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Proof of experience
Thread poster: Paul Dixon

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:26
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Apr 12

In a new trend, more and more translation companies are adopting ISO 17000 conditions, which means that translators who do not have a degree in translation have to prove five years of experience. The idea is good (except for beginners), as it upholds quality, but the problem is proving this experience. I have the necessary experience (much more than that, in fact) but am unable to prove it formally. I have some of my jobs on my computer, but would not like to send them as proof due to confidenti... See more
In a new trend, more and more translation companies are adopting ISO 17000 conditions, which means that translators who do not have a degree in translation have to prove five years of experience. The idea is good (except for beginners), as it upholds quality, but the problem is proving this experience. I have the necessary experience (much more than that, in fact) but am unable to prove it formally. I have some of my jobs on my computer, but would not like to send them as proof due to confidentiality issues. Other jobs have now been erased, as some clients ask the translator to 'erase the translation from the computer after xx days'. What can I do? Does this mean I have to contact clients individually and ask them for the number of words I translated for them, and when?
And what exactly do they mean by a 'degree' in translation? Here in Brazil we have post-graduate degrees at Estácio, for example (1 1/2 years), regular degrees of 4 years (like those at Uninove or FMU), and practical hands-on courses (15 months). If the trend continues, I could get a degree in translation but cost is an issue.
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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:26
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Experience Apr 12

Paul Dixon wrote:

In a new trend, more and more translation companies are adopting ISO 17000 conditions, which means that translators who do not have a degree in translation have to prove five years of experience. The idea is good (except for beginners), as it upholds quality, but the problem is proving this experience. I have the necessary experience (much more than that, in fact) but am unable to prove it formally. I have some of my jobs on my computer, but would not like to send them as proof due to confidentiality issues. Other jobs have now been erased, as some clients ask the translator to 'erase the translation from the computer after xx days'. What can I do? Does this mean I have to contact clients individually and ask them for the number of words I translated for them, and when?
And what exactly do they mean by a 'degree' in translation? Here in Brazil we have post-graduate degrees at Estácio, for example (1 1/2 years), regular degrees of 4 years (like those at Uninove or FMU), and practical hands-on courses (15 months). If the trend continues, I could get a degree in translation but cost is an issue.


As proof of my experience and competence I always refer prospective clients to the examples of my work that are included in the "portfolio" section of my Proz profile, and I always trumpet my *actual 20+ years of experience* translating and interpreting in my specialist field (as opposed to having a piece of paper from a university that gives no assurance of anything). Trust me Paul: if a prospective client is serious about wanting a professional-level translation to the highest standard, they will be more interested in your practical experience than in your bits of paper.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 12:26
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
@Paul Apr 12

I don’t have a degree in translation (my degree is in economics). When potential clients need a proof of my experience I always refer them to the samples that are included in my website (https://www.bpt.com.pt/index.php?a=samples) and to the positive feedback some of them gave about my work (... See more
I don’t have a degree in translation (my degree is in economics). When potential clients need a proof of my experience I always refer them to the samples that are included in my website (https://www.bpt.com.pt/index.php?a=samples) and to the positive feedback some of them gave about my work (https://www.bpt.com.pt/index.php?a=feedback). My Proz profile may also give them an idea of who I am and what I do. Besides that I worked for 20 years as in-house translator for an EU institution what is easy to prove.Collapse


 

Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 13:26
Member (2016)
English to German
What does the ISO stuff actually say? Apr 12

Tom in London wrote:
Trust me Paul: if a prospective client is serious about wanting a professional-level translation to the highest standard, they will be more interested in your practical experience than in your bits of paper.


You are totally correct, Tom, but I think this is not the issue here. It's about agencies that call themselves ISO-whatever compliant/certified. So it would be interesting to know what the ISO standard says about these "proofs" and how they are supposed to be supplied.

Anyway, I'd probably avoid ISO-certified agencies anyway. ISO standards do not care about quality, they are about procedures. I'm afraid the growing plague of checklists and clicklists ("Yes, I really checked the punctuation and spelling", "Yes, I really did a terminology check"...) is due to agencies trying to comply with ISO procedures.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:26
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Invoices? Word counts? Apr 12

Do you have invoices that mention the actual work performed? Of course, you won't want to show them to a prospective client, but they would allow you to confidently declare your experience to them, on your honour. And if you have to, you could show them to a notary, who would then certify that declaration as honest.

If you have kept statistics related to word counts, that can also be used.


 

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:26
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Recent trend Apr 12

As mentioned, this is a new trend, probably in the last 6 months or so. Most agencies I have approached believe my experience and many ask me to take a translation test. Some ask me to mention major assignments (eg. 'I translated 34 real estate valuations for a major real estate consultancy, putting together a translation team' (true)) but without giving names of clients or exact word counts. This ISO-driven demand for exact word counts and formal proof arose in the last 6 months or so, as also ... See more
As mentioned, this is a new trend, probably in the last 6 months or so. Most agencies I have approached believe my experience and many ask me to take a translation test. Some ask me to mention major assignments (eg. 'I translated 34 real estate valuations for a major real estate consultancy, putting together a translation team' (true)) but without giving names of clients or exact word counts. This ISO-driven demand for exact word counts and formal proof arose in the last 6 months or so, as also an increasing number of demands for 'signed certification form to prove that you did the translation to the best of your ability'.
Maybe it would be better to avoid ISO companies as Kay-Viktor said, but many leading agencies follow this new trend. In these coronic days one can not turn down opportunities.
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Jean Dimitriadis  Identity Verified
English to French
+ ...
ISO 17100:2015 Apr 12

Excerpt from ISO 17100:2015

3.1.4
Translator qualifications

The TSP shall determine the translator’s qualifications to provide a service conforming to this International Standard by obtaining documented evidence that the translator can meet at least one of the following criteria:

a) a recognized graduate qualification in translation from an institution of higher education;
b) a recognized graduate qualification in any other field from an
... See more
Excerpt from ISO 17100:2015

3.1.4
Translator qualifications

The TSP shall determine the translator’s qualifications to provide a service conforming to this International Standard by obtaining documented evidence that the translator can meet at least one of the following criteria:

a) a recognized graduate qualification in translation from an institution of higher education;
b) a recognized graduate qualification in any other field from an institution of higher education plus two years of full-time professional experience in translating;
c) five years of full-time professional experience in translating.

NOTE 1
In some countries translation degrees may be referred to by a different name such as linguistic studies or language studies. If the course includes translation training, it is considered equivalent to a translation degree.

NOTE 2
Noting that the word “graduate” can have differing application in differing educational jurisdictions, in this International Standard it includes the first degree level of academic award issued by a recognised institution of higher education.

NOTE 3
Full-time professional experience means full-time or equivalent.
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RobinB  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:26
German to English
What "the ISO stuff" actually says Apr 12

Hi Paul,

Let's start by looking at what "the ISO stuff" actually says.

First, the original requirements in ISO 17100:2015 have been superseded by a 2017 amendment (in which I played an active part as Co-chair of the FIT ISO Standards Committee). This "ISO 17100:2015/Amd.1:2017" amended the requirements governing the formal criteria for the translator's qualifications to stipulate the provision of documented evidence of one of the following criteria:

1) a de
... See more
Hi Paul,

Let's start by looking at what "the ISO stuff" actually says.

First, the original requirements in ISO 17100:2015 have been superseded by a 2017 amendment (in which I played an active part as Co-chair of the FIT ISO Standards Committee). This "ISO 17100:2015/Amd.1:2017" amended the requirements governing the formal criteria for the translator's qualifications to stipulate the provision of documented evidence of one of the following criteria:

1) a degree in translation, linguistics or language studies or an equivalent degree that includes significant translation training, from a recognised higher education institution
2) a degree in any other field from a recognised higher education institution, and the equivalent of two years' full-time professional translation experience
3) the equivalent of five years' full-time professional translation experience

I have also just finished editing the "ISO 17100 FAQs for Freelance Translators", which aim to, first, spell out clearly the requirements that an ISO 17100-certified translation service provider can legitimately and reasonably ask a freelance translator to comply with and, second, dispel the many myths and half-truths that have arisen about ISO 17100 (and are often propagated by translation agencies). The plan is for these FAQs to be approved by FIT Council and then distributed to all FIT member associations for onward distribution to their members (together with a translation, if appropriate).

As far as years of experience are concerned, ISO 17100 does not stipulate how the evidence has to be documented. You can certainly provide anonymised details of projects over the relevant period (three or five years), or sample invoices, with the names of the client and any other identifying information blacked out. Extracts from tax returns would be another means. If you are a member of a professional T&I association, that in itself is a good indication of professional experience. The same applies to, or perhaps in combination with, paid membership of a platform like ProZ. There are no hard and fast rules here. Remember, all the translation company needs is evidence that will stand up in an audit. The translation company should be wanting to include you after all, not exclude you.

Edited to add: There is no requirement in ISO 17100 to disclose word counts or similar information. That is purely a matter for the individual translation company.

As far as a "degree" is concerned, here is what the FAQs say:

'The term “graduate” was used in the original 2015 version to mean a Bachelor-level degree, as opposed to a “postgraduate” qualification such as a Master’s degree. The term “graduate qualification” was replaced by “degree” in the 2017 amendment to ISO 17100, meaning a degree at any level from a recognised institution of higher education.'

So basically any regular relevant degree, but not the sort of "degree" you can buy on the internet

Does that help?

There's little point anybody huffing and puffing about ISO 17100 and all that sails in it. It's here to stay, and we just have to live with it. After all, professional T&I associations were also involved in the development of ISO 17100, through their participation in the national mirror committees for ISO TC 37/SC 5, which is the ISO subcommittee that developed ISO 17100. And FIT is also involved as a liaison member of TC 37.

As a rule, agencies need ISO 17100 because many of their corporate clients now expect them to be certified to internationally recognised process quality standards. As a specialised industry standard, ISO 17100 allows translation companies to bypass the vastly more complex and significantly more expensive ISO 900x family of standards. And many highly reputable translation companies are now ISO 17100-certified. The fact that some lowballers are also certified doesn't detract from its usefulness for the higher-end translation companies (something that is also addressed in the ISO 17100 FAQs). And even some individual freelancers are now ISO 17100-certified, for example because it allows them to sell their translations directly to regulated industries and compete with the agencies on a level playing field.

Robin



[Edited at 2020-04-12 18:14 GMT]
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Kaspars Melkis
 

The Misha
Local time: 07:26
Russian to English
+ ...
ISO what? Apr 12

RobinB wrote:



1) a degree in translation, linguistics or language studies or an equivalent degree that includes significant translation training, from a recognised higher education institution
2) a degree in any other field from a recognised higher education institution, and the equivalent of two years' full-time professional translation experience
3) the equivalent of five years' full-time professional translation experience

I have also just finished editing the "ISO 17100 FAQs for Freelance Translators", which aim to, first, spell out clearly the requirements that an ISO 17100-certified translation service provider can legitimately and reasonably ask a freelance translator to comply with and, second, dispel the many myths and half-truths that have arisen about ISO 17100 (and are often propagated by translation agencies). The plan is for these FAQs to be approved by FIT Council and then distributed to all FIT member associations for onward distribution to their members (together with a translation, if appropriate).

As far as years of experience are concerned, ISO 17100 does not stipulate how the evidence has to be documented. You can certainly provide anonymised details of projects over the relevant period (three or five years), or sample invoices, with the names of the client and any other identifying information blacked out. Extracts from tax returns would be another means. If you are a member of a professional T&I association, that in itself is a good indication of professional experience. The same applies to, or perhaps in combination with, paid membership of a platform like ProZ. There are no hard and fast rules here. Remember, all the translation company needs is evidence that will stand up in an audit. The translation company should be wanting to include you after all, not exclude you.

Edited to add: There is no requirement in ISO 17100 to disclose word counts or similar information. That is purely a matter for the individual translation company.

As far as a "degree" is concerned, here is what the FAQs say:

'The term “graduate” was used in the original 2015 version to mean a Bachelor-level degree, as opposed to a “postgraduate” qualification such as a Master’s degree. The term “graduate qualification” was replaced by “degree” in the 2017 amendment to ISO 17100, meaning a degree at any level from a recognised institution of higher education.'

So basically any regular relevant degree, but not the sort of "degree" you can buy on the internet

Does that help?

There's little point anybody huffing and puffing about ISO 17100 and all that sails in it. It's here to stay, and we just have to live with it. After all, professional T&I associations were also involved in the development of ISO 17100, through their participation in the national mirror committees for ISO TC 37/SC 5, which is the ISO subcommittee that developed ISO 17100. And FIT is also involved as a liaison member of TC 37.

As a rule, agencies need ISO 17100 because many of their corporate clients now expect them to be certified to internationally recognised process quality standards. As a specialised industry standard, ISO 17100 allows translation companies to bypass the vastly more complex and significantly more expensive ISO 900x family of standards. And many highly reputable translation companies are now ISO 17100-certified. The fact that some lowballers are also certified doesn't detract from its usefulness for the higher-end translation companies (something that is also addressed in the ISO 17100 FAQs). And even some individual freelancers are now ISO 17100-certified, for example because it allows them to sell their translations directly to regulated industries and compete with the agencies on a level playing field.




[Edited at 2020-04-12 18:14 GMT]


All of this sounds like a load of horrible bureaucratic crap that has nothing to do with translation quality. On top of that, I find the very idea that someone will have the temerity to "require" that I, a business owner, provide them with all that "stuff" deeply offensive. I would (and do) avoid such outfits like a plague - both as a customer and as a service provider - because they are simply bound to mistreat and underpay their providers and produce a horrible end product. I want no part of that. These are not "opportunities". These are... well, I am going to spare you all an obscenity here.

I am an independent professional, which means I provide a service for hire. It would be my pleasure to demonstrate what I can do by showing some of my past work (anonymized, of course) or do a test if all other terms (including, first and foremost, rates) are agreed upon. If the client doesn't like it, or the terms offered, or simply finds my handsome and honest face somehow not to their liking, there's nothing I can do about it. They are perfectly free to take their business elsewhere. If I cannot find enough clients who do appreciate what I do and how I do it to make a living, I will switch to doing something else - like, driving a truck, perhaps, or what not. No one owes me anything, but I don't owe anyone anything either. That's how business works, folks. Otherwise, it's not business. It's indentured servitude, aka employment:)


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Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 13:26
Member (2016)
English to German
Quality? Apr 12

RobinB wrote:
As a rule, agencies need ISO 17100 because many of their corporate clients now expect them to be certified to internationally recognised process quality standards.


Robin, how is ISO 17100 a quality standard? Where are the quality criteria for translations?


ahartje
 

RobinB  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:26
German to English
Process quality Apr 12

Kay-Viktor Stegemann wrote: Robin, how is ISO 17100 a quality standard? Where are the quality criteria for translations?


It is a process quality standard (like the ubiquitous ISO 900x series), not an output quality standard. Process quality standards aim to standardise the processes and procedures that, if implemented in a way compliant with the standard, may (and I use that word guardedly) result in a verifiable, standardised level of output quality. No more and no less. You can still get "garbage in, garbage out".

The ISO 17100 standard has its origins in a German standard, DIN 2345 "Übersetzungsaufträge", which was developed in the mid-1990s with the active participation of the German translation profession, including the BDÜ. This subsequently evolved into a European standard, EN 15038, on which ISO 17100 is based to a significant extent.

These standards were and are a response to the growing requirement by corporate end-clients for their translation providers to document compliance with process quality standards, i.e., they did not arise at the initiative of the profession to somehow get into the business of standardisation.

People who bitch and moan about the very existence of these standards evidently fail to recognise that many translators' livelihoods depend on them. And the sort of hysterical, self-righteous responses we see today are, in effect, essentially no different to the response I got back in the mid-1990s, during a BDÜ seminar in Lower Saxony explaining the various emerging standards (DIN 2345, LISA QA model, ISO 900x), from an elderly member of the BDÜ: "Sie versuchen, unseren ehrenhaften Beruf mit fremdvölkischem Gedankengut zu verunreinigen." That's the sort of statement you never forget. I won't bother translating it here, because you need a deep understanding of the really dark period of 20th century German history to get the true meaning. All of the other participants wanted to walk out immediately in protest. So whenever I read hissy-fit rants against translation standards, I draw a direct line to the wholly unacceptable comments by that former PG.

Robin


 

The Misha
Local time: 07:26
Russian to English
+ ...
You are more than welcome to your own standards, whatever they are... Apr 12

RobinB wrote:



People who bitch and moan about the very existence of these standards evidently fail to recognise that many translators' livelihoods depend on them. And the sort of hysterical, self-righteous responses we see today are, in effect, essentially no different to the response I got back in the mid-1990s, during a BDÜ seminar in Lower Saxony explaining the various emerging standards (DIN 2345, LISA QA model, ISO 900x), from an elderly member of the BDÜ: "Sie versuchen, unseren ehrenhaften Beruf mit fremdvölkischem Gedankengut zu verunreinigen." That's the sort of statement you never forget. I won't bother translating it here, because you need a deep understanding of the really dark period of 20th century German history to get the true meaning. All of the other participants wanted to walk out immediately in protest. So whenever I read hissy-fit rants against translation standards, I draw a direct line to the wholly unacceptable comments by that former PG.

Robin


... just as long as you don't try to impose them on the rest of us or expect us to march happily in the same formation with you. It's a big world. We'll find our own clients, and you find yours. Good luck with that. Seriously, I totally mean it.

[Edited at 2020-04-12 21:31 GMT]


Tom in London
 

RobinB  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:26
German to English
Doh? Apr 12

The Misha wrote: ... just as long as you don't try to impose them on the rest of us or expect us to march happily in the same formation with you. It's a big world. We'll find our own clients, and you find yours. Good luck with that. Seriously, I totally mean it.

[Edited at 2020-04-12 21:31 GMT]


I don't "have" any standards in the sense of ISO standards, and I don't try and impose any "standards" on anybody. I have a couple of high-end agency clients who are ISO 17100-certified and I'm more than happy to comply with ISO 17100 myself to make sure they meet their own end-clients' requirements. But my own direct clients (more than 75% of my business) don't give a damn about standards and wouldn't know what ISO 17100 was if it came and kicked them in the ass.

I don't want to go around telling translators to avoid standards and not to work for clients who do use standards. I'm not involved in standards and standard-setting for my own, selfish aims. It's one of the ways I try to give back to a profession and an industry that have done so much for me, both financially and personally, over the past 30+ years.

MY objective is to ensure that, if the translation profession and the industries it works in are required to comply with standards, then those standards should reflect translators' own best practices and not force them into doing things few of them can do in the first place. The standards should support translators, not challenge them. And I think we've succeeded in doing that. There's always room for improvement, of course, and the upcoming review of ISO 17100 will no doubt see some revisions.

[Edited at 2020-04-12 22:25 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:26
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Babel Apr 13

George Steiner doesn't say anything about ISO Standards in "After Babel"; nor does Walter Benjamin in "The Task of the Translator". I'm also fairly sure that Saint Jerome was not complying with ISO Standards when he translated The Chronicon of Eusebius from the Greek into Latin.

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Anti-competitive Apr 13

I remember when I first started out a quarter of a century ago I got flamed big-time on Flefo for suggesting that requirements for experience were misguided and unfair, discriminating against new-but-good translators and protecting a cartel of old-but-shite translators.

It is an anti-competitive and illogical entry barrier, and should be dropped.

Experience would only be an acceptable proxy for quality if it weren’t actually possible for bad translators to make a goo
... See more
I remember when I first started out a quarter of a century ago I got flamed big-time on Flefo for suggesting that requirements for experience were misguided and unfair, discriminating against new-but-good translators and protecting a cartel of old-but-shite translators.

It is an anti-competitive and illogical entry barrier, and should be dropped.

Experience would only be an acceptable proxy for quality if it weren’t actually possible for bad translators to make a good living from translation, which it clearly is.

There wouldn’t be a need for process standards at all if the translations weren’t still being done primarily by rubbish translators. A good translation doesn’t need multiple stages of review.

OP: You shouldn’t have to “prove” experience. Just tell them how long you’ve worked. You don’t have to document it. But in the longer term, if you make sure you do a damned good job every time, you’ll have enough repeat custom and word-of-mouth referrals that you won’t need to jump through these hoops ever again.
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