Questions about translation certification

Translation Certification: Answers to Your Questions

Here is the latest batch of questions from you, the reader, about translation certification.

If you have anything to add, please comment below so that we can all get better!

Thanks!


French and Arabic Translator Certification

Aurora asked: How can I become certified in Arabic and French?

TranslationRules: Thanks for the question, Aurora. Since I’m not an Arabic or French translator, I am not aware of everything that is available for translators to become certified in those language pairs. However, many of the places that do offer certification do so in more than one language and French is one of the most common languages that you’ll find for certification. Arabic might be a little more difficult, but there has been an increase over the last few years for certified Arabic translators.

I would say that the best thing to do is look at university-level translation programs that also have an Arabic language program.

Reach out to them (as many as possible) and ask about certification for French and Arabic.

If that doesn’t get you anywhere, you can always reach out to the American Translators Association (ATA) for some resources and guidance.


Translator Certificate in Maryland

Shurndia asked: I would like to become a certified translator in Spanish. Would you please give me a list of institutions that offer a Spanish translation certification program in Maryland?

TranslationRules: That’s great that you are interested in becoming a certified translator in Spanish, Shurndia.

First of all, remember that certification isn’t always necessary to become a successful freelance translator. There are many translators out there that have decided to not become certified because they prove their translation abilities through the clients that keep coming back to them for the jobs they need translated.

However, there are many translators that are interested in becoming certified, and it does look good on your resume if you can show that you are certified.

That being said, I don’t know of any translator certification programs in Maryland. With the limited knowledge I have, I don’t think any of the universities or colleges in Maryland offer official Spanish translation certification programs. There is another option, however.

More and more schools are offering online translation certification programs and this might be an option for you to consider when looking into becoming a certified translator.


Going Through the Translator Certification Process

Summer asked: My question has to do with how to find a translation job. I’ve been a freelance translator for almost a year now, but I’ve encountered problems trying to get an actual job title as a “translator” anywhere. I’ve translated at the DMV, an abortion clinic, a bond court, a magistrate court, an elementary schools, as well as for friends who need a translator and have paid me in return for my services. I have also been referred to other people through my friends.

My question is, should I continue looking for a job as a translator, knowing that I will probably not get paid for translating and will need other skills, or, should I go through the certification process?

TranslationRules: It sounds like you’ve started out doing all the right things in building a freelance translation business, Summer. The hardest thing for most people is finding clients, but you seem to have done that fairly well by doing translations for different people and even using your friends to network your way to more translation jobs.

From your question, though, it seems like you are interested in finding an in-house translation job, and that it’s hard to find these kinds of jobs.

I’ll tell you the truth.

inding an in-house translation is not an easy thing to do. This is especially the case for Spanish/English translators. There are a number of reasons, with the first being that there are a lot of Spanish translators out there all vying for the same jobs. The second reason is that many companies do not hire people to only do translation work. They hire Spanish speakers with other skills (accounting, I.T. support, etc.) and then require them to do translation as part of their job description.

That being said, there are translator-specific jobs, you just need to be patient and look in the right places. For example, the government has been known to be really good at hiring translators for the specific job of translating. You might want to look there.

There are many different Spanish degree careers you might be able to find, though, if you’re willing to do your freelance translation work on the side, while you work a day job doing something else. Many people do that.


University Degree or Translator Certification

Vanessa asked: I was in college for four years to be an English-Spanish translator but for various reasons I never got my degree. What do you think is the best way for me to get a job as a translator or get any kind of certification?

TranslationRules: Thanks for the question, Vanessa, as I’m sure many other would-be translators have the same question about whether it’s absolutely necessary to have a translation degree in order to become a translator.

The short answer is that no, it’s not absolutely necessary that you have a degree in order to become a translator. There are other things you can do to become a translator.

There are many translators who don’t have any formal college-level education but are still exceptional translators. But while they don’t have the formal education or translation degree, they have something much more valuable. Practical experience. There is no substitute for real-world practice and experience translating, and that is what you should be working on getting.

However, if you are interested in getting certified as a translator, then there are plenty of online translation certificate programs that could help you accomplish that goal.

If you are just interested in finding a job as a translator, or another type of job where you can use your language skills, then check out the various articles on this site about how to find translator jobs. There are plenty of things you can do that will give you the edge you need to succeed as a translator. It’s just a matter of deciding to do these things.


Translator Certification Process and Translator Tools

Mariles asked: I would like to get certified as a translator for Spanish-English. I live in Manila and would like to know how I can get a translator certification. How important is it to be certified and is it recommended to purchase translation tools and software?

TranslationRules: Hi, Mariles. Thanks for asking these questions, which are questions that many people have when starting out their careers as freelance translators. You’ve asked a few different questions here, so I’d like to try and answer each question separately, if that’s OK.

  1. How can I get certified as a translator? – There are two main ways for translators to get certified. The first is by taking a translation test designed by some translation organization, such as the American Translators Association, and then passing this test according to the criteria outlined by the sponsoring organization. Many people have done this and have vowed for its usefulness.

However, there are those translators out there that have not gone this route and have felt that their language and translation abilities are sufficient for the job of a freelance translator. The other route that some people take to receive a translator certification is taking a translation course and then receiving something like an online translation certificate upon successfully completing the course. Instead of relying on a single test for determining translation competence, these courses provide a series of classes on how to become an effective translator.

  1. How important is it to be certified? – The above discussion naturally leads into the question of the importance of certification in the translation industry. As I briefly outlined above, translation certification can serve a useful purpose in showing potential clients that you have the appropriate skills to work for them. This can be especially important when a translator is just starting out and needs credibility. However, translator certification is not a requirement for becoming a freelance translator.

The most important measure of a translator’s ability is recommendations from previous clients. If a client asks if I’m certified, I tell him/her that I am not, but if they would like, they can contact some previous clients of mine to get a feel for what kind of person and translator I am. Some have taken me up on the offer, and in the end, I’ve never lost a translation job just because I was not certified. You can read some more on my thoughts on whether it’s important or not to be a certified Spanish translation provider.

  1. Should you purchase translation tools and software? – This is a question that doesn’t really have a definite answer. If you put 100 translators in a room and asked them to list for you the tools and software they use, you would get 100 different answers. There is no right answer. Actually, I take that back. The only right answer is the one that works for you. Only you know what kind of translator you are and what kind of tools you need. As an example, many translators only like to use paper dictionaries that they can hold in their hands.

However, I hardly ever use paper dictionaries and prefer to use online resources. Is one way right and the other wrong? No, it’s just a matter of personal preference. If you get to where you are translating a lot of the same types of documents, you might want to look into some sort of translation memory software, but these are usually pretty expensive and not necessary for someone just starting out. If translation memory is something you would like to pursue further, I would recommend looking at the Google translator toolkit which is a surprisingly good option for what it gives you.


Medical Translation Certification

Sybil asked: I have been working for a government agency for the last 4 years and I translate medical, educational, legal and any other thing that is required. I also translate written documents for medical providers and educational providers.

Recently I was asked if I was certified and when I told them no, one of my long time medical clients told me that in order to translate written medical information that their employer required that I be certified. I have no problem with this since I am fluent in English and Spanish and I have been doing this for 15 years. I just need to know how and where I can accomplish this.

TranslationRules: Thanks for the question about medical translation certification, Sybil. Your question brings up one of those things that I can’t stand when it comes with dealing with translation clients who don’t really know what they’re talking about.

Let me explain. It sounds like you’ve been doing a good job translating documents for all these different medical clients and one day, a client heard that there was something called a translator certification and decided without even looking into it that all of their translators should be certified. Little do clients realize that in the United States, there isn’t a requirement for translators to be certified, and certification doesn’t make a translator any better.

Because of this, anyone could print up a translator certification from their home computer that says they are certified in translation and it would be (almost) just as valid as having one from any large translation organization.

That being said, if you have to do what the client wants, there are different programs out there for becoming certified.

However, before doing any of that, I would clarify what the client means by being certified. If you’re going to go through the trouble of becoming certified, then you’ll want to make sure that you get it taken care of the first time.


The Value of Translator Certification

Monica asked: How valuable is translation certification? If translator certification is worth it, where is the nearest facility to become a certified Spanish translator?

TranslationRules: A lot of translators want to be told whether or not they need to get certified, but need to realize that the value of translation certification isn’t a static value. Some people find certification a valuable step in their journey to become freelance translators. There are some clients that like their translators to be certified and if you deal with clients that require this, obviously certification will help.

On the other hand, some people think that translator certification is overblown and not as valuable as the certification organizations make it out to be. These translators are able to find and keep clients based on the actual work that they do, not necessarily on a translation certification.

If you do want to become certified, you can either find a school that offers a translation degree or you can look into an online translation certificate program. These online programs are useful because you can do most of them from your home without having to spend a lot of time away from work or family.

There aren’t really facilities as such that you can go to for a day or so and come out certified. In addition to the online classes I mentioned above, there are some regular universities that offer certification programs in translation, but you will have to travel to be near one if you are not close enough already, which can be kind of a pain and somewhat unrealistic, especially if you are currently working and can’t really get away for a certain time period.


Translator Certification in New Jersey

A stranger asked: I would like to open my own translating company and want to know if there is a requirement to get a translator certification in the state of New Jersey.

TranslationRules: That’s great that you’re interested in starting your own translation company. For many freelancers, especially for those that have a lot of clients, starting your own translation company is a natural step to take once they’ve gotten their own freelance careers off the ground.

In terms of whether or not you need to be certified in the state of New Jersey to start your own translation agency, I don’t believe this is necessary. There is no national requirement in the United States for a freelance translator to be certified in translation in order to do translation work.

That being said, there probably are requirements set by the state or county where you’re located for starting your own business, no matter what kind of business it is. In a lot of places, you have to register for a business license, but the actual requirements can vary by state or even by county or city. So I would be sure to check out what kind of requirements there are from the business aspect because from the translation perspective, certification is not necessarily required (in most instances).


Translator Certification for
Immigration Requests

Tonya asked: I’m often asked what level of certification it is that immigration requests. One translator said it’s simply stating at the bottom of the document that you, the translation, are fluent in English and in and vice versa and can so and so and have your signature notarized. Then I’ve seen others say that you absolutely have to have ATA certification and nothing else is valid.

The Spanish Translator: Thanks for the question, Tonya. There is really a lot of confusion about the translations required for those seeking naturalization in the United States. The whole immigration process can be pretty confusing for people, and trying to get their necessary documents in English only adds to the ordered chaos.

It also doesn’t help that different translators tell people different things, like you mentioned above. Some people say that certification by someone that is certified by ATA is absolutely necessary and others say that this is not the case. Well, in this case, it’s best to go to the source to get the real answer.

So I checked the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website to find the right answer. This is what the USCIS A Guide to Naturalization says about translations:

Be sure to send an English translation with any document that is not already in English. The translation must include a statement from the translator that he or she is competent to translate and that the translation is correct.

So there you have it. The translator does not have to be certified by the American Translators Association or anyone else. They only have to add a signed statement to the translation stating that they (the translator) is able to translate and that they are confident that the translation is indeed correct.


ISO Certification in Translation

Earl asked: How can I achieve ISO certification for English to Spanish translations? Most of the information I find talks about finding jobs and building a client base. I want to know how to become certified.

Also, beyond ISO and ATA certifications, are there any other translator certifications that are recognized in this industry?

TranslationRules: Those are some great questions to ask, Earl, so I appreciate you taking some time and asking these questions about Spanish translation certification.

Your first question was about achieving ISO certification for Spanish translation. First, for the benefit of our readers, we’ll take some time to explain what ISO translation certification means. ISO Certification really refers to ISO 9001:2000, which is short for International Standards Organization Standard No. 9001, Year 2000 Version.

So what exactly is ISO certification? Well, first of all it’s important to know what ISO certification is not. It’s not a translator certification of a translator’s ability or his/her quality of work. It is also not a measure of quality for a translation provider. If ISO certification doesn’t measure translation quality, then what does it do?

Well, in its most basic form, all ISO certification is certify that a translation provider has a process in place to manage translations. The thing about this is that everybody that has ever worked for a company knows that a process does not make the product necessarily any better. If you want to know some more, be sure to read this article about ISO certification.

About your next question: There are many places to get certified as a translator, with some schools even offering online translation certificates, but the American Translators Association is probably the most well-known certification organization in the United States. That being said, certification in general can be a touchy subject among those that work in the translation industry. Yes, there are clients that only want translators that are certified, but at the same time, there are many clients that just want a translator that will do a good job, and there are many ways to prove to a client that you are a good translator without having to rely on a piece of paper.

So what should you do? Well, it all depends. If you feel that translator certification will help you get more clients, go ahead and become certified. But don’t think that certification alone will build your client base for your freelance translation business. For that, you’ll have to rely on your networking skills and marketing acumen.


P.S. Want more tips on how to become a successful freelance translator? Be sure to check out my book.

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