Professionalization vs Certification

Translation Certification Does Not Equal Professionalization

There isn’t one single road that every translator takes to becoming a translation professional.

In fact, I’ve mentioned before how you shouldn’t copy my blueprint to success.

By far the most common email I get from visitors to the website usually is a question along the lines of how to get started as a freelance translator, or similarly, how to become a professional translator.

However, lately I’ve been noticing a trend with these questions.

The question usually has two parts, but in the mind of the person asking the question, they are synonymous.

They are not the same.

The question usually looks like this:

Can you please tell me how to get started as a freelance translator and become certified?

Professionalization Vs. Certification

Now as a translator who has been around the business for a few years, one of the biggest myths about being a professional translator (at least in the United States) is that you have to be a certified translator (having received certification from outside organization) in order to be considered a translation professional.

This is simply not true.

Being a professional and being certified are not mutually exclusive.

For one thing, I know plenty of freelance translators that are professionals in every aspect of their business and are very competent translators who produce excellent quality.

However, they haven’t felt the need to have their skills validated by some outside agency, but rather they rely on their clients’ satisfaction to prove their abilities.

On the other hand, there are plenty of translators that have taken and passed a certification exam of one sort or another but would not be considered professional translators in any sense of the word, and are not translators that I would recommend to the worst clients.

So, what does this mean?

It means that translator professionalization is not something that can be boiled down to a piece of paper.

What can I do to become a translation professional?

This is the real question that potential translators should be asking. Someone that wants to become a translator only asks about certification because he or she feels that certification is validation of a translator’s worth.

This is simply not the case.

Translation professionalization is not a yes/no option.

Most translators are professionals, but fall somewhere along a professionalization continuum. Simply said, some translators are more professional than others and only by working in the translation business do you become more professional as a translator.

Knowledge of the industry is the real measure of a translator’s degree of professionalization and knowledge is only gained through practice. So if you want to become a professional translator, you just need to work at being a translator!

Professional translation not only requires exceptional language skills, but also business skills, marketing skills, technology skills, and a host of other skills. But these are skills that can be learned and honed with repeated use.

So in the end, it’s always important to remember that certification does not equal professionalization. Being a professional translator involves so much more, and if your goal is to become one, don’t fall into the trap of thinking for a moment that certification is the only necessary step to get there.


P.S. If you’re interested in improving your success as a freelance translator, be sure to check out my book.

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