I’m thrilled and honoured to announce that I recently received a letter confirming that I’ve been accepted as a Fellow of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. Huge thanks to the ITI Fellowship Committee for deeming me suitable, and equally heartfelt thanks to my referees for their kind words to support my application.This was especially welcome news in a week when my younger son had flown out to Boston to start a new life over there with his American wife, triggering all my empty nest feelings all over again… Work certainly isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, but when you’re feeling down, it certainly helps to be busy and feel appreciated, doing a job you love.
It really doesn’t seem that long since I originally applied to join the ITI some 10 1/2 years ago, yet, in career terms, the last ten or so years have been quite transformational, not least due to joining my professional association. I’ve written before about what ITI membership means to me, and all of that still holds true. I think most people who enjoy what they do feel the need to progress in their career and have their progress validated, something that’s not easy to do if you work as an isolated freelancer. Joining a professional association not only gives you a sense of progression, it allows you to have your work assessed and certified when you become a qualified member of the Institute. Then again, mixing with like-minded colleagues gives you a much-needed sense of belonging and encourages you to strive for even better working practices and core skills as you attend events and conferences – the essential continuous professional development, or CPD, that underpins any professional career path.
As a relatively unregulated profession, anyone can declare themselves to be a translator or interpreter (with the inevitable results), so it can be hard for both clients and fellow translators to sort the wheat from the chaff at first glance. By promoting membership of a recognised professional association and a formal accreditation system within that structure, the ITI sets a high standard for professional linguists – which can only be to our benefit.
One of the most important aspects of a professional association like the ITI, to my mind, is that there’s no sense of competition, as you might experience with a more commercial organisation such as ProZ. Yes, we may be working in similar language directions to some of our colleagues, and sometimes our specialisms may overlap, but there’s an overall sense of mutual support and promotion. We’re not out to compete with our colleagues, but to promote the best interests of the profession and provide an excellent service. I’m happy to refer colleagues I know will do a good job, just as they often refer their clients or inquiries to me. If I wasn’t a member of the Institute, I wouldn’t have that supportive network of colleagues to fall back on and I think my enjoyment of what I do would suffer as a result.
After nearly 35 years (next month!) as a professional translator, I’ve been increasingly finding myself wanting to give something back to the profession over recent years, be it by mentoring (formally and informally), joining the committee of the ITI German Network, judging the ITI awards for the past two years, or being involved in the ITI Professional Development Committee this last year. I certainly didn’t set out to become part of the ‘establishment’, it just happened, but I’d like to think I’m helping to make a difference as a result.
Times are very different now for new translators starting out from university or from careers elsewhere, with very few in-house jobs available to cut their teeth on, and increasingly depressing bidding wars for the lowest possible price among bottom-feeding agencies (see my portal post here). New entrants to the profession could be forgiven for thinking that the future looks dark, but I firmly believe that the prospects for good translators are still bright. By setting out your stall to become the best translator you can be, you’re well on the way there. That’s something it’s well nigh impossible to do on your own, which is precisely where the professional associations come in – for support, guidance, solidarity, encouragement – and that all-essential CPD.
As a new FITI, I hope I can continue to promote the highest standards in the profession – that’s certainly my intention. I’m looking forward to meeting up with colleagues old and new at this year’s conference in Sheffield: always one of the best events on the conference circuit to my mind (and I’m not just saying that!). Do come and say hello if you’re planning to be there too.