Translation certifications are credentials that demonstrate the expertise of linguistic professionals. These certifications can help you develop your professional skills and may allow you to capture the attention of prospective employers. If you work in translation or plan to, it might be helpful to learn more about translation certifications and the benefits they can offer in your career.
In this article, we explain why translation certifications are important, list seven different credentials you can earn and provide tips to help you select one.
Why are translation certifications important?
Translation certifications are important because they can help you validate your competencies and show potential employers that you’re committed to your professional development. Fluency in a foreign language is the most important qualification for translators, and certification can show that you’re an expert.
They can also qualify you for work in specialized fields like medicine and law. If you decide not to obtain a specialized certification, you may enroll in a generalized program that covers a variety of material, including the foundations of interpretation theory and the practical application of language and translation technology.
Some programs evaluate your execution of different modes of translation and interpretation, including:
Sight translation: Sight translation involves transforming a written document or message into spoken communication and requires professionals to read text in one language and verbally translate it into another language.
Consecutive interpretation: Consecutive interpretation requires professionals to listen to a speaker or watch someone as they sign and take notes on the information they’re communicating. When the individual pauses, the interpreter can instantly convey their message to a listener in another language.
Simultaneous interpretation: Simultaneous interpretation requires individuals to listen to a speaker in one language and verbally communicate what they’re saying to a listener or audience in another language. This takes place as the speaker communicates, with both the speaker and interpreter expressing information simultaneously.
7 professional translation certifications
If you’re interested in earning a professional translation certification, consider these credentials:
1. American Translators Association Certification
The American Translators Association (ATA) offers a generalized certification that employers may use as a metric for translation competence. To earn this certification, individuals complete a three-hour exam, which includes questions related to translation techniques, text comprehension and the ability to write accurately in the target language.
There are a variety of language combinations that certification candidates can choose from, including English to Arabic, German, Polish, Hungarian and Chinese. The ATA requires certified professionals to maintain their credentials through continuing education.
2. Core Certification Health Care Interpreter
The Certification Commission for Health Care Interpreters (CCHI) administers the Core Certification Health Care Interpreter (CoreCHI) designation to professionals who want to validate their translation knowledge and other skills, including ethical decision-making, cultural responsiveness and critical thinking.
The CoreCHI examination is two hours long and is available for interpreters of languages without a language specific-performance exam. CCHI eligibility requirements include being 18 years of age or older, having a high school diploma or GED equivalent, completing 40 hours of health care interpreter professional training and maintaining linguistic proficiency in two languages.
3. Certified Health Care Interpreter
The CCHI also offers the Certified Health Care Interpreter (CHI) credential for translation professionals. This certification differs from the CoreCHI designation because it’s available to health care interpreters who speak languages most common in the U.S.
Conversely, the CoreCHI certification is for professionals who speak and interpret any language. The CHI examination is 60 minutes long and evaluates individuals’ translation skills using different modules, including simultaneous interpreting vignettes, consecutive interpreting vignettes, sight-translation proficiency and general translation skills.
4. Certified Medical Interpreter
The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) offers the Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI) credential to help professionals meet the ethical standards of medical interpretation. Medical employers often seek this credential because it shows that a translator can provide complete and precise interpretations, comply with regulatory guidelines and advocate for patient safety.
To obtain this certification, translators must complete a written test and an oral exam, which are available in six languages, including Vietnamese, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Cantonese and Spanish. Individuals can re-certify every five years by meeting the NBCMI’s continuing education requirements.
5. Federal Court Interpreter Certification
The U.S. Federal Court system offers the Federal Court Interpreter Certification in English and Spanish and administers the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE) in two phases. The first phase is a written examination that poses multiple-choice questions related to the interpreter’s Spanish and English proficiency.
If certification candidates successfully pass the first phase, they’re able to move on to the second phase, which is an oral examination. Phase two evaluates individuals’ ability to execute three types of court interpreting, including consecutive and simultaneous discourse interpretation and sight translation. The test may include formal language, colloquial phrases and technical terminology.
6. United Nations Translation Accreditation
Professionals can earn the United Nations Translation Accreditation from the American Society of Travel Advisers—United States of America (ASTA-USA). The U.N. translation certification process includes a language competitive examination (LCE). ASTA-USA first tests a candidate’s proficiency in their primary language, which the organization considers to be the language of an individual’s postsecondary education.
The organization offers certification in each of the U.N.’s official languages, including English, French, Arabic, Mandarin, Spanish and Russian. Additional requirements for this certification may include a relevant bachelor’s degree and the ability to translate into a candidate’s main language from two other U.N. official languages.
7. Certified Translation Professional
Individuals can earn the Certified Translation Professional (CTP) designation through the Certified Translation Professional program, sponsored by the Global Translation Institute (GTI). This is a self-study course that allows professionals to take their certification examinations online from their location of choice.
This credential can provide individuals with translation industry knowledge and can help them launch their own translation companies. Being a CTP can also allow translators to validate their industry-related skills on a resume or CV. The course is available in 23 different languages.
Tips for choosing a translation certification
Review these tips when choosing a translation certification program:
Consider your career goals
Translators may apply for a variety of roles and can work in diverse professional settings. Because of this, it’s helpful to reflect on your career goals before selecting a certification program. Consider reviewing prospective positions and examine whether employers in that field require generalized or specialized credentials.
Some certification programs only offer specific languages, so you may benefit from assessing what programs are available in your language of interest. This is especially true if you’re interested in translating for the federal government or the United Nations. For example, if you’re interested in advancing your career and pursuing a position as a trilingual translator, you may decide to pursue different professional credentials than a health care interpreter.
Determine your ideal client
As a translator or interpreter, you may provide your services to a variety of individuals, organizations or communities. When selecting a certification program, consider your ideal client and analyze the professional credentials they require. Many courses focus on developing the skills necessary for working with a particular client base.
Consult with your professional network
If you’re unsure about which translator certification to obtain, consider asking members of your professional network for their insights and feedback. Other individuals in your field might have experience with a variety of credentials and may provide you with guidance.
You can use professional networking sites or social media platforms to connect with like-minded individuals and learn more about their training and specialization. Consider contacting professionals who already have the roles you desire to learn about their industry-related certifications.
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