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In the United States, lawyers have to pass the Bar Examination to practice, while doctors have to take their Board exams. What strikes me about this model vis-à-vis accreditation exams say for the E.U., U.N., or DoS is that the examinations are administered by professional associations, and not by employers.

The interesting thing about accreditation exams, such as those I mentioned above, is that the employer controls both supply and demand; this gives them more leverage when negotiating (or imposing) working conditions and standards.

In light of this, my question is the following: why has it been such a major challenge (in the U.S. and other countries) for interpreters to establish barriers for entry into the profession such as the Bar or the Boards?

asked 23 Mar '15, 09:59

Anyuli%20In%C3%A1cio%20Da%20Silva's gravatar image

Anyuli Ináci...

edited 08 Apr '15, 11:12

Nacho's gravatar image

Nacho ♦

for the E.U., U.N. (...) the examinations are administered by professional associations, and not by employers.

Pourtant, pour l'UE et l'ONU, tu passes un examen conçu et géré par ton client (ou employeur, si tu passes un concours pour devenir fonctionnaire) et non pas par l'une ou l'autre association professionnelle .

(23 Mar '15, 19:28) Gáspár ♦

Oui c'est exact. La formulation en anglais est un peu alambiquée, mais je voulais dire qu'oui c'est nos employeurs qui organisent les examens et non pas les associations professionnelles.

(25 Mar '15, 16:13) Anyuli Ináci...

Along the lines of this topics... Increasingly I am seeing (at least in the United States) that agencies themselves are dictating the dialogue on interpreters' working conditions and standards. Often these agencies are billion dollar publicly traded companies, making this an even more sinister side of the issue.

Continually I see professional associations (notably the ATA and Interpret America, though they are by no means the only ones) putting on conferences, seminars, giving talks around the world, with blatant sponsorship from some of the most exploitative (and deep-pocketed) entities out there- Transperfect, Cyracom, Lionbridge, to name just a few.

As a profession, how do we take on this challenge- which seems insurmountable- and maintain a minimum standard of professionalism, respect, and working conditions? How do we raise AIIC's profile in the face of the agency scourge? It seems Sisyphean at best when the best-known entities out there are lining their wallets with money from the very groups who are leading the charge to commoditize our work and turn us into a by-the-minute iPhone app.

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answered 24 Mar '15, 05:55

InesdC's gravatar image




You make an interesting observation. I have also noticed this worrying trend. The cynical side of me thinks that we see this trend because there are people who stand to make a huge profit from bringing these agencies into our professional fora, so they can dictate the terms.

(24 Mar '15, 09:49) Anyuli Ináci...

BTW: Interpret America is organized as a Limited Liability Company and not as a professional association.

(25 Mar '15, 00:46) Luigi

Thanks for the clarification, Luigi! This explains why they work the way they do.

(25 Mar '15, 16:13) Anyuli Ináci...

Hi Anyuli - interesting question, yours, although not novel.

I take it that by "barriers" you mean "ensuring that candidates meet our standards, if they want to join us", right? :-)

As I'm sure you realise, the examples you quote of professional associations able to "control" entry are what in continental Europe we'd call "public (law) associations", ie those that States delegate public powers to... simultaneously making membership compulsory for practice. They do so because they acknowledge a public interest in so doing :-), ie all things considered, no public authority other than the associations so acknowledged would do a better job of administering professional entrance examinations and inter alia ethical discipline for those professions.

Perhaps misguidedly :-) - but probably understandably so - public authorities across countries have so far been unwilling to equate a botched interpretation with a misdiagnosis or incompetent representation of a defendant... and have thus been unwilling to endow our profession with a similarly empowered organisation... which might perhaps - to use your examples - bring health and court interpreting, their practice and organisation as well as contextual likelihood of achieving said recognition (and what that could mean for good ol' conference interpreting) under new light, what?

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answered 23 Mar '15, 12:09

msr's gravatar image



What I lack in originality, I make up for in enthusiasm. :-)

Thanks for your answer. Perhaps I was not clear in the use of my term "barrier." I do not mean meet our standards, who are "we" anyway? There could be a lot of ways to define that. However, one aspect that does seem pretty obvious/necessary is at least requiring a degree or relevant training to practice the profession; this applies to community, court, and even conference interpreting.

Another key aspect is client education and public outreach. Purchasing interpreting services sometimes reminds me of buying a diamond: the process is complex, there are many arcane factors to take into account, and it is difficult to truly know the value of what you are buying.

As someone recently entering the profession, it seems like professional organizations could really have an important role to play in terms of PR and marketing for our profession.

(23 Mar '15, 13:56) Anyuli Ináci...

... your enthusiasm is very welcome, do pardon me if my clumsy choice of words made for any other interpretation :-).

I do know that you did not mean "meet our standards" :-), I used that language to underscore that such is all we can do, ie because we have no delegation of public powers we can but offer "standards" that prospective entrants may choose to adhere to... as opposed to enacting rules conditioning professional entrance, be they in respect of academic qualifications or of any other nature.

I of course do agree that "professional organisations could have an important PR and marketing role", most try to, on the basis of what their membership instructs them to do, through the officers it elects and using the resources it makes available :-).

(23 Mar '15, 15:11) msr

You raise an important point about how must organizations try, but are subject to the instructions of their membership. This makes me come up with a few follow up questions: How can we do more as organizations (AIIC, as well as our local ones)?

And also: How can young new members contribute effectively in these organizations without stepping on anyone's toes or upsetting more seasoned members?

(23 Mar '15, 15:41) Anyuli Ináci...

..."how can AIIC and local organisations do more" I will leave to their governing bodies.

As to contributing effectively, I would venture to suggest joining, pitching in and actively contributing to the best of individual abilities, locally and internationally, looking for the best suited structures in which to do so, using common courtesy to avoid upsets.

As to stepping on toes, I wouldn't overly worry, toes are not that sensitive nor are there so many as to make it a minefield ;-), plus one may well find that provided a modicum of effort to learn about what was attempted/achieved in the past, said toes will be more than willing to gather round and tap an encouraging tempo, welcoming newer, younger feet to help walk the walk, if I may be pardoned the "podology" :-).

(23 Mar '15, 21:37) msr

Hi Anyuli, this is an excellent question! I am not certain, but the ATA might have looked into making their accreditation more of a certification, though it seems to have been rolled out only to the translator members of the association and not the interpreters - at least from what I can tell.

One of the characteristics of a good certification program is requiring those certified to go through some type of continuing education regularly. This would mean that one of our professional organizations would have to define what that would entail, how many hours per year, in what fields, what would qualify, who has satisfied the criteria, etc. etc. Enough work to set up another committee for any organization!

I definitely agree with MSR (as I do in many things), joining and pitching in, with new ideas or new approaches to old ideas, is always a great first step. He is right also, that as long as the States themselves don't see that bad interpretation leads to as serious consequences as bad legal counsel or bad medical advice, that interpretation can help build a healthy body politic, then we will never have that power to regulate ourselves the way that doctors and lawyers do.

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answered 26 Mar '15, 18:50

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question asked: 23 Mar '15, 09:59

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