Publication review: “The status of the translation profession in the European Union”

I recently found “The status of the translation profession in the European Union” on the Directorate-General for Translation website and I would like to review it for my readers and comment on some of the points this study makes.

The document sets out to fulfill an interesting goal, namely to identify the markers of status in the translation profession within the European Union and assess their value. For a translator, this study is useful as it shows what are the trappings of status and what profession-related actions one may take in order to be perceived as belonging to a high-status group within the profession. I am intentionally avoiding saying “to actually belong to a high-status group” and am sticking to “perceived” since, after all, “status” is about perception alone. In our non-regulated profession (i.e. nobody can be stopped from working as a professional translator – except in Slovakia, according to the publication I am reviewing), the perceived status is thus important and  a depreciation of the profession’s status has as consequences a) a decrease in the amount of money people are willing to pay for translations and, subsequently, b) good translators leaving the profession.

So here are a few markers that signal status within the translation profession and the study presents to what extent these mechanisms are valuable:

  • membership in translator’s associations (there are approximately 100 in the EU)
  • academic qualifications
  • being a sworn or authorized translator (“authorisation as a sworn translator may actually be working against professionalisation” and cause a decrease in remuneration for translation services when the number of authorized or sworn translators is significantly higher than what the demand on the market actually is. This is the case in Romania for example where the number of the translators authorized by the Ministry of Justice is the highest in the EU and the difference between offer and demand is also the highest: the study reports that there is demand for approximately 1300 authorized translators while there are 32,000 authorized translators registered).

The study also states that there is an inflation in the translation industry of certification systems, online platforms that offer systems for awarding or verifying credentials, associations of translators that provide examinations and thus certificates. This inflation of mechanisms for “signalling status” enables almost anyone to signal status and in this way status becomes irrelevant.