Quality and standards are the badge of honour and core characteristics of all who call themselves a “professional”. Disregarding economic argument, the value of a professional is embedded in their knowledge and expertise and their ability to apply both to a purposeful endeavour in pursuit of success.
Founded over 100 years ago, long before it became a chartered body, the Institute of Linguists was established to drive professionalism within the language industry and to promote the education and qualification of foreign language skills. 15 years ago in 2005, the UK Government, via the Privy Council, validated the goals of the Institute by bestowing Chartership. Roll forward to 2019 and the original need for the formation of the Institute has never been more relevant.
Qualifying as a translator or interpreter requires an in-depth understanding of two or more languages and cultures and the specialist skills required to manipulate language such that the intended meaning and purpose of a communication in one language is fully and accurately transferred to another.
The Chartered Institute of Linguists currently represents a growing number of over 7,000 members, and many more language practitioners who hold the organisation’s professional qualifications. Right from the earliest days, the Institute offered language qualifications specifically developed by industry professionals from a variety of backgrounds in education and business.
The profession has seen a number of changes over the years, but in recent times, a continuing and harmful push has been exerted to lower prices paid for language services at the expense of the quality of the work produced.
Where does the blame lie for this denigration of the status of the language professional in the eyes of the public? We believe it lies with everyone within the profession. The buyers of translation and interpreting services for always looking for a cheap deal, the all too many agencies agreeing to poorly paid contracts, some professionals themselves for accepting poorly paid fees for fear of losing work, and, in no small measure, institutes and organisations like ourselves whose voices have not been effective enough to change minds on standards and pay.
The rising use of technology has not helped the situation. The human skills acquired by translators and interpreters through long hours of hard study and achieving qualifications are forgotten in the face of a public who feel entitled to free online services as they tap words and phrases into apps such as Google Translate.
The use of technology to replace or augment work isn’t limited to our own profession, and appears unstoppable. At the same time, professionals should not be fearful of technology, but look to evolve their skills and how they work to maintain currency and relevance in a world where demands are changing.
It is clearly not acceptable for any qualified professional, after years of study, to be paid barely above the minimum wage. Professional translators and interpreters make a difference to everyday lives and provide an essential public service, improving understanding of and breaking down barriers between cultures. If we continue to accept these practices and not do anything about them we will only harm those we serve.
In other professions there has been a significant shift in attitudes to the acceptance that quality carries a premium – as is the case for example with chartered professionals such as accountants, surveyors and engineers. Professionals within the language industry deserve to be recognised in the same way, in all areas of work.
The immediate impact of any improvement in quality of work provided to customers will generate higher expectations and in turn lead to greater numbers willing to enter the industry, driving further diversification and improvement of skills as well as higher value outputs.
The Chartered Institute, as the representative body for the profession, has set the standards for translating and interpreting for almost 110 years. Professionals around the world seek out our qualifications for their rigour and recognition. Government departments and language service providers look to our qualifications for assurance of both quality and standards.
The Chartered Institute was set up by linguists to support fellow professionals within the industry and we will continue to support the industry as we have done for over 100 years. We will fight for our members and our Chartered Linguists to be recognised and justly rewarded for their expertise and professionalism. In the coming months you can expect to hear more from CIOL as we tackle the challenges faced by the language profession.