Update May 2010: Note this does not constitute official information. Please check the relevant body for information on current requirements.
Here are a couple of things to bear in mind if you are thinking of working towards Chartered Linguist (translator) status, picked up at a training event I attended in London in early 2008. Remember, it’s still a relatively new process so it’s important to keep an eye on latest information as it’s released from the relevant professional bodies.
1. Not all translators should be chartered linguists.
A chartered linguist has to demonstrate:
1. a high level of competence e.g. by being a qualified member of the ITI or CIOL
2. a willingness to maintain their skills e.g. through ongoing, verified CPD and
3. a willingness to be reviewed by their peers e.g. at an interview stage of the chartered status process.
It’s a three-pronged approach, and if you’re not up to strictly following any of these three elements, no matter how good your reasons (and I can think of a few valid ones), then chartered linguist status is probably not for you. But that does not have to be a bad thing – remember, for all the hype, chartered status does NOT test your abilities as a translator, as you are not required to prove the quality of your work in any way. It is your qualified membership of a professional body that verifies this, and as such, being a chartered linguist is no better than being an MITI or MCIL. It’s just a compliment to these other professional qualifications.
2. Before applying, check if you could qualify for chartered status through any other body. In recognition of the realities of working life for a vast majority of translators in the UK, you don’t need to be a full-time translator to apply for chartered status. However, translation does need to be your main professional activity. So, say you’re a multilingual engineer who translates “on the side” for anything up to one or even two days a week, for example, then you may be better off looking into how you could become a chartered engineer instead. In fact, this would be an even better way to market your specialisms as a translator to agencies and could see you command the highest rates. If you’re desperate to prove your dedication to languages, then join the CIOL, wait for them to introduce the remaining two categories of chartered linguists and see if these will suit you better.
3. Don’t apply just because you meet the requirements now. You need to provide evidence of the volume of work carried out for the five years prior to your application (the “qualifying period”) in order to qualify initially, but then you’ll need to show evidence that you are maintaining these levels in future years to retain your registration. If your volume of work drops in any one year, you’ll need to have a good reason for this (e.g. parental leave) and be prepared to present it to the review panel for consideration. Otherwise you could find yourself spending a lot of money on a lengthy process, only to have to re-apply again in the future.
4. Starting out? Join the CIOL first. To prospective translators considering which professional body to join, I would say this: join the Chartered Institute of Linguists first, and concentrate on working towards meeting the requirements for qualified member status with them. To achieve chartered status, you must be a qualified member of one of three recognised professional associations in the UK. For translators, this means you need to be an MITI of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, OR an MCIL of the Institute of Linguists. Now, this gives the impression that these two levels of membership are equal when clearly they’re not. With a postgrad degree in translation, you can gain MCIL after one year’s professional experience in any job requiring the use of languages. MITI, on the other hand, requires a minimum of three years’ professional translation work following your postgrad, PLUS a pass in a professional assessment exam which is far from a walk in the park. Given you are required to apply for chartered status via the organisation you first joined, it makes sense to join the body through which it is easiest to achieve this. It’s an interesting little wrinkle in an otherwise well-thought out process, but not one that realistically could have been avoided for various political reasons.
5. If you’ve been shoddy on keeping CPD records, submit your application before 1 September 2009. There’s currently a sort of grace period in helping translators meet the requirements for CPD. Instead of having to present records for the 5 years prior to application, as is formally required, the admissions panel is currently considering applications with less than 3 years of records. So if you have 5 years’ full-time translation experience (or its equivalent in part-time experience), meet all the other requirements but haven’t kept your CPD details, then it’s worth pulling your socks up and getting an application in early. Incidentally, you are not expected to submit your actual CPD booklet – a page or so of A4 with a list of all your training is considered sufficient.
6. If you don’t live and/or work in the UK, chartered status may not be worth it. Chartered status is not legally recognised outside the UK, and it is not a form of government accreditation. Unlike in some countries such as Germany, there is no government accreditation for translators in this country. This is because the common law legal system does not allow for this (as opposed to civil law legal systems).
So good luck if you go for it! And I’d love to hear from anyone who has gone through the process – what they thought of it, the interview, toughest requirements to meet, etc. Get in touch at sarah at dillonslattery dot com.
11.02.08: edited for clarity
30.01.2011: edited for clarity