The ATA Chronicle - July/August 2020 - 15

ATA IS A MEMBERSHIP
ASSOCIATION, NOT A
CERTIFYING BODY
Per Article II, a. of ATA's Bylaws4, the
Association's purpose is to promote
recognition of the translation and
interpreting professions and provide
professional and educational opportunities
and cooperation. Some professionals,
including interpreters in a number of states,
hold certifications issued by independent
credentialing entities. Although certification
consultant Michael Hamm, in his May 2000
report, recommended such a structure for
ATA certification5, this option has not been
under consideration. ATA is not primarily
a certifying body, but rather a professional
educational membership organization, and
that is what it should remain.

STATURE OF ATA'S
CERTIFICATION CREDENTIAL
ATA has repeatedly stated that opening
certification to nonmembers would
"enhance the stature" of the CT credential.
Decoupling is in no way a proven path to
greater recognition.
These changes would actually decrease
the stature of the CT credential in the
eyes of many clients and members. A
certification consultant may propose various
routes to "enhanced stature," but what
matters to clients and vested stakeholders
is that certified individuals are committed
to high standards of professional practice
as evidenced by the rigors of the exam,
continuing education requirements, and
adherence to a professional code of ethics.
Current ethics enforcement efforts are
problematic at best, and they would only
become more difficult if nonmembers
took the exam. Current sanctions include
suspension of ATA membership, which
obviously could not apply to nonmembers
who misrepresent their certified status,
making any enforcement effectively
impossible among offending translators in
the U.S. or any other country. This would
result in disparate imposition of sanctions
and enforcement, and would clearly
contribute to a decoupled ATA credential
being viewed as less prestigious.
Lastly, comparisons between American
Medical Association or American Bar
Association licensing and ATA certification
www.atanet.org

are invalid. Physicians and attorneys in
the U.S. are licensed by governing bodies
in each state, while ATA certification is a
voluntary credential offered to translators
worldwide. The establishment of a
license-type credential governed by a
separate credentialing entity is a massive
undertaking that would require changes
to laws nationwide and is far beyond the
current reach of ATA.

DOES ATA CONTROL THE SUPPLY OF
CERTIFIED TRANSLATORS?
ATA leadership has asserted that
nonmember access to certification would
dispel any perception that "a certifying
association may be controlling the supply of
certified individuals."6 In fact, the potential
for such a perception is practically nil.
With approximately 2,100 ATA-certified
individuals, holders of the CT credential
represent about 3.8% of the estimated
55,000 practicing translators in the United
States. Among hundreds of thousands of
translators worldwide, this percentage is
even more negligible in the global context.
ATA's membership requirement does not
stand alone-the Institute of Translation
and Interpreting (ITI) has a number of
certified individuals similar to the number
holding ATA certification, and they are
required to maintain membership and
complete continuing education credits to
maintain the credential, which is referred
to as being a "Qualified Member" of ITI.

CONCLUSION
ATA certification and membership together
represent a significant commitment on

the part of certified translators to uphold
high professional standards. Attaining ATA
certification was a significant factor in my
joining 28 years ago, and continues to be
an important reason for maintaining my
membership. Its exclusivity to membership
represents the gold standard for our
profession, not a shortcoming that needs
to be remedied. While I wholeheartedly
support ATA's goals that concretely
enhance the quality and stature of the
existing Certification Program, I believe
that the current proposal to decouple
the certification credential from ATA
membership is ill-advised and unlikely to
achieve those goals.
Therefore, I will vote "No" on the
proposed Bylaws amendment, and I
encourage other voting members to do
the same.
NOTES
1.	
"Proposed Amendment to the Bylaws
to be Presented to the Membership for
Voting in October 2020,"
https://bit.ly/bylaws-amendment.
2.	

Minutes of April 18-19, 2015 Board
Meeting, http://bit.ly/summary-April2015.

3.	

Communication from ATA Headquarters
and calculation based on those figures.

4.	

Article II, a. of ATA's Bylaws,
www.atanet.org/docs/p_bylaws.pdf.

5.	

ATA Accreditation Program Report
(Michael Hamm & Associates, 2000), 4,
http://bit.ly/Hamm-report.

6.	

"Proposed Amendment to the Bylaws
to be Presented to the Membership for
Voting in October 2020,"
https://bit.ly/bylaws-amendment.

We want to hear from you!
Members are encouraged to submit their opinions, both
pro and con, regarding opening ATA's certification exam
to nonmembers (also referred to as decoupling) for publication in The
ATA Chronicle or Chronicle-Online website. While it may not be possible
to print all submissions, equal space will be provided for members to
present views on both sides of the issue. Please send to jeff@atanet.org.
Note: In keeping with standard ATA editorial policy, submissions must
include the author's name, which will be published. Anonymous submissions
will not be accepted for publication.

American Translators Association

15


https://www.bit.ly/bylaws-amendment http://www.bit.ly/summary-April2015 http://www.atanet.org/docs/p_bylaws.pdf http://www.bit.ly/Hamm-report https://www.bit.ly/bylaws-amendment http://www.atanet.org

The ATA Chronicle - July/August 2020

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