away from certification, but does raise the point that certified translators although recognized, are not necessarily educated in “Translation Studies”, but may only possess an equivalent experience or enough experience to adhere to a certifying body’s criteria.
So what does this mean? While you most definitely want your translations to be carried out by a professional translator, you don’t necessarily need a certified translator, unless you do actually require a certified translation. This is to say a translated document bearing an official stamp; much like those of notaries or diplomas.
If a certified translator is not necessarily a graduate of “Translation Studies”, it could be said that the optimal resource to carry out a given translation would be a certified professional translator. But this is simply covering all bases.
In many cases professional translators suffice, so perhaps the question the next time you’re asking about those who carry out the translation work should be “Are you using professional translators with a degree in Translation Studies?” or “Are you using professional AND certified translators?” depending on your requirements.
This brings us to Agency certification, such as ISO 17100, or CGSB 131.10 2008, or EN 15038. These are an entirely different realm of certification and are awarded to a company in relation to process rather than to individuals.
We’ll see what these certifications actually mean and whether they should be important to a translation buyer in our next post.