Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting


Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting


Article excerpt

This special issue consists of a collection of eleven peer-reviewed articles, an invited commentary, and a book review. All these items are directly or indirectly relevant to certification of translators and/or interpreters.

The main research question that ties them all together is what constitutes professional competence for a translator or an interpreter and how to demonstrate it.

One thing that everyone seems to agree on is that even an indepth knowledge of translation theory is not sufficient to demonstrate professional competence. Thus, working translators are usually more interested in practical applications of theory than in abstract theory. However, the first article in this collection (Marais) points out that any assessment is necessarily based on theory, whether implicit or explicit. If Marais is correct, his thesis has implications for both education and certification, and it would suggest that the theoretical and practical branches of translation studies would do well to interact more closely.

The second article (Hlavac) provides a survey of translator and interpreter certification procedures in 21 countries. One conclusion drawn from the research behind this article is that there is actually little consistency in the criteria for certification in various countries. Hlavac raises the question of whether it would be possible to establish common minimum requirements for all certification programs around the world. He notes that over the last decade there has been some convergence between countries that previously relied only on academic degrees as a benchmark of certification and countries that relied mainly on administratively-organized testing as a benchmark. Both academic and externally administered and conferred credentials are now widely recognized as complementary, rather than unrelated attributes. From the macro-level, the process of establishing a common denominator for certification is being led by the implementation of standard practices in certification, such as ISO 17024 (General requirements for bodies operating the certification of persons).

A note about terminology is in order. In Australia and some other English-speaking countries, the term accreditation is used when referring to determining the professional competence of an individual; however, in this collection, the term certification is used instead, and accreditation is used to refer to the process of determining whether an organization that certifies translators and/or interpreters has met the requirements of ISO 17024 or some other accreditation standard.

Continuing on an Australian theme, NAATI is the Australian authority for certification of translators and interpreters. A report from NAATI that bears on certification was recently released (February 2013). The title is "Improvements to NAATI testing: Development of a conceptual overview for a new model for NAATI standards, testing and assessment." It can be downloaded from the NAATI website ( and complements the articles in the present collection.

The next five articles deal with interpreter certification. In one sense they are specific to the United States and Canada, but in another sense they are models for interpreter certification in any country.

The article by Mikkelson discusses the relationship between universities and interpreter certification. Every country must deal with this relationship issue, both for interpretation and translation.

The article by Feuerle provides an overview of the history and current status of courtroom interpreter certification in the United States. Given the importance of this issue, any country that does not already have courtroom interpreter certification would do well to examine and learn from the history of the topic in the United States.

The articles by Youdelman and by Joyce & Arocha both deal with the certification of medical interpreters, also called healthcare interpreters. …

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