Professional associations exist in almost every industry in all corners of the world. And for good reason. So, let’s take a look at what key qualities define a professional association in the language industry, why joining a professional association is beneficial to veteran linguists and fledgling translators alike, the different types of associations, and a few noteworthy examples from around the world.
While each professional association is different, they typically share a few common traits — as indicated by the language they use to describe themselves. Professional associations for the language industry usually:
Have memberships for various industry participants (including translators, interpreters, proofreaders, terminologists, and any other linguists). You have to apply to become a member, meaning it is a selective process and each association will have its own criteria and entry requirements. Some have multiple membership categories based on career level.
Encourage and build communities internationally, nationally, and regionally. As GALA states, “We believe a strong professional community creates a strong industry.”
Promote the highest industry standards of competencies, ethics, and best practices.
Represent their members and the industry at the highest levels and are “a voice” for professional linguists. They promote the skills and the value of linguists and the language industry, offering visibility, encouraging recognition, and advancing the profession.
Portray professionalism. Membership is a “sign of professional excellence” (AIIC) for individual translators and interpreters. They aim to offer credibility to qualified, practicing professionals in the language industry who are committed to the standards and the value of the profession. Membership can set you apart from others. As is so often noted, not everyone who speaks more than one language is or can be a translator. This is just one way to prove your professional ability.
Champion knowledge-sharing and information dissemination and provide news, industry resources, and education. This refers to both education and qualifications for newbies to the profession, as well as resources, workshops, webinars, and courses for all levels to encourage continued professional development (CPD).
Here are eight reasons to sign up for a professional association in 2023.
Education: Qualified = Quality?
Many professional associations either offer their own qualifications, which are nationally and internationally recognized as high-quality certifications, or provide information on where to find such qualifications. These can help you become professionally qualified if you’re a newcomer to the language industry, or offer the perfect opportunity to scale up your freelance business by adding a new accredited language or skill.
Having a professional qualification is not crucial to be able to work as a translator or interpreter. There are no specific regulations in the language industry that you must have a particular qualification in order to practice (unlike say, doctors or lawyers). And yet, those on the receiving end of language services want to know that the linguists they rely on are the real deal and reliable. Official recognition of your skills adds significant gravitas and “signifies professional dedication and comprehensive knowledge.”
Time to Train and Engage the Brain
Similarly, it is essential to keep existing skills up to scratch. A bit like joining the gym to keep fit, being a member of a professional association allows you to practice your skills and keep up to date with the latest news and developments in the industry. There’s a multitude of webinars, workshops, training courses, and many other CPD offerings. As a freelance linguist, it’s even more important to set and pursue specific career goals, hold yourself accountable, and actively ensure that you are continually trying to improve.
Stay Ahead of the Curve
Your membership will grant you access to all the latest industry information, career insights, and news, giving you a competitive edge in the market. This is particularly helpful for those new to the profession to learn about the industry, and also allows any translator, interpreter, or linguist to keep on top of new trends, know what’s in demand, and adapt your business accordingly.
Most professional associations have their own blog, newsletter, magazine, or bulletin. Some carry out and publish surveys and reports on specific topics, sectors, results, and insights. Information may also be provided in the form of conferences, white papers, speciality journals, podcasts, discussion boards, and forums.
Work Opportunities: Seek and you Shall Find
Many professional associations in the translation industry have jobs boards with both freelance and in-house opportunities. This is a concentrated listing of industry-specific jobs, meaning you don’t have to weed out all the non-translator jobs that inevitably seem to slip through the net when searching on the regular job sites.
Likewise, some have established a directory of professional linguists and you could be the latest addition; add your name, language combination, and services to the directory so that LSPs and direct clients can find you more easily. You could also use this directory yourself to find fellow linguists with particular interests, skills, or languages if you have a question, query, or potential project for them.
Credibility and Kudos
Becoming a member is an accomplishment in itself; it’s not a free-for-all, not everyone can join. Applying to a professional association usually requires evidence of appropriate education, qualifications, or experience working in the field and you obtain the level of membership proportional to your career progression to date. Members often receive a certificate and a digital logo. Including this on your CV, LinkedIn profile, and email signature will immediately get you noticed by potential employers and clients.
Having that membership badge shows your commitment to the profession, that you’re serious about what you do, and that your work is valuable. It is an agreement to maintain and uphold professional standards in translation / interpreting, to be knowledgeable, and to keep up with the ever-evolving industry. As a result, your credibility as a professional translator, interpreter, or linguist skyrockets as LSPs and direct clients acknowledge and appreciate these affiliations as a sign of high-quality, expertise, and professionalism. Who wouldn’t want that?
Cast Your Net Wide
Networking. It seems to have become all the rage over recent years, and there’s no denying that it has significant benefits, personally and professionally.
Most professional associations — or specific groups within them — organize social meet-ups as well as subject-specific events. We are inherently social beings, so this is incredibly important for our mental health and social wellbeing.
Connecting with other professionals has many other advantages too. We all need people we can relate to and share stories with. But we also need people we can learn from and who challenge us. And we all need people we can share knowledge with such as best practices, new tools, ways of working, or even clients. You may find colleagues you can pass work on to (and, in turn, receive from them) if you either don’t have the skillset the client requires or are at full capacity and can’t accept any more work.
Talking to those who have been in the industry for a long time can be a real eye-opener to the nitty gritty of the profession and how to succeed. They may be able to share advice on markets, rates, scams, resources, or even provide more specific information about certain genres or dealing with a particular form of speech, like idioms, metaphors, and jokes.
Many associations even have their own mentoring programs if you’re looking for some structured, personalized guidance from an expert in the field.
Okay, so not everything will be free and handed to you on a silver platter. However, there are many tangible benefits to joining a professional association. For instance, discounts and reductions to their events or those run by partner organizations, translation tools, books, seminars, and conferences, to name a few.
Show Some Support
By joining a professional association, you are supporting the industry and other professionals. The top tier of each association will advocate for the interests of their members, nationally and sometimes internationally; they are often a mediator and go-between for the general public, government, industry, media and commerce. They may be able to influence public policy and decision-making, shape perceptions of our industry, guide professional standards, and affect how linguists are paid, treated, assessed, respected.etc.
Luckily, professional associations in the translation and interpreting industry are not few or far between. Most countries have their own national associations for linguists and there are often more specialized splinter groups within these. If you have a very niche specialism or just want to be more in the loop, try and find a professional association in that industry too.
Being a good translator is as much about knowing the culture as it is about knowing the language. So, how about an association for your target language (TL), preferably based in a TL country and an association for your source language (SL), preferably based in a SL country.
Join the specific networks / groups within a national or international association that are of interest to you, e.g., subject-specific groups for your specialisms (such as sports, marketing, legal); language-specific groups for your language combination; service-specific groups for your skills (such as translation, interpretation, editing, copywriting, SEO); and regional groups local to where you live so you don’t miss out on in-person events.
International Federation of Translators (FIT)
Globalization and Localization Association (GALA)
International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC)
American Translators Association (ATA)
Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council (CTTIC)
Canadian Language Industry Association (AILIA)
French Translators Association, Société Française des Traducteurs (SFT)
Spanish Association of Translators, Proofreaders and Interpreters, Asociación Española de Traductores, Correctores e Intérpretes (Asetrad),
German Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer, (BDÜ)
Italian Association of Translators and Interpreters, Associazione Italiana Traduttori e Interpreti (AITI)
Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT)
New Zealand Society of Translators & Interpreters (NZSTI)
National Accreditation and Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI)