How to become a certified translator in the UK

    Danilo Coviello

    There are no formal requirements for becoming a certified translator in the UK other than attaching a statement to say it’s a ‘true and accurate’ representation of the original document and listing your contact details.

    If you have a talent for linguistics and are fluent in another language, you might have wondered what qualifications you’ll need to become a translator or, more specifically, a certified translator. 

    A certified translator is a linguist who completes translations for official purposes, such as translations of birth certificates, ID documents, visa applications and other legal paperwork.

    Some entities may require that you have specific qualifications or you are a member of a translation association. There are plenty of accreditations that you can gain in order to verify the quality of work that you offer and help you stand out in an ever-more saturated market.

    In this article, we’ll look at why you might want to become certified to work as a translator, as well as how to become a certified translator in the UK.

    What are the 5 steps to become a registered translator in the UK?

    There is no formal requirement for becoming a certified translator in the UK but there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of being entrusted with certified translations. Our recommendations are listed below:

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    1. Become fluent in both languages – You have to be fluent in both the source language and target language. Usually one will be your mother tongue and one will be a foreign language.
    2. Get translation experience – To get started, you should gain as much experience in professional translations as possible.
    3. Get professional references – References for you or your translation business will help you get more jobs and clients.
    4. Pursue ongoing professional development – Always aim to obtain higher proficiency with further training or qualifications, or look at areas where you can specialise.
    5. Find additional certification – Gain additional qualifications, for example, becoming a Chartered Linguist (CL) to get ahead.

    Why become a certified translator in the UK?

    Becoming a certified translator in the UK means you will be eligible for a wider variety of projects and better-paying jobs. 

    As a certified translator, your profile will be more desirable to both business clients and translation agencies and getting additional accreditation can also help boost your career prospects.

    If you’re considering a career in translation, whether it be in full-time employment or working as a freelance translator to supplement your income, becoming a certified translator can be a real selling point on your CV.

    What are the benefits & advantages of becoming a certified translator in the UK?

    The main benefits of certification as a translator in the UK are listed below:

    • More chances for secure employment, especially in the field of legal translation services.
    • Increased ability to take on well-paid jobs across a wide range of sectors.
    • More legitimacy as a freelancer. Clients prefer working with certified translators as they know they can rely on high-quality translations
    • You can offer a more comprehensive language service.
    How to become a certified official translator in the UK

    Which institutes offer certification programmes?

    The Chartered Institute of Linguists as well as other official bodies offer certification programs. The Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) also lists options and course providers on its website as well as ways to get certified.

    If you are looking to become a certified translator to work outside of the UK, you should look at foreign accrediting bodies to check the providers that they recommend. For example, try the American Translators Association in the US, the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) in Australia, and the Canadian Translators, Terminologists, and Interpreters Council.

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    Where can I get a translator certification in the UK?

    The below table shows some of the most popular translator certification programmes in the UK:

    Programme NameInstitutionDuration
    MA in Translation StudiesUniversity of Leeds1 year full-time / 2 years part-time
    MSc in Translation StudiesUniversity of Edinburgh1 year full-time / 2-4 years part-time
    MA in TranslationUniversity of Surrey1 year full-time / 2 years part-time
    IoLET Diploma in TranslationChartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL)Self-paced (typically 1-2 years)
    DipTrans (Diploma in Translation)Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL)Self-paced (typically 1-2 years)
    MITI (Member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting)Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI)Depends on experience (at least 3 years of experience required)

    Options include specialist courses in certain aspects of translation (i.e. interpretation), academic institutions with postgraduate studies and accreditation or membership with one of the several translation institutes. While all of these put a lot of emphasis on education and training, there are many differences, and there’s no single ‘best’ translator programme.

    What are the translator certification requirements?

    The main requirement for becoming a certified translator is to have an excellent command of both a foreign language and your native language. As a certified translator, you are held liable for the accuracy and truthfulness of the translation. 

    Translation agencies will often require that you hold a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or other relevant qualification in foreign languages. They may also ask you to complete a knowledge and skills assessment that tests your comprehension, speaking and writing skills or attend a competency-based interview.

    You may also need to get accredited in order to get a full-time position in the translation industry.

    Also Read: What is a certified translation in the UK? What you need to know

    How does certification differ from accreditation?

    The terms certification and accreditation are used interchangeably in the UK in the context of translations.

    What degrees and qualifications do I need to be a certified translator?

    There are no specific qualifications you need to become a freelance certified translator. If, however, you are looking for full-time employment or want to work through an agency, you will usually need either a language degree or qualification or proven experience in the industry. This is particularly applicable to language service providers that are ISO 17100 certified, as these translator requirements are set by the standard itself.

    Getting a degree or diploma in translation can help improve your skills, enhance your CV and make you more appealing in the job market. Even if you have been working as a translator for a while, you could look at an MA or MSc in translation to help with your continuing professional development.

    Some of the top providers in the UK for language degrees are the University of Bath, The Open University, and University College London, all of which have excellent reputations, with highly skilled graduates that are ready to provide high-quality work. 

    Can I get certified in multiple languages?

    Yes, you can certify translations in more than one language as long as you have the language level and skills needed to pass the accreditation tests. A lot of translators become certified in multiple languages – once you have already mastered at least two languages, it can be easy to learn another. 

    If you want to be certified in multiple languages, you could also consider the translation certification from the United Nations (UN). Being accredited in official UN languages, such as English, French or Spanish, significantly improves your chances of government employment.

    Also Read: How much does a certified translation cost?

    How to choose the right certification program for me?

    Picking the right certification programme depends on your needs. If you are looking to have your skills recognised for a specific purpose, you might need to find a specific programme. If you are looking for professional growth opportunities, you could look at almost any type of programme that helps build on your skills. 

    It’s also worth considering the time requirements of certification programmes. If you are already working in a translation company or as a freelancer, you might struggle to find the time to complete certain certification assessments. You might also consider the exam fees and any other costs.

    What are the different levels of certification?

    In the UK, there is no official certification process and it doesn’t follow a tiered or level-based system. Rather, there are a variety of qualifications and memberships to professional bodies that translators can attain to demonstrate their competence and professionalism.

    Here are a few key ones: 

    • DipTrans (Diploma in Translation) from the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL)
    • MITI (Membership of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting)
    • Chartered Linguist (CL) Translator
    • Academic Degrees (MA, MSc, PhD in Translation Studies or similar)

    What certifications are recognised by international organisations?

    Some professional certifications that include a translation assessment will be recognised throughout the world, however, you should look at the country-specific requirements for certified translations in the countries where you intend to work. Some countries have stricter certified translator requirements than the UK, for example France, Italy and Spain and you will need certification in each of the individual countries.

    If you want to work within government services, you could look at getting a translation certificate from the United Nations, which you can get by applying to work for them and taking their entry exam. 

    FAQ

    What are some common misconceptions about becoming a certified translator?

    One big misconception is about how essential certification is. You only need to become a certified translator if you want to offer certified translation services.

    Another is that becoming a certified translator in the UK is a complex process. It’s not, as there’s no official procedure in place. 

    Do you have to be born bilingual to become a professional translator?

    No, no one is born bilingual. Even if you only spoke one language in childhood, you can still easily learn more languages to work as a professional translator.

    What jobs are available for certified translators?

    You could work for translation agencies, government bodies, legal courts, or other official institutes.

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