Translator's Guide

Online Translation Certification Options For Translators

A certificate is always a bonus in one’s CV as it asserts one’s professionalism and high quality of work. But good translation skills are often not enough to get it. To get certified by some renowned institutions like the American Translators Association (ATA), one needs to become its member in advance (which is not free of charge). Then he/she would pay a pretty considerable sum of money for taking the test. After the approval, one will wait for weeks or even months for the exam date and then in at least 5 weeks the results will be published. What is most unfortunate, is that after spending a lot of money and at least several months, 80% of the applicants will not pass the certification test. So if one is not ready to take part in this pricey lottery, it may be better to consider translating certificates online.

Is Certification Really Necessary?

To be honest, no. If you have a big clientele and work at the rate that satisfies you, then the certificate will not make any difference as you feel totally ok without it. However, if the competition in the sector is high and it is very hard to attract clients, one’s certification can be a competitive advantage. You charge the same as others do, have relatively the same level of experience but what can make you stand out is the “proof” issued by some institution that you are good at translating (which does not mean that the others are worse). 

In this case, the certificate would serve as an extra quality – confidence. When the client is about to choose a translator, he/she would be more inclined to those who are certified. The reason for this is clear: when one hires another to build a house, he/she will check the final work and try everything out to be sure that everything works properly, but with translation, it is different, if the client does not speak the target language, he/she would not be able to evaluate the result. So, in order to be sure that the translation was done correctly, clients are seeking only true professionals to rely on (but there may be exceptions). And how can they be sure in someone’s professionalism? They will trust some acknowledged organization that evaluated the skills of the translator and concluded that they meet the established criteria. So when speaking about new clients, it is more likely that certification will attract more of them in the competitive environment and the absence of it can result in losing some of them and will lead to a smaller clientele.

Moreover, if you would like to work for a translation agency, in some of them it is required to be certified to be employed. In some big companies or institutions like banks it might also be necessary to get certified before application because often they cannot check one’s skills and cannot trust any recommendations. Another reason to seek certification is that beginners in the industry often cannot critically evaluate their own skills which can result either in a lack of confidence or vice versa – overestimating one’s professionalism. So taking a certification test can either imbue a young translator with self-belief or, if it was not successful, will show the gaps in knowledge and skill. Certification is also a plus for those who do not have much work experience. If there are no previous orders to show to a potential client, one can point out to a certificate, that acknowledges that its holder provides high-quality work.

So summing it up, certification per se is not necessary, but it does not mean it is useless. Those who are satisfied with their work, earnings, and clientele would probably not benefit from it. However, it can help to attract new clients and may be obligatory for a full-time job. Certification can also compensate for the lack of work experience and help to build confidence in the beginner’s own skills or point out to the weak points in one’s work.

Online Translation Certification

The first organization that comes to mind when thinking of translators’ certification is ATA. But as described at the beginning, the process of getting certified by ATA is rather long and costly. Hopefully, there are options, and what is even better, is that some of them are online. It means that you will not have to wait for weeks for the available time for the exam, travel somewhere, feel uncomfortable and unfocused in some unusual environment, sit on a disturbing creaking chair, or be affected by any other distractors. For translators, especially on a freelance, there is no need to adapt to any environment. They work where it is convenient for them and at the time the day when they feel the most productive. And in online certification all those factors that bring discomfort and can affect the results are eliminated. One can get the certificate at home, in a favorite coworking space, in a café, in a library, in an armchair, in bed, lying, standing, or in any other different way.

Flexibility is not the only advantage of online certification. While the certificate issued by ATA, costs over US$ 800 including the obligatory membership cost (starting at US$ 204), one practice test for preparation (US$ 80 for current members) and the fee for taking the exam (US$ 525), online certification programs often are in the same price range, but apart from the exam, they offer education. In most cases there are short educational programs for those who either wish to refresh their memory, receive an additional certificate apart from a college diploma in a similar field, or switch from one specialty to another within the language industry. So for relatively the same price as the ATA certificate, one will not only receive the translation certification but also education in translation in the most flexible form possible. 

For sure, people without a background in the language industry and mastery of at least two languages will not be able to undergo a certification program. There are always entry exams that determine the eligibility of a candidate to take the translation certification course in a specific language pair. Some might consider further studying to receive a certificate after getting a degree a waste of time, but in fact, it can be very beneficial and it is never enough to learn. Moreover, online certification programs can often be excellent preparation for the ATA certificate, if one still is interested in it (while ATA does not provide any educational materials or courses, apart from passages from the previous year that cost US$ 120 for non-ATA members, that are sold on their own without any grading). So for those who wish to pursue their career in translation in some organizations like the UN, in multinational corporations, banks, etc. online certification can be the first step that will eventually lead to getting certified by ATA.

Adelphi University English/Spanish Translation Certificate

Adelphi University offers a certification course in English-Spanish Translation in two forms. The first one is available for the current students as a separate course to choose that will lead to an extra certificate in translation, while one can get a degree in English (with Spanish as a second language) or a similar field. But most likely, you are not a current student of Adelphi university, and so a second option might be more suitable for you. It is an online course in English-Spanish translation offered to anyone in the world that leads to the certificate. It is very convenient that this course can be completed in 6-8 months remotely. The course provides a balanced translation program and also prepares one for the ATA examination. Adelphi University constantly updates its program in order to make it touch upon the current trends in the industry, including machine translation.

The University of Toronto Certificate in Translation

School of Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto is another option for those who wish to undergo a certification program. Probably the greatest advantage of a certificate in translation from the University of Toronto is the variety of languages offered in combination with English. One can get a certificate in translating English and one of the following languages: Portuguese, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese. For each of these language pairs the University of Toronto has a program that consists of four obligatory courses by the end of which one receives a translation certificate. For each of the courses, the student has 18 months to finish them and take the final test. Students outside the US and Canada will have to pay the additional fee of CA$ 125 for the oversees examination. 

As already mentioned, certification in general and online certification, in particular, is not obligatory but many translators can benefit from it in many different ways from attracting clients, to learning and improving professional skills and boosting one’s confidence. It can also be the first step in one’s way to receive the most prestigious translation certification in the US provided by ATA.