JSA Launches Translator Registration Scheme

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What’s happening

Earlier this year, the Japanese Standards Association — the custodian of the Japanese Industrial Standards or JIS — caused something of a stir in the translation community when it announced two briefing sessions, in Osaka and Tokyo, on the new translator registration scheme it had launched.

Why it’s happening

JSA’s remit, apart from JIS, includes integrating international standards into the Japanese set of standards, and that means they are responsible for the roll-out of the new international standard for the translation services, ISO 17100, which was launched in 2015.

This standard, however, has given the Japanese translation industry a bit of a headache. Based largely on European standard EN 15038: 2006, one important aspect of the standard is the requirement to use qualified and competent translators and revisers. But what makes a translator “qualified”? The standard asks for one of the following:

  1. a recognized graduate qualification in translation from an institution of higher learning;
  2. a recognized graduate qualification in any other field from an institution of higher learning plus two years’ full-time professional experience in translating;
  3. five years’ full-time professional experience in translating; or
  4. a certificate of competence in translation awarded by an appropriate government body.

Problem is, very few degree courses in translation are offered by Japanese universities (although recently some started offering MA in Translation courses through partnership arrangements with overseas institutions), and there are no national qualifications for translators, so currently the only viable route for translators to “qualify” is through the experience criteria.

JSA’s new scheme seeks to fill the gap.

How the scheme works

JSA has set up a new organization, the Registration Center of Certificated Translators (RCCT), which will produce an online searchable directory of certified translators working between English and Japanese. In order to be listed, the translator must meet certain criteria, broadly in line with those stipulated by the ISO standard, and produce a test certificate.

RCCT is not going to be an examination body; it instead works with a number of organizations that already run translation exams, including the Japan Translation Federation (JTF) and Nippon Intellectual Property Translation Association (NIPTA), and accept their test certificates as proof of competence.

Reflecting different levels of exam passes, there are three levels of registration:

  • Advanced Professional Translator (APT)
  • Professional Translator (PT)
  • Paraprofessional Translator (PPT)

There are four specialist field groups in which the translator could be registered, again mirroring the subject areas of the exams:

  • Financial, economic and legal
  • Medical and pharmaceutical
  • Industrial and sci-tech
  • Patents and intellectual property

Registration is valid for two years and renewable upon payment of renewal fee and submission of CPD records (or documentary evidence of the volume of work undertaken in the past two years). JSA has announced that the initial registration fee will be waived for the next two years in order to encourage as many translators as possible to sign up.

Will it catch on?

The initial reaction of the translation community appears mixed; while some concede it might potentially be beneficial, other are unconvinced by its merits or downright cynical about the motive behind it (and its fees).

However, the fact that the scheme has been set up by JSA is likely to be a help in getting it noticed.

If Japanese businesses and public bodies start demanding ISO 17100 accreditation as a prerequisite to tender for a translation contract or giving preference to accredited LSPs, that may motivate translation agencies to seek accreditation, especially if it could be used to justify premium prices. They may then start encouraging translators to register with RCCT as a convenient way of ensuring that the translators on their books are suitably qualified. While the scheme is not the only way a translator can demonstrate that they meet the competence requirements of ISO 17100, many Japanese translation agencies are members of JTF, and as an examination body under the scheme, the Federation clearly has a vested interest in the success of RCCT.

Final thoughts

The scheme, if carefully managed, could benefit translators who want to to differentiate themselves in a translation industry that is increasingly polarizing into “cheap and fast” and “quality-focused” segments. In a country that does not have a national qualification for translators, the “JSA-registered certified” label may become a marketable quasi-formal qualification with some leverage when it comes to fee negotiations. But only if those who are involved in the running of the scheme and those who use it — translators, translation companies and clients — allow that to happen.

Further readings

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