Bulletin n° 13 - décembre 2014


TransCert: Trans-European Voluntary Certification for Translators

Sandrine Peraldi

Presentation of TransCert project

The need for multilingual translation has increased at rapid pace, and the labour market for translators and language services has undergone profound changes. Maintaining translator’s employability relies on multilingual and technological skills, productivity, problem-solving strategies and high quality translation that create added value in the translation activity.

The issue of innovative translator education has been addressed by professionals and academics specialising in the field of translation studies for many years. In 2009, the DGT “Symposium on the Translator Profile” brought together experts from the European Master in Translation (EMT) network, European institutions, the language industry and professional associations, to discuss the effects of the recent challenges in the language industry, the essential skills translators have to acquire in order to adapt to the new scenarios and skills expected to be required in the future, as well as stakeholder needs. They concluded that advanced and innovative translator education at tertiary level was now being delivered by the EMT Network and the OPTIMALE project (Optimising Professional Translator Training in a Multilingual Europe), but the highest standards of quality and professional relevance needed to be maintained in vocational educational training, other than at tertiary level, as well.

Certification has already proved its value in many fields with regards to employability. According to international translators associations or accreditation organisms representatives[1], certification increases employability and constitutes, when it is reliable, a real reference for employers. Considering the growing needs for translation in Europe and around the world, employers and customers need to be reassured, especially when they are unable to evaluate by themselves the quality of the services. Even though degrees delivered by higher education institutions guarantee initial training and enable students to acquire the basics of a profession and knowledge, certifications attest technical knowledge and professional know-how and are therefore an even stronger quality assurance for employers and clients.

As there is currently no EU-wide agreed certificate for the job role of Translator, and no agreed training scheme in vocational education and training beyond the tertiary level, TransCert aimed at providing continuing professional development and a Trans-European certification for translators. The TransCert project is deeply rooted in the realities of today’s global translation market, characterized by technological advances – most notably the rapid development of machine translation – and the globalization of communication.

The Transcert training program will allow translators to benefit from continuing education adapted to their levels and needs; Transcert will alsoprovide training on skills that are essential to adapt to new scenarios. The TransCert certification will help translators meet the new demands of businesses in terms of credentials, which will increase their international mobility and improve their visibility, leading in turn to higher salary expectations.


TransCert is a pilot project designed to establish the feasibility of voluntary certification for translators at European level. Within the program, a complete certification and training program (including certificate, training scheme, training materials, eLearning portal, etc.) for the job profile Translator has nonetheless been developed.

At a micro level, the innovative approach of the TransCert certification scheme combines best practices in translation quality assurance, industry certification at European level and international standards in personal certification. The TransCert concept fosters the integration of learning with working life by offering learning modules based on practical case studies and industry best practices.

TransCert offers:

    • Joint certification framework agreed between all stakeholders,
    • Certification portal,
    • Skill card for the job profile Translator,
    • Skill card based training,
    • Skill card based examination scheme,

At a macro level, the TransCert training programme will hopefully assure that continual education process of employees will be fostered. The TransCert skill-set will raise awareness of the value and importance of languages for Europe’s linguistic diversity. By establishing standards of professional practice, the TransCert certification aims at ensuring professional competence and competitiveness.

At a global level, the broad consensus on certification standards at European and international level will contribute to the awareness and knowledge about the job role Translator and enhance the prestige of the profession. Through increasing transparency and recognition of translators’ qualifications, the TransCert certification will lead to improved employability and equality in the labour market regardless of geographic origin or gender. EU-wide recognized certificates is believed to be a real benefit for all parties involved. The recognition by certifiers and training providers in all European countries including large countries like France, Germany, Spain, Scandinavian and Eastern European countries, etc., leads to better job and business opportunities in the European and global markets. The same training programme will be offered all over Europe so that the project will contribute to the mobility of people, which is a prerequisite for empowering employment. This way, TransCert will contribute to the professionalization of the entire translation industry all over Europe and beyond Europe.


The TransCert project has been developed jointly by all stakeholders of the translation industry in order to assure quality standards in Europe and beyond Europe.

The consortium consists of the following partners:

    • Project Coordinator: University of Vienna, Austria,
    • ISIT (Institut de management et de communication interculturels) – Paris, France,
    • KU Leuven, Belgium,
    • ISCN (International Software Consulting Network) - Graz, Austria,
    • Intertext Fremdsprachendienst – Berlin, Germany,
    • EUATC (European Union of Associations of Translation Companies) - Brussels, Belgium,
    • GALA (Globalization and Localization Association) - Bicester, United Kingdom.

TransCert’s Consortium and Advisory Board represent all stakeholders involved in the translation sector: industry, associations, agencies, SMEs, training institutions, translators. Experience in the USA and Australia, among others, through the representation of various translators associations on the Advisory Board, provides TransCert with valuable inputs on existing certifications and contributes to the quality assurance of the TransCert project.


In order to facilitate the implementation of the TransCert certification and training program, it was decided to draw from the European Certification and Qualification Association’s (ECQA) expertise to constitute the framework of the certification. ECQA provides a harmonized international certification scheme for many professions. In other words, it provides the same exam pool, exam rules and the same electronic exam system for all certification exams in its member countries. Certification systems validated by ECQA meet international standards, in such a way that complying with ECQA rules will allow the certification established by the TransCert project to be recognized in all European Union countries.

Best practices

TransCert will develop a EU-wide agreed certification and training scheme for the job profile Translator in vocational education and training, as well as a common European assessment framework and examination scheme. The innovations of the project are expected to contribute to the optimization of new translation curricula at European level.

TransCert aims at building on and feeding into the work being carried out, among others, by EMT and OPTIMALE in Europe, and by ATA beyond Europe, contributing to their goals but also benefiting from their results in co-occurring manner.

The TransCert certification is about conformity assessment, as in conforming to a standard. It builds on several existing standards, notably EN 15038 (certification of a Translation Service Provider) and ISO 17024 (certification of persons).

Project milestones

Laying the foundations

The framework of the training was designed within Work Package 4, containing assessment framework and training need analyses and leading to the development of the skill card and the training materials.

An analysis of existing certifications was performed by ISIT in order to base research on a solid background and to understand how certifications for translators usually work. This analyse aimed at determining which features could be applied to a European certification for translators. An overview of five associations’ certification systems was performed:

  1. ATA,
  2. CTTIC (Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council),
  3. NAATI,
  4. SATI (South African Translators' Institute),
  5. TAC (Translators Association of China).

A comparative table of these five systems was drawn up in order to analyse the differences between translators’ certification bodies across the world, to summarise the main characteristics of each association and to get an overview of the existing certification bodies. The comparative table used the following criteria:

    • Eligibility requirements,
    • Nature of test (number of texts/words, test duration, type of texts),
    • Number of test sessions per year,
    • Grading system,
    • Current overall pass rate,
    • Levels of certification,
    • Means for checking a translator holds the certification,
    • Fees (certification/testing/membership),
    • Practice test availability (nature, fees).

Also, surveys conducted among translation sector professionals yielded useful information for the work on the skill card as well as the training modules. KU Leuven performed an analysis of current assessment frameworks in order to define the assessment methodology in adult and vocational education and training. Surveys conducted by GALA and FIT (International Federation of Translators) among language industry representatives were used to evaluate how the labour market assessed the skills and skill gaps of applicants. University of Vienna performed an analysis of existing ICT
[2]-based training, including a SWOT analysis, to help determine training needs and establish training design.

Skill card

The University of Vienna (WP4 coordinator), with ISIT as leading partner, was in charge of drafting a proposal for the TransCert skill card that was the basis for consensus among the various stakeholders of the project. The development of the skill card at the core of the TransCert project implied collecting data about existing skills sets and labour market needs, followed by careful analysis and reflection, in order to define essential knowledge and skills needed by employees for high quality translation. The objective of the ECQA skill card was to identify and to name the essential components of translatorial know-how (skills) in order

    • to provide a signal of quality and trustworthiness,
    • to increase public trust in the quality of translation products and services, and
    • to provide a qualified and trustworthy pool of recognizably trained and good translators.

In other words, the ECQA Skill card is used to identify the skills that translators will have to learn in order to be competent translators, and to meet the translation and language industry needs. Translator certification within the TransCert certification scheme is about conformity assessment, and therefore about translator skills with respect to producing acceptable target texts that meet the project specifications. In addition, the ECQA skill card will establish the validity and the reliability of translator certification examinations.

We started drafting the skills hierarchy by gathering and analysing documentation, then listing competences most often mentioned, and eventually organizing them according to ECQA's standards. The OPTIMALE project conducted an employer survey in 2011 to identify the skills corresponding to employers' needs and demands. We started our analysis with this document, as it was the most relevant with regard to TransCert global aim of increasing employability. Several categories were identifiable on the basis of the survey results, such as technical skills, translation project management skills, and translation skills.

We kept on moving forward with our research with the EMT Competence profile for translators (2009). This document was used to verify the skills already identified and to complete with other skills that were not mentioned in the OPTIMALE document.

Having established our first list of skills and skills unit on the basis of the skills identified in the OPTIMALE and EMT documents, the ECQA skill card quality checklist enabled us to define the frame and standards for our skill card. Following ECQA's skill card standards made it possible to organize skills in a clear structure and to include the KSAs (Knowledge-Skills-Abilities) concept in our skills hierarchy. We then took a step back to review and to complete the skill card with what seemed to be missing, according to our own experience and additional documents (e.g. Intertext competences grid, TermNet skills definition for the job role Certified Terminology Manager etc.).

The resulting ECQA skill card for the job role Certified Translator (CTR) is organized around the following 7 skill units, including each a certain number of learning elements that, in turn, include 3 to 6 performance criteria each:

    • Language skills,
    • Translation skills,
    • Domain-specific skills,
    • Information mining and terminology skills,
    • Personal translation management skills,
    • Technological skills,
    • Transcultural skills.

Bearing in mind that TransCert is a pilot project designed to establish the feasibility of a European certification for translators, possible future developments of the skill card will need to address the issue of domain specialization. Although a certain number of possible domain specializations was identified, skill units are meant to enable a global assessment and therefore do not give detail about domain specialization, which is spread between the "information mining and terminology" and "domain-specific" skill units. Possible solutions to this issue would be to develop separate, shorter, but more targeted skill cards for each specialization, or to develop one skill unit per specialization and add it to the general skill card. In addition to the ECQA skill card, ISIT also drafted proposals for a professional skill card (graphical representation and database registration) and for an assessment skill card that could offer a basis for further development.

Training materials

The TransCert training package was then developed within Work Stream 5: training structure and learning portal were designed and training material and exam questions were drawn up.

The structure of the training programme and the choice of the modules to be included relied on the results of the preliminary surveys discussed above in Part “Laying the foundations”. and the partners’ expertise in the field of translator training. The analysis of existing assessment frameworks by KU Leuven showed that the most important aspects of a "good translation" are meaning transfer, linguistic correctness, and terminology. The surveys conducted among the language industry by FIT and GALA defined the skills that seem to be underdeveloped, specifically among beginner translators: technological skills, management skills, domain-specific skills, and information mining and terminology skills. Finally, the analysis of existing ICT-based training (Vienna survey) uncovered the core skills of current training programs: translation skills, information mining and terminology skills, domain-specific skills, and technological skills.

Considering these results and comparing them with the skill card, the partners then decided which skills needed to become part of the TransCert translator training program. Language skills were considered to be a prerequisite for becoming a good translator and therefore excluded from the scope of the training. As a core competence of translators, translation skills were included in the training program and in an assessment framework created and based on different evaluation methods (PIE-method and holistic method). The translation skill unit covers various elements, from translation strategies and proficiency to professional ethics and the social role of a translator. Domain-specific skills were also considered essential and cover a wide variety of domains in the training program, although domain specialization as such remains an open issue for further development (see above Part ”Skill cards”). Information mining and terminology skills are likewise at the core of the profession. Although part of many existing training programs, these core competences appear nevertheless to be underdeveloped and were therefore included in the TransCert framework. Likewise underdeveloped among translators, personal translation management skills have also been incorporated in the TransCert training program based on the existing specifications (EN, ISO etc.). Besides being underdeveloped in translators having passed their degree time ago, technological skills develop very rapidly, which is why they need to become one of the foci of continuous training. Finally, including transcultural skills in the training scheme brings innovative European added value to the TransCert program.

Each learning element included in the defined skill units has been transformed into a learning module combining theoretical information, practical exercises and home assignments. The 18 half-day modules are scheduled over two consecutive weeks on a 9-day grid. On the basis of a self-assessment, TransCert trainees will build up their personalized training package of up to 6 elements designed to help them become fit for the final exam. Taken within two months after the training, the final exam includes testing on all the 18 learning elements and has a required pass rate of 66% (or 12 elements).

Trial phase

In order to assess the relevance and the quality of the training modules, a trial session was organised by ISIT with a pool of 50 people ranging from Master students, academics and professional translators. The trial was organized in almost real conditions. It took place between May, 5th and 20th, 2014, and it was based on morning and afternoon online sessions. The use of the GotoMeeting application enabled live interactions between the trainers and the trainees. All sessions were also recorded and made available with all relevant pedagogical material in order to allow the participants to go through the modules at their own pace. A online survey was then conducted in order to gather trainees and trainers feedback about the level of technicity and relevance of the training, the usability of the Moodle platform, the adequacy of the assignments, etc.

While the overall impression seemed to be very positive from a statistical point of view, we did notice in the comments provided by the participants a slight dichotomy between Master students and young professionals on the one hand, and more experienced translators, on the other hand.

We received indeed excellent feedback from students and young professionals, according to whom lectures were “very well researched, well prepared and comprehensive in their presentation” and contained “lots of tips, resources, links, literature, etc.”

However, some of the modules didn’t meet the expectations of more experienced translators who were looking for more innovative and mind-stricking content : “I also think that some of the material, whilst very well researched, comprehensively collated and professionally presented, may be for beginners in the industry rather than more "seasoned" translators.”

Based on these findings, it is therefore strongly believed by the Consortium that, in addition to the existing training program provided by Transcert, a more “advanced level” should also be developed in a near future in order to meet the various and sometimes highly complex needs of professional translators.


Voluntary certifications for translators already exist around the world, but the topic has always spurred controversy and concern in Europe. TransCert partners have had to tackle difficult questions since the premises of the TransCert project, notably the political issues related to the crucial role of translation in European communication and the practical issues attached to certification in what amounts basically to an endless number of language combinations resulting from European multilingualism. The challenges TransCert has had to address are numerous: first, convincing language industry stakeholders of the usefulness of the project and showing them the potential advantages of a certification. Second, convincing the European Commission of the actual feasibility of such a certification. And last but not least, establishing a certification acceptable for all industry stakeholders - academics, translation service providers, companies, institutions, international organizations and, of course, translators themselves - in all European countries. As this pilot project now moves on to its final stages with the translation of the training structure into French and German (WP7), these different visions are progressively being reconciled and many challenges have been met.

While some issues still need to be addressed (such as tackling the numerous linguistic combinations and domain specialization; distinguishing between training and certification, etc.), we are today many steps ahead on the road to reach TransCert ultimate goals of guaranteeing comparability, promoting competitiveness, increasing employability and ensuring sustainability in the translation profession in Europe and beyond.

Bibliography & webography

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LOMMEL, Arle (2013). Alternatives to Certification, International Journal for Translation and Interpreting, Vol. 5 No. 1, http://www.trans-int.org/index.php/transint/article/view/244

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KOBY, Geoffrey S., Alan K. MELBY (2013). Certification and Job Task Analysis (JTA): Establishing Validity of Translator Certification Examinations.

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National Association of Workforce Development Professionals and National Association of Workforce Boards (2010). Workforce development professional credential survey results, http://www.nawb.org/documents/Publications/Final%20Credential%20Report.pdf

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TXABARRIAGA, Rocio, KELLY Nataly and Robert G. STEWART (2009). Common Sense Advisory, Inc., The European Translation Market, Main Sectors and Drivers for Language Services in Europe.

TEISSIER, JOSIANE and José ROSE (2006). La certification, nouvel instrument de la relation formation-emploi : un enjeu français et européen, Relief n°16, 130 p. http://www.cereq.fr/index.php/publications/Relief/La-certification-nouvel-instrument-de-larelation-formation-emploi-un-enjeu-francais-et-europeen

TRANSCERT Call for project (2012).


1 - Panel discussion at the XXth FIT World Congress: “Translator Certification: sound and defensible?” by Alan Melby (ATA), Sandrine Peraldi (ISIT), Natacha Dalügge-Momme (FIT Europe), Marion Boers (SATI), Denis Bousquet (FIT North America, John Beever (NAATI), Changqi Huang (TAC). [retour]

2 - Information & Communication Technology [retour]

With special thanks to Hanna Martikainen for her precious contribution in the TransCert project


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