Reason for this post

As existing members of the ITI (Institute of Translation and Interpreting) will be aware (and especially those that attended the ITI Conference last weekend), a number of changes are being made to the ITI membership structure. My decision to join the ITI as a “Qualified Member” coincided with these changes, so I thought it would be beneficial to others to share my experiences of joining the ITI as an MITI, or “Qualified Member”.

Sections of this post
  1. Changes to individual membership structure
  2. My decision to apply
  3. My experience
  4. Q&A with Elizabeth Dickson
  5. My recommendation
  6. Find out more
  7. Outside the UK?

 

Changes to individual membership structure

You can read more about the changes to the individual membership structure here.

The Qualified (MITI) and Fellow (FITI) categories are staying the same, although a lot is changing for associates. The associate category is being replaced with a number of new categories and existing associates will have to move to one of the following categories by 1st December 2013. However, as a special offer, existing members of the old associate category who apply for MITI before 1st December 2013 will not pay any additional subscription fee for the membership year 2013/14.

Fellow – FITI For Qualified Members with at least ten years of industry experience.

Qualified – MITI For translators and interpreters with at least three years of industry experience.

Associate – AITI For translators and interpreters with at least one year of industry experience.

Career Affiliate For translators and interpreters who are new to the industry

Graduate Affiliate For recent graduates in translation or interpreting.

Student For students on a degree-level or post-graduate course in translation or interpreting.

Academic For lecturers in translation or interpreting.

Supporter For industry professionals who are not translators or interpreters e.g. CEOs, project managers, lexicographers, etc.

My humble opinion on the changes

The biggest changes are to the associate category. From my perspective, I never saw the point in joining the ITI as an associate as it once was, since I felt it was such a step down from being a Qualified Member. It was invisible to clients and nearly invisible to members. By the time I saw the benefit of ITI membership, I was already eligible for MITI status and confident enough to take the MITI exam. If the now-enhanced AITI status had existed previously, I probably would have gone for it. Moreover, I would have probably chosen to go for MITI status earlier in my career, once acquiring the three years of experience required. New AITIs will be visible to other ITI members in a dedicated directory, as well as acquiring the designatory letters “AITI” and use of the new AITI logo, and access to higher-level training along with FITIs and MITIs.

Further, the new Affiliate categories draw much-needed distinctions between existing associate members. Some people decide MITI status isn’t for them, perhaps due to retirement, living overseas, or concentrating on another association in which they are more active. There is a clear difference between someone in this position and a recent and very active graduate. Indeed, such members are likely seeking different things from their membership in the ITI. This is why the new Career Affiliate and Graduate Affiliate categories are such a great idea, providing a clear career path within the ITI and appropriate support for each stage. The reintroduction of the Academic category is a great compliment to this, ensuring that lecturers (i.e. those shaping the minds of newcomers to the profession) are encouraged to get involved in the ITI.

It is in all our interests to have strong professional associations where newcomers and seasoned translators alike can exchange ideas and experiences. The new membership categories put the ITI in a better position to support us all, especially if we are greater in number.

My decision to apply

What attracted me to becoming an MITI

Although the networking and educational aspects appealed to me, I made the decision to join the ITI directly as a Qualified Member more because I was interested in having something “official” and translation-related on top of my BA in German and Politics and (pending) MA in Human Aspects of Information Technology. Although I may later go for the DipTrans or even the Staatsexamen, the MITI exam and “Qualified” membership of the ITI appealed most for its industry-relevance. I am British, too, so the ITI was quite a natural choice.

What made me hesitant

I was very worried by rumours of a non-transparent, poorly organised and potentially subjective process. These worries were intensified upon reading of Céline Graciet’s experiences, although somewhat allayed by Philippa Hammond’s description of the exam route to MITI status. The thought of the low pass rate and lack of feedback remained a concern, but I decided to go ahead anyway.

What the ITI said to reassure me

We have worked hard to make the application process more streamlined and simpler to understand.

  • There is now no word count requirement for MITI (translator).
  • Exams take place throughout the year and you can choose a date to suit you.
  • Candidates have the right to reject an exam text if it falls outside of their specialist areas.
  • All candidates now receive feedback with their results including some comments from the examiners and a few examples.

Feeling suitably reassured, I went ahead.

My experience

The paperwork

I had to fill in a pretty straightforward form with my personal details, languages, specialisations and a list of my main clients with dates that, between them, cover the past three years.
Since we all move on from clients at different stages in our career, it should be noted that just one positive reference dating back three years is sufficient, and they do not have to be a client you still work with on a regular basis.

The most detailed part of the application was the extended MITI reference form to be sent to at least two professional referees, usually among those listed as above, which also had to cover at least three years. You can choose who to send your references to, to increase chances of glowing feedback. However, I am told to not worry about the difference between an eight and a ten – it is more about ensuring the client was happy to use your services again and there were no serious concerns. The questions were quite detailed, including some to confirm the length and frequency of the cooperation, as well as ratings and comments on key factors of a successful cooperation. I went a bit overkill with six professional references, but at least I felt more confident that I would be accepted and my clients got to hear about the application. Similar to the above, applicants without a relevant degree will be considered if they have six years’ relevant industry experience.

A character reference was also required, although in many ways this was more of a “rubber stamp”. I chose Marta Stelmaszak: a fine translator, interpreter, blogger, marketer and friend.

The word count requirement has been scrapped, which I believe we are all grateful for. This reflects the reality of quality-driven translators charging respectable rates, not workhorses who must translate 15,000 words a day just to pay the rent.

I also signed a declaration that I agree to abide by the ITI Code of Professional Conduct for Individual Members.

The exam

It took about just over a week for the ITI to examine my application documents and invite me to take the exam, which I arranged for 15th to 17th February. I supplied a list of topics – anything relating to computers or information technology, with an emphasis on computer science. I would receive the text by 12 p.m. on Friday and the translation would be submitted along with a corresponding commentary by 4.30 p.m. the following Monday. Note that this is a deadline, and just like a normal job, early submission is appreciated by the admissions staff. It will not affect your grade if you deliver five minutes before the deadline, but do bear in mind that the poor folk in admissions have to check the exam documents of every candidate and send them a response before the office closes at 5 p.m. I submitted mine at 1.30 p.m. GMT on the Monday, after having allowed plenty of time for checking, editing, further checking, and so on, and I still did not really feel pushed. My text was around 950 words, which is more than doable over the course of a weekend.

I had hoped the text would describe some unknown technology or software, i.e. something typical of the work I do. However, the text received was journalistic in nature, not technical and very outdated. The register was also low and down-to-earth, so different to most texts I translate. There were also some errors in the original German.

I would have preferred to translate a more modern and technical text for the MITI exam. I am an IT translator, which despite popular “I can IT” attitudes, is still something those who have an extensive interest and academic experience in the subject are in a better place to translate well. A more technical and modern text would also have given me a better chance to illustrate my subject-specific knowledge. On the other hand, the more general nature of the text and the errors in the German reflect the sometimes unpredictable nature of a source text, thus serving as a good general test of my ability as a translator.

With the above in mind, why did I accept this text regardless? Firstly, because I felt that despite this, I would still produce a result sufficient to pass the examination. Secondly, and most importantly, I was aware of the time involved in sourcing a suitable text. I was concerned that rejecting the text would cause a significant delay to my application, plus I had already kept one weekend free to take the exam and did not wish to do the same again. In retrospect, I probably should have rejected the text, because in a real-life situation I would have suggested enough edits to the text to become a co-author. It was simply far too outdated and missing major concepts that would be included in any similar text for publication today. In the end, I decided to keep my comments back until I received my results. No point in complaining if I had passed regardless, right?

The results

I passed. I received news of this on 12th April, within the suggested timeframe of six to eight weeks. I received a short notification, an overall grade (“good”), along with a very brief two-page feedback document (at no extra cost). Given my issue with the text, I was not worried about what grade I had received (there are also “acceptable” and “excellent” grades, as far as I know). I was simply glad to have passed, especially since this grade appears nowhere (apart from my own blog, ha!).

The feedback was helpful – it gave me an idea of what they liked and did not like, even if I found some comments to be contradictory or stylistic (the phrase “your average” was regarded too low register, but I received praise for my matching the low register of the source text as a whole). It was good to see that certain localisation efforts had been appreciated and removed any speculations about what was liked and not liked by the assessors. Altogether a much better, more transparent process than those described by Céline or Philippa. It was still possible to request more detailed feedback, but I felt this feedback was sufficient. This represents a major improvement to the process, based on the experiences of these colleagues.

Guidance

The ITI staff were incredibly helpful and responsive at all stages of the process, offering assistance and reassurance by both telephone and email. Of course, they were unable to assist with the poor choice of examination text because I saved my comments about the text until after I received my results.

Response to concerns

After results were received, I shared my concerns about the text with Elizabeth Dickson, the ITI Admissions Officer, who impressed me with her positive, thorough and proactive response. She agreed that the text was inappropriate and stated that there were already plans to replace it. Apparently it had not caused any problems thus far, but the text would be replaced shortly to ensure more accurate assessment of future applicants. My comments acted more to remind them of the urgency. Discussions with other ITI staff at the ITI Conference 2013 revealed that there is an (understandable) issue with finding appropriate texts that do not break copyright.

Hindsight

It should be noted here that I did have the right to reject the text I received. I just did not want to, because of fears of delays to the process. Had I exercised this right, I doubt I would have had any negative comments about the process at all. Genuine, positive changes have been made and the ITI are very interested in improving the application process and encouraging more members to become MITIs.

Overall

Yes, I had an issue with the text itself, but I also had the option to reject it. Had I failed, it would have been my own stupid fault for choosing not to exercise that right. I believe (perhaps wrongly) that a good translator is a good translator whatever the text they receive, and is therefore unlikely to fail simply because the text given is not ideal. They may not get the excellent grade they were hoping for, but they will still pass. It should be noted that any translation is subjective and the grade received is not published by the ITI anywhere, since these are treated as personal. As such, nobody should really worry too much, as long as they have passed.

Q&A with Elizabeth Dickson

Given all of the information above, it seemed wise to bring Elizabeth Dickson, the ITI Admissions Officer, into the discussion.

Have pass rates changed? Has the test become easier? Do you feel the updated test procedures are a more accurate test of translation abilities?

Pass rates have remained the same at around 60 to 70%. We have not changed the examination process, just the way it is administered. I do think candidates feel that they have more control over the process.

I had some objections to my text in terms of it being a different register and quite outdated. What is being done to stop this happening again?

We are working on this. We are continuously building up our stock of texts but have some more work to do on that. It is important that candidates use their right to reject a text if they feel it is not something which they would normally tackle as this ensures that the text type cannot cause a disadvantage.

Do you also try to select texts that test more general translation abilities, i.e. stretching rigid specialisations the same way a real job might?

This is a careful balance we need to strike. In some subjects, such as law, we need to ensure that any examination text contains enough continuous text to test general translation skills – a bullet pointed contract may be more real-world but is not a good examination text.

There were errors in my source text, was this deliberate?

We try to pick texts without errors as we want to test a translator’s ability and not put unnecessary obstacles in their way. However, translators face texts with errors on an everyday basis so the texts we source for exams occasionally contain errors.

My recommendation

Now is definitely the time to become an MITI or AITI!

My advice would be to go for Qualified (MITI) status if you are an existing associate and already eligible for MITI status. This membership costs £222 per year, however existing associates who apply for MITI before 1st December 2013 will not pay any additional subscription fee for the membership year 2013/14, saving up to £130 – depending how early you apply. The exam itself costs a separate £210.

If you aren’t already eligible for MITI status or worried about the exam, but already have the experience necessary to become an Associate (AITI), why not go for that? You will be able to use the new designatory letters and new logo as well as access events otherwise restricted to MITI and FITI members. Similar to the above, there will be a saving of up to £48 on the subscription fee for the membership year 2013/2014. The usual cost is £140 per year and there is no exam.

Otherwise, the new, dedicated Career Affiliate and Graduate Affiliate categories look to be an exciting option that will provide specific support for members at these stages of their career. The Career Affiliate is equivalent to the previous associate category.

Find out more

If you are a current associate, you may find the upcoming “Current associate upgrade webinar” useful. It is free of charge and will be held on Wednesday 10 July 2013 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. This will include information about upgrading to MITI or the new AITI category and includes the opportunity to ask questions. You can register here to attend. Just to make this clear, this is only available to existing associates.

If you are not currently a member of the ITI, but this post has encouraged you to join, take a look here for further information on the ITI website. If you wish to join, please register on the website for your preferred category of membership. If you have any questions which are not answered on the site, by all means contact Louise on applications@iti.org.uk, who will be happy to help.

Outside the UK?

Just a little note if you are in the ITI already or intend to join and also happen to live outside the UK: I am one of the founding members of the new ITI International Network. There are other regional networks for everyone living in the UK, but this is the first network for those based overseas. If you are interested in joining and helping to shape this new and promising network, please send an email to iti.international.network@gmail.com.

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