In general, terms like certified translator, accredited translator, and sworn translator all refer to translators whose skills are acknowledged by certain authorities (either governmental or translation authorities). The use of these terms, however, may differ by country or institution. For example, a translator who passes the test conducted by the NAATI (National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters) is known as a NAATI-accredited translator. Meanwhile, a translator passing the test by the ATA (American Translation Association) usually refers to themselves as an ATA-certified translator.
In the context of the Indonesian translation industry, the terms certified translator and sworn translator are both known. Although both of them seem to be similar in practice, the essential differences between the two are perhaps not too obvious not only for commoners but (unfortunately) among the translators themselves. For clients and potential clients who wish to buy translation services, it is important to understand these differences, especially in deciding which translation service providers they need or want to use.
In Indonesia, a sworn translator refers to a translator who has taken a professional vow before, and has been appointed by, the Governor of Jakarta Special Capital Region (DKI Jakarta), as a sworn translator. To be appointed as a sworn translation must hold a Jakarta ID card and pass with the translator qualification test (UKP) in legal translation, with an “A” score. Therefore, a sworn translator is essentially specialized in legal translation. The qualification test itself was conducted by Universitas Indonesia (UI) and offered three options: general translation, legal translation, and academic translation.
Despite becoming an established way for translators to boost their carriers and gain acknowledgment, since 2010 the qualification test was no longer conducted and, therefore, there was no way of non-sworn translators of being appointed as sworn translators. Furthermore, some problems had arisen with appointing sworn translators under this scheme that were said to have caused this scheme to be terminated. First, there was a lack of management in the system, particularly in tracking those who had been appointed as sworn translators. Therefore, it was hard to track which ones were active and which ones were inactive, or even deceased. Stories have been heard about how a stamp owned by deceased translators still somehow circulate and are used up to this date. Second, although it is claimed that sworn translation—that is, translation produced and certified by a sworn translator—is valid in all regions in Indonesia, some translation users may think otherwise, as the acknowledgment came from the government of a certain province only.
The vacant scheme for new translators to be certified and acknowledged had compelled the Indonesian Translators Association (HPI), the largest translation professional organization in Indonesia, to create a new scheme. Hence, since 2011 the Association, through the Commission for Qualification and Certification (KKS-HPI) has conducted the National Certification Test (TSN-HPI). Initially offering only for English-Indonesian and Indonesia-English language pairs, this test currently offers several language pairs in general and legal translation, and is open for all translators, both members or non-members of HPI.
Like those in UKP, any translators who score an “A” are declared to pass and entitled to hold the title as HPI-certified translators (or simply certified translators). The certificates are issued and conferred by the Association. As the association gains more recognition as a professional organization by both the government and the public, this certification scheme becomes more credible and reputable. Right now, HPI certificate has been accepted and acknowledged not only by the Indonesian government and authorities, but also by many other countries and authorities in the world.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING CERTIFIED
Ideally, any translation practitioners, both certified and non-certified, should possess qualification and competency in translation. That being said, in an open industry where anyone can claim themselves a translator, it is confusing for potential translation customers to choose which one is really competent and qualified. In this sense, being certified can give certain advantages to a translator. First, being certified essentially shows not only that a translator is competent and qualified, but also that their competence and qualification are acknowledged by the relevant authority. In other words, a certified translator is perceived as competent because the authority considers them competent.
Second, being certified means they are proven to successfully perform even in a non-ideal condition. A certified translation has passed a competency/qualification test that is usually purposely conducted in a stressful environment/condition designed to, perhaps, assess the readiness of the test-takers in dealing with such condition. For instance, TSN HPI is conducted offline (no online resources is allowed), with a quite tight deadline (a certain proportion between duration and volume to ensure time-usage effectiveness), in an awfully-quite classroom (let’s be honest, being in a classroom full of people being quite is so stressful). If someone can perform well in such an environment, it is expected that they can perform even better in a comfortable setting.
Finally, being certified shows the translator’s dedication in the profession they chose to enter. This claim may be subjective, but for me, personally, a professional dedication means a willingness to build and invest in themselves in their profession. Being certified is, definitely, a great way to invest in yourself as a professional in any field.