Too much of a good thing?

Too much of a good thing?

Maximising the benefits

Earlier this year I wrote a post about the benefits of belonging to translators’ assocations. I certainly haven’t changed my mind about that. I love belonging to APTIC (the Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters of Catalonia) and MET (Metropolitan Editors and Translators) and it’s brought me plenty of benefits. This week I’ll be going to the MET annual conference. Earlier this year I went on a very interesting APTIC course. In December I’ll no doubt be going to its excellent Christmas party.

But do I need more? One of the things I’d planned to do this year was investigate joining another association. There’s no shortage of candidates. I could try ASETRAD, the Spanish translators’ association; or I could look at IAPTI, the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters, or the ITI, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting based in London. But do I really want to do that?

Let’s take the last case first. The ITI seems to be a lively, dynamic organisation and I’d be interested in being a member. However, there’s a problem. It has an entrance examination. It seems to me a very fair test of translation ability (you can find details here) but, just a couple of years ago, I invested considerable time, effort and money in passing the entrance examination of its rival association, the Charterted Institute of Linguists (CIoL) for the language combination Spanish-English. The CIoL was then good enough to admit me as a member also for another of my combinations, Catalan-English. So, although being a member of the CIoL has brought me very few direct benefits, other than the simple prestige of being a member, I feel reluctant to get involved in another costly examination process to join the ITI.

What’s more, if I ever did, I would simply switch memberships because, for me, there would be very little point in paying out every year to belong to two UK-based translators’ organisations. If I lived in the UK it might just be worth it, but, based as I am in Catalonia, I can’t honestly say I’d get enough benefit to make it worthwhile.


Because what do we get from translators’ associations? I’ve touched on one or two. Prestige is one benefit that does multiply with the number of associations you belong to. So does credibility, because the more association logos you can have on your website or letters on your e-mail signature the better. Also, some clients will perhaps place greater store on membership of one association than another. Then there are the training courses associations offer, the conferences they organise, the social events they hold and the directories or listings of translators – all very important and useful services.

But there are limits, which is what I was getting at with my question: do I need more? In other words, will membership of four (or five or six) associations make me better off than membership of three? It’s a question I asked myself a few weeks ago when I seriously considered joining IAPTI, and I decided not to do it. Because I really couldn’t see what it could offer me that the associations I already belong to cannot. With APTIC I have a great deal of contact and networking with translators near to where I live, many of them potential customers. With the CIoL I have membership of an organisation in the country where I come from and where my target language is spoken. And with MET I belong to an organisation that organises great training courses and one of the best and most interesting conferences anywhere in the translation world. I probably don’t have time in the year to go to another conference, or do more training or more socialising. Hence my decision to stick on three.

I may be wrong, of course. I may be missing important and interesting opportunities. In a way I’d like someone to tell me I am, because the thought of belonging to more organisations is, in many ways, an attractive one. But my head tells me there must be an optimum number, and I think I’ve probably found it.

Do you belong to more than three translators’ associations? Or do you belong to a particular one that I don’t which you think is especially valuable? Please leave a comment to convince me that I’m wrong to be wary of joining another organisation. I’d love to hear from you.


  1. I belong to four associations at the moment (MET, like you, and the IAPTI, the ITI, and the SfEP). I’m going to drop the SfEP because it does nothing for me and I’m thinking about joining the CIoL next year (but I’m not going to do the exam). You don’t have to take the ITI exam to be a member, but you won’t be listed in the directory if you are not qualified (MITI). Given that you’re in Spain and wouldn’t be able to attend most of the ITI events, listing in the directory would probably be the most tangible benefit. So, all in all, I think your decision is a wise one.

  2. You raise a good point, Simon. Membership of one association may even conflict with another. I’m a full ITI member and that’s what I’d consider my primary professional association membership as I contribute the most time to it and get the most benefits. I’m also an MET member, an organisation that does great stuff but I don’t put as much time into getting involved as I should. I would certainly contemplate CIoL membership, but probably no more than that.

    Different translation associations stand for different principles and go about things differently. I am with you on the point about IAPTI, for example. I don’t see that it offers anything different than other prof. associations and it lacks the prestige of ITI/CIoL. So, we should certainly be cautious of joining associations for the sake of it and really analyse the pros and cons.

  3. I think translation associations are becoming a bit like CPD opportunities. They keep on multiplyng and so you have to be selective. The advantage of the ITI is the different language, subject and regional groups which offer different CPD and networking opportunities face-to-face and through their egroups.

    I’m a full member of ITI and haven’t joined any other translation associations. I think my next move will be an association in one of my specialist areas. I joined the Costume Society last year and will probably renew.

  4. I am a member of two associations, American Translators Association (ATA) and IAPTI (International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters). I have been an ATA member for close to two decades, IAPTI member for less than a year. The way I see it, there is a big difference between ATA and IAPTI. Because ATA allows "corporate membership", translation agencies rule in ATA. For example, because ATA is not doing any outreach to direct clients, only translation agencies know about this the directory of ATA members, and ATA Chronicle very pro-agency oriented, I have not seen any articles critical of hot button issues like post editing of machine translations, price dumping, illegal clauses in "Non-Disclosure Agreements" of some translation agencies in ATA Chronicle. The membership cost is about 200 dollars and I still remain member because I do get some referrals from the ATA directory, albeit only from agencies.

    IAPTI is very young, only 3 years old. It does not allow corporate membership, you have to be a translator to join. The membership fee is 60 dollars if I remember it correctly. I believe that unlike the ATA, IAPTI is trying to represent translators rather than mostly represent translation agencies, that is why I joined it. I wrote a post about the last IAPTI conference in Bordeaux, France, where I was one of many speakers. If you want to read it, here is the post about IAPTI conference from my blog:

  5. I came to your blog via the review of the MET meeting and stayed for this article! I hope to attend a MET meeting one of these days – see you there.

    Plenty to say about professional associations but an important point is that the CIoL doesn’t have an entrance exam. For membership (assuming it hasn’t changed since I joined) they require a postgraduate qualification in translation plus one year of experience. Their own DipTrans is just one such qualification.

  6. Very nice article Simon. I would say that translators have a lot of choice when it comes to associations as they have country-specific associations as well as international associations. May be you can try out a new association every year and drop out the one that does not seem to be having a positive effect on your professional life.


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