Feeling you belong
A year ago last week I was lugging a briefcase full of dictionaries into a classroom at International House in Barcelona to take my first exam in almost 30 years. Sitting the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ Diploma in Translation was the culmination of my decision to finally get a translation qualification after working in the business for more than ten years. And it couldn’t really have gone better. Any nerves quickly evaporated as I got down to work and found I hadn’t lost the knack of doing exams. It was a hard but satisfying day and I came away fairly sure I’d done OK. In fact, when the results finally arrived at the end of April, I found I’d done better than OK, managing two merits and a distinction in the three papers. I had the translation qualification I wanted, and, included in the papers, was an invitation to join the CIoL, and that’s really what this post is all about: translation associations and the benefits they can bring.
As you’ll see if you take a look at my website, I’m a member of three translation associations: the CIoL, APTIC (the Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters of Catalonia), and MET (Mediterranean Editors and Translators). At various times I’ve wondered if all of them were worthwhile, but so far I’ve been happy to belong. Strangely, perhaps, the CIoL, based in London, is the one that’s so far brought me least obvious benefits. It’s still early days, but I’ve had very little work via its directory and, of course, living here in Barcelona means there’s little chance of me attending its UK-based events.
In fact, I’ve even begun to wonder whether I picked the right organisation, given that its rival, the Institute of Translators and Interpreters seems, from what I can see, to be a rather more dynamic association. It also has its own entrance examination which may lack the prestige of the CIoL DipTrans, but is a rather more practical test of a translator’s ability. For those who are not aware of the difference, the CIoL exam is taken in a classroom with no access to the Internet, an exercise which hardly any translator nowadays would ever have to go through in their real working life. The ITI exam, by contrast, is sent by e-mail to be completed over a weekend in your normal working environment and then marked by your peers. It’s perhaps not such an academically rigorous test of ability but it’s definitely a more realistic exercise. So why didn’t I sit the ITI exam instead of the DipTrans? Mainly because I didn’t find out about it until I was committed to a preparation course for the DipTrans. And, although I know some people are members of both organisations, I personally don’t feel motivated to sit another exam at the moment. Maybe I will one day, but for the time being, for better or worse, I’m giving the CIoL a chance.
Nor am I ready to give up either of my other associations. APTIC is a fine organisation that has a varied membership and organises a wide variety of courses and social events. I don’t get to everything I’d like to but when the courses are interesting I try to go, and in a few weeks’ time I’m off to a two-day course they’re offering on wine translation, one of my specialities. They also have an excellent e-mail list, which has frequently brought me pieces of work and new customers, and they organise splendid Christmas parties where I’ve met all kinds of interesting translators, made useful new contacts and generally had a lot of fun. I would say now that a good percentage of my work comes from people I’ve met or come into contact with in one way or another via APTIC.
MET, meanwhile, is a different kind of association. Based in Barcelona, it includes translators and editors from all over the Mediterranean and beyond, largely working with the English language. It also offers excellent courses: I’ve learned about translating art, the use of corpora for tranlsation and how to work with various Internet tools, all at MET organised events. Perhaps as a direct source of work it’s not so useful, although it does have an online member directory, and its academic focus, with lots of its members working for universities, has occasionally made me feel a little out of place, but one of my best decisions last year was to go to the METM14 event at El Escorial, near Madrid. I’ve been to very few translation conferences, but those in the know tell me that the MET meetings are the best. It seems that many of the big translations events are becoming increasingly dominated either by corporate interests or by assiduous self-publicists who essentially give the same talk everywhere they go. MET is not remotely like that. The speakers are interesting and well chosen, there’s a strong practical emphasis, as many of the workshops focus on real issues and useful tools and techniques, and the fringe social events are fun. I’m already determined to make it to METM15 in Coimbra later this year.
So my advice to anyone thinking of joining a translation association is to do it. True, they all cost money, but subscriptions are usually tax deductable, so it’s never as much as it seems. And the benefits go beyond those I’ve already mentioned. As well as the work that can be found, either via e-mail lists or having your name in a directory; the training they offer, and the opportunities for socialising, which shouldn’t be ignored in a job as solitary as ours can be, there is also the security the name of an association can give a client who might be wondering whether to trust you. There are also often special member discounts on equipment, software, insurance and other things you might want to buy.
So what do you think? Do you belong to any associations? Do you agree with me that they’re worthwhile? Or have you had a less positive experience and perhaps left an organisation you were dissatisfied with? Please feel free to comment.