When I finished my Ph.D., I swore I would never take another exam in my life. Then I started lecturing and was required to take a teaching qualification – cue more assessments and exams. Then came the switch into self-employment: surely now I would just be left to my own devices? Far from it! When I first set up my translation business, I joined the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) as an “Associate Member” to benefit from the organisation’s networking and professional development opportunities. However, you can only be an Associate for a certain time before you are required to become a “Qualified Member” or MITI. This full level of membership is awarded following – what else! – an examination.
For me, the process started when I was contacted by ITI’s Membership Officer in 2013; she encouraged me to think about taking the examination (for full details of the requirements that need to be met before you can apply for full membership, see the ITI website here). The exam process itself is quite straightforward: you are sent a text of around 1000 words in your area of specialism. This is then to be translated within a few days within the comfort of your own home (or wherever you prefer to work), thus mirroring your usual working conditions, and returned along with a critical commentary on aspects of the translation you found particularly interesting. Both translation and commentary are assessed by two examiners, who will then decide whether your work meets the standards required for full professional membership. The text is supposed to be more or less the same standard as the day-to-day work you undertake.
I must admit I had been procrastinating on the issue of the exam for some time; I knew it was something I would need to take if I wanted to remain a member of the ITI (which I did), and I also knew that having those extra letters “MITI” after my name would be an outward sign that I was a good translator. But I hated the idea of being assessed yet again, and if I’m completely honest I also worried about having the quality of my work reviewed by fellow professionals – what if I wasn’t good enough? Forget all of those happy clients – what would other real translators say? I am grateful that the Membership Officer actually went to the effort of phoning me, as otherwise I would probably have skirted around the issue for another year or so.
As it was, it still took a long time before I was able to take the exam. I sent in a list of preferred specialisms, stating that I worked on academic texts. This caused some confusion as to what was actually meant by “academic”. Eventually this was resolved and I was informed – several months after applying – that a suitable text had been found for me. A domestic crisis meant I had to postpone the exam date further; luckily the ITI Office were very understanding of the fact that a flood in your house meant less than optimal exam conditions!
Finally the day I was to be sent my exam text rolled around. I was sent the text via email, and the ITI Office checked in with me via the phone to ensure I had received everything. I had four days – Tuesday to Friday – to complete the translation and commentary. Because of ITI regulations I am not permitted to say what the text was, but suffice it to say that it was very challenging, dealing with literary theory, much of which had originally been written in French, so that I not only had to translate the German words into English, I also had to research the standard English translations of some French texts! Luckily, I had faced these kinds of challenges in my work before so it wasn’t completely overwhelming. After I had completed the translation, I wrote my commentary; I felt rather nervous about this, as I had never had to produce a text of this kind before, but the information provided by ITI gave me several pointers and possible aspects to comment upon. On Friday morning, I returned everything to ITI along with various signed forms and declarations.
I had been informed that there would be a wait of around six weeks for my results, so I was very excited to receive an email titled “ITI Exam result” after only three weeks. I clicked on it with some trepidation – and was greatly relieved to read that I had passed the exam! I was even happier once I read my feedback sheet: both examiners were extremely happy with my translation and commended its quality. Although I had been told that examiners’ comments would be brief, I received two sheets of feedback, which I thought was pretty extensive and was certainly more than I had expected.
As someone who did not come to translation through a standard route (such as studying translation), what passing this examination has given me first and foremost is confidence in my own ability. Of course receiving positive feedback from satisfied clients is great, but receiving positive feedback from other experienced professionals is hugely satisfying and reassuring. Passing the exam has confirmed to me, once again, that my decision to switch from lecturing into translation was the right one. I’m grateful to ITI for the effort they put into organising the examination, and to my examiners for their comments. While the charge of around £350 for the exam was quite high, I feel it has been a good investment in my future career. I am now able to provide certified translations and will be listed in ITI’s database of professionals – I feel like a “real” translator!
Wishing all of you a very pleasant spring (or autumn, if you’re in the southern hemisphere!) as we move towards the equinox.