To Obtain or Not to Obtain Certification in Translation

When approaching potential customers or translation agencies, or when simply posting your translation profile online, certifications and credentials are a great way to give yourself credibility. Even a one year membership just to add their logo to your site or CV will look better than none, although renewing your annual membership shows that you are a serious and professional translator here for the long term.

ProZ Certification

If you do ever pay for certification, make sure to save a copy so that you can always use it to give yourself credibility.

Below is the letter I send to first-time translators who are interested in sending their application and CV to more than 15,000 translation agencies, suggesting to them that such certification can be even more advised considering they lack any experience in the industry.

As the number of people interested in entering the translation industry and using this service increases, I am concerned that the recipients might become bothered by the increasing number of applications from inexperienced translators. To prevent any recipients from unsubscribing from the list, I am encouraging inexperienced translators to at least undergo some sort of testing so that they are ready once they receive work. It is all too easy to send your CV, get busy filling in application forms, and then start working as soon you receive your first job offer.

The problem is that, in this manner, you will be learning “on the job”, which is dangerous with this profession, because once you have proved to an agency that you produce subpar work, they will blackmark your profile in their database and probably not want to send you any more work. Not only will you have wasted your time filling in their application form, but you will have wasted a portion of your investment to send your CV to this many recipients.

Therefore, to keep the recipients happy and willing to receive more applications through this service, to help protect your investment and to better prepare you once the work offers do start flooding in, I encourage first-time translators to undergo training. Every response that you receive from your application campaign should be treated as gold and you should not waste the first many for training purposes.

Certification with my service will include the following.

A translation test in your language combination(s): two services come to my mind.

1) ATA (American Translators Association). However, their tests are three hours long, many applicants fail, the tests are usually on location somewhere in the United States, and I did not find great benefit to having a membership in this organisation.

2) ProZ Certified PRO Network

  • your test can be submitted online, so no need to go anywhere. It is assessed by other translators in your language combination(s) and you will need to provide references. Not so difficult to succeed.
  • requires a full membership with ProZ ($144 for one year, $99 for half a year)
  • with certification and a full membership, your bids will show up near the top if bidding on projects. Your certification badge will show on your profile and many customers using ProZ prefer full paid members, because it shows they produce good enough quality to receive sufficient work to warrant and afford full membership. Even though the badge is removed once and if your account reverts back to a free one (not full membership), your profile still shows that you have passed and received the certification.
  • with a full membership they will teach you how to increase your chances of getting work through their portal and how to make your online profile with them look professional (my profile).

To be honest though, I did not find it worthwhile to continue, but I do continue to use the badge that I receive as proof that I did pass their test and that I am a qualified translator. Your proz profile can remain as an online CV, showing your endorsements from previous customers. You can also link to online samples of your previous translations, as I have done. If you have no previous samples, it would be good to create some, in the least just to get some experience in translation so you don’t jump into cold water and give a bad first impression. These samples can be submitted for part of the certification process as well.

I find Proz very useful for asking other translators regarding terminology. When you choose the best answer and add it to your glossary, and award the answerer points, you yourself are awarded credit which you can use to gain access to records in the BlueBoard. This is very useful if you want to research a company before accepting work from them, filling in their application form or performing any free tests. A full membership gives you full access to this, but since you can also pay a small amount of money to gain access to the records of individual agencies, the full membership is not necessary.

If you answer many questions for other translators, you are awarded points and this shows up in your profile. When bidding on projects, responses are listed ir order as follows: 1) those with a full membership and certification (those without certification are lower); 2) the number of your WWA (customers Willing to Work with you Again) endorsements; 3) the number of Kudoz points you have earned by helping other translators with their terminology questions.

In any case, all these things look good on your profile, and if you are interested in sending your CV to 15,000+ agencies but have no experience as a translator, it might be worth your while to first go through this process to beef up your profile, create some samples and gain a little bit of experience before approaching the agencies. However, in 20 years I received very little work through proz and found it consumed a lot of my time, but my profile adds to my credentials, and many claim that it continues to be a worthwhile investment for them. You can find many discussions on the internet concerning this.

3) You can research elsewhere, such as various certification bodies in your own country, whereby any certification whatsoever always looks good on your profile (especially if you lack the experience), but they often wont test you and just take your money.

However, to my knowledge, none of the above really test you what concerns hands-on translation skills. For this I can send you training material, test you myself and endorse you, based on skills that I feel are the most important when providing a translation:

  • how to format in Microsoft Word (the most prevalent software used in the industry) to produce professional looking documents. These skills will also help you work faster, increasing your income;
  • various tricks you can apply and resources you can turn to in order to find the right terminology for your translation. Without this knowledge you will be forced to guess. Agencies often employ a proofreader to check the quality of a translation, especially when dealing with translators who are new to them. These proofreaders are usually seasoned translators who are well-qualified to assess your work and who are capable of quickly finding your guess work or other misdemeanours. Your first job can therefore easily turn into a bad advertisement and result in no more work from that agency, so it is best that you know the correct procedures and provide immaculate work from the getgo. Don’t use your first few customers as a training session!
  • general tactics and approaches to provide the perfect translation, how to best deal with customers or bid on projects, touch base on Translation Memory software and how to best go about that, and other useful information.

Not only will this give your profile more credibility, but it will give you confidence and some experience to know what you are getting into. It takes a lot of time to fill in application forms and provide translation tests, so make sure you are ready and do a good job so that you can keep as faithful customers anyone who responds to your application.

university diploma certificate

A university diploma is certainly a certificate showing your qualifications in some area of knowledge.

The info package that is included with the blast service explains much of this, but I find that many first-time translators don’t bother to study it and are too enthusiastic to start earning money. Once you show yourself to an agency in bad light, they will leave a negative comment next to your profile and might wait a full year before trying you again, usually only when they have a particularly large project in your language combination and are somewhat desperate. These black smudges can be a pain to remove, so don’t underestimate them!

For this service and my own certification and endorsement I would charge $100, and keep testing you, without additional charge, until I feel you were ready to hit the market.

If you have already paid for the blast service and would rather take some time to build up your profile and gain some experience, I can refund you 80% or keep you in the accounting until you are ready. Without the various forms of certification and experience above, you will likely be forced to offer a lower rate for a period of time, to get your foot into the door, meaning you will end up paying these amounts anyway, if not more.

The translation industry is very competitive and it can be a tricky matter when setting your price. Quality agencies who pay more may look skeptically at you if your price is too low, but will demand superb quality if they do give you a chance. I can teach you how to approach each agency separately in order to maximize your earnings. Similar to how the airlines charge different rates to different travelers to maximise profits.

Consider the above my suggestion to first-time translators only. You are certainly free to blast your CV without training and learn the ropes on the go – I did!

If you are interested in some personal training and professional endorsement before you launch your translation career, feel free to contact me:

More translation tips.

Some interesting comments or questions submitted to this page:

Hello, I’m a new graduate with a M.A Bilingual translation (French-English), I want to continue for a PhD program in Translation studies. But I have a problem to find a research topic. Can you suggest some domains and coach me .

Funny how synchronicity works sometimes, but perhaps as a topic of research you could choose any of the subjects I touched on below in an email conversation I’ve been having with the owner of a language related website concerning a guest post I could submit:

Do you mean your story? I thought you will write about language. Nee’s Language blog is about language and only  accept articles about language.

Yah, the other guy asked me to write about my experiences in the translationindustry, so that is what I did. And why I’d rather find out more what kind ofarticle you’d like before I go ahead and write one. How many words would youlike? How many links am I allowed to me from my article and will they NOT benofollow? Concerning languages, I once wrote an opinion piece on English syntax at
or perhaps I could write about the subtle differences between Czech and Slovak.

This article is very interesting, I am also a non native English speaker but I use English nowadays more than any other languages. And since I also know several languages, there is lot of mix-and-match in my language style. I don’t not worry about it as long as it is for informal context. Since this is based on your personal perspective and is a complaint towards English, I believe that it can attract much debates about who owns English or how odd the structure is, so on and so forth. Unless these “facts” about English come from a linguistics research, the story would be different. I also don’t feel comfortable to read “shite” appears several times, and I don’t want that in NLB.

You mentioned about Esperanto, is there any special reason to relate it with English? Or the idea just occurred as you were researching about this topic? Do you know Esperanto? I have read many pros and cons articles towards Esperanto, and they are merely based on personal perspectives.

The other topic about Slovak and Czech, I suppose you know Slovak, don’t you? You can write about your experience learning a language and make comparison between that language with the language(s) you  have known. I can put in Perspectives section.

Sure Ted, I can write something up, and make sure not to include Shite etc. That is why I’d rather discuss things before starting, to save time from having to go back and change things. I still need my questions answered concerning article length and links to my pages.

Concerning Esperanto, brought that up because have read it was a much more appropriate world language, if one was chosen. Designed by a Polak who is fluent in some seven languages or something. From my own experience I know that Slavic languages are much more exact in expression. English is full of exceptions and it’s structure is wishywashy. Not a good choice for a global language, as my article explains and as I have read from super linguists.

I was born in Czech, grew up in Canada from the age of 3 and graduated in university there (so I consider it my “native” language”), translated from Czech for 20 years and lived in Prague for 15 of it, and during which time I picked up Slovak too. Now they look the same when I read them. Funny how the brain works. It’s like those jokes passed around the internet

taht if you cahgne ltetres aornud as lnog as you keep the frsit and lsat lttres crercot the biran understands it.

It takes a little while for the brain to catch on but that is how Slovak is to me when I read it (in my mind I read “out loud” in Czech, and often forget that I am reading Slovak, but it took me several years to get to that level).

I also studied French for 11 years in Canada, one year in university, and taught myself basic Spanish and German. Or studied a year of Thai.

So I can write a lot on these issues, but your perspectives page has no PR whatsover, so I’d rather keep the article shorter. Or I can write a longer one, post it on my own site, and make a shorter, more introductory mention to my opinion on your site.

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