Monday, 9 April 2012

Is individual chartered status working for our profession?

Is it time to relax the word count criterion for Individual Chartered Linguist status in the UK?

(c) Lucy Brooks, FCIL, MD of eCPDWebinars

When the Institute of Linguists was granted Chartered status in 2004 and became the Chartered Institute of Linguists, many of us applauded. In the UK the word ‘chartered’ denotes a person’s accredited and verified professionalism. At last our profession would gain recognition; translators and interpreters would apply to become chartered linguists in droves, and together, we would drive forward the standing of our profession in the minds of business, commerce and the general public.

Sadly, this has not happened. At a time when professional translators and interpreters are under intense pressure: rates of payment, unfair conditions created by exploitative agencies, ever-shorter deadlines and a general lack of understanding by end users of what we do, there has been no rush to apply for Chartered Linguist status. When I was last able to check (the register has been off-line for a couple of weeks now) there were only 18 chartered linguists. Only a handful of these were translators. But when the register comes back on line, my name will be missing.

When I was granted CL status in 2008 I was very proud - proud to be a pioneer of the scheme, proud to have recognition of my professionalism - and I have applied for renewal each year, since I continue to meet the strict criteria by providing a highly professional translation service, doing a great deal of CPD (continuing professional development) and making a huge contribution to the profession.

So why am I no longer a chartered linguist? Have I committed a crime? Has a complaint been made about me? Have I made mistakes that caused the proverbial bridge to collapse? No. I have not been granted chartered status this year merely because I have translated fewer words this year and the rules - which appear to be rigid, despite assurances to the contrary at meetings I have attended on this subject - say that a CL (Translator) must translate 300,000 words in a year.

There are two reasons why I have cut down a little on translating work recently. First, I have been running eCPD Webinars for my fellow translators for two years now and, as you can imagine, it takes up quite a lot of my time. The second is that I wish to pick and choose the translating work I do and have “retired” from the kind of stressful job I often used to handle: weekend working, tight deadlines and excel files.

I think that the rules are very unfair. If Chartered Accountants or Chartered Marketers (to take a couple of examples) decide to work part-time, they are not made to relinquish their chartered title. Provided they do their 35 hours of CPD a year, they keep their status. Yet Chartered Linguists who decide to work part-time or retire from their professional activity of translating, teaching or interpreting are not allowed to continue to use their designation.

For many years I certainly handled 300,000 words and more, so it wasn’t really an issue for me at first, but it was for many of my colleagues who, for various reasons, work part-time and therefore did not meet CL criteria. Many translators have young families to look after, or have second professions, such as interpreting, or teaching. The volume of work can never be predicted or guaranteed.

When the Institute was first granted Chartered status it was suggested that every member should automatically become chartered. This was rejected, for some perfectly valid reasons. But the scheme which emerged is too restrictive and there simply are not enough chartered linguists to encourage others to join them. Many people believe that meeting the criteria and requirements for qualified membership of a professional association is quite sufficient.

Is it time to reconsider granting all members of the CIoL and ITI chartered status, and setting up a CPD verification system for all members?

I believe that our profession needs a boost in the eyes of the outside world. But perhaps the complicated and rigid Chartered Linguist scheme is not the right way to go about it?

What do you think?

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