Translation Diploma (DipTrans), How to Obtain it Through the IoL

Translators and linguists living anywhere in the world who wish to progress to a professional translation level and standard and wish to obtain formal status can do so through one of the world’s most widely recognized linguistic institutes. The Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) is a prestigious qualification that is obtained through the Chartered Institute of Linguists examinations, “It is a postgraduate level equivalent qualification intended to test the ability of those who wish to progress into careers as freelance translators or work for corporations world-wde, to a professional standard.” The examinations are set at a highly demanding level and candidates must successfully pass all examinations in order to obtain the DipTrans.

Chartered Institute of Linguists (IoL), London, UK

The London-based IoL was founded in 1910 with the aim of serving the interests of professional linguists and translators, it “acts as a respected language assessment and recognized awarding organization delivering Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulator) accredited qualifications.” The Institute publishes a trade journal called The LInguist and acts as a forum for professional linguists in areas of academic and professional fields as it strives to maintain high standards of work.

The IoL offers different levels or grades of membership for linguists: Registered Student, Associate Member, Member, Fellow Member. Being an IoL member has certain benefits and advantages such as the professional status associated with the IoL and the Institute C’sode of Conduct that provides clients with an assurance of quality, high standards and professionalism, among other things. Membership also provides access to networking and professional translator websites such as TransNet and InterpNet.

The IoL is also where corporations and businesses look for interpreters, translators, language tutors and other language services for commerce and government. In conjunction with the Metropolitan Police Service the IoL has also created a test recognized by the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) relating to the police service in the UK. The Institute offers a number of courses related to translating, Interpreting, glossary building, simultaneous interpreting, and more.

The IoL examinations are not limited to the DipTrans, there are a variety of multilingual certificates and diplomas candidates can choose based on their career choice, linguistic skills and geographic location: Certificate in Bilingual Skills (CBS), Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) and International Diploma in Bilingual Communication (IDBC).

DipTrans Entry Requirements

Candidates should have at least one or a combination of the following:

  • be native speakers of their target language (TL, translator’s native mother tongue or the language of habitual use which has replaced the native language) and translate into the TL
  • must be able to fully understand grammatical features of the source language and target language
  • must have a well-rounded cultural knowledge to go along with the linguistic skills
  • good subject area knowledge that is achieved through extensive research. This can be done in a number of ways: visiting the country where the source language is spoken, living in or having lived for some time in the source language country, carrying out research by using encyclopedias, reference books, quality newspapers and magazines as well as trade publications and also by carrying out interviews with field or area specialists.
  • a degree or combined degree in the source language
  • a pass in an exam qualifying for IoL membership, or a qualification recognized by the institute.
  • a keen interest in current affairs.

IoL Examinations: Important Information for Candidates

  • Candidates must register to sit examinations during time frames and deadlines set by the IoL
  • all IoL examinations have a five year completion period that applies from the first year a candidate takes the initial examination. This means that anyone who passes any part of an examination has four more years to successfully complete all outstanding examinations.
  • the examinations are available in more than 30 language combinations in many examination centers around the world (candidates who are not in the UK may sit examinations in their home country if such a center is available)
  • the DipTrans can be taken in a range of language combinations such as English, Italian, Spanish, French and German. Other language combinations are offered depending on demand of these languages
  • examinations are generally held in January of each year and consist of three (3) units: (a) General Translation (3 hrs), (b) Semi-specialized options: a choice between Technology, Business or Literature and the second semi-specialized area among Science, Science/Social or Law. Each translation is approximately 450 words long
  • the examinations are timed in order to reproduce the real life setting of producing quality, professional level translations under the pressure of time constraints set by clients
  • candidates can download the IoL information pack that has detailed information about the examination format, criteria, topic areas, regulations and much more.
  • examiners’ reports with recommendations and feedback on candidates’ performance, as well as sample papers are also available and candidates should study these carefully.
  • preparation seminars are available for candidates on the IoL website
  • criteria for assessing the quality of the examination texts is as follows: General principles, Distinction, Merit, Pass, Fail.

Translation Diploma

Preparation Courses Leading to the DipTrans Examinations

Candidates who are multilingual but have little or no translation experience should be aware that these preparation courses are linguistically demanding and are of a semi-specialized nature in their respective areas (i.e.; law, science, technology). Even those holding a degree in languages need the additional training to achieve a high standard of translation. On the IoL website there is a list of institutions and home study courses for individuals wishing to prepare for the examinations. There are universities and colleges in the UK that offer campus evening courses such as the Cardiff Centre for Lifelong Learning at Cardiff University, while others offer distance courses such as London’s City University.

There are a number of books, publications and materials designed to help candidates prepare for and acquire theoretical and practical translation skills. Such books are listed on the IoL website, several of them, depending on candidates’ chosen language combinations, will also be recommended by the institutions offering the DipTrans preparation courses. The courses themselves are demanding and require a sound commitment in following through with each assignment and doing the relevant research, reading the materials, etc.

Here is an example of a distance preparation course, this one is offered by City University:

  • there are three modules, each consisting of six assignments and two 30-minute email or telephone tutorials
  • the first module consists of three general translation papers and three semi-specialized papers from the areas of Business/Literature/Technology
  • the second module consists of three general translation papers and three semi-specialized papers from the areas of Law/Social Science/Science
  • the third module consists of two papers from the general translation, two papers from the IoL Unit 2 and two papers from the IoL Unit 3
  • candidates must complete all assignments by the course deadlines set by the tutor
  • Modules 1 and 2 offer good practice in professional translating, they are designed to develop translation skills to the IoL DipTrans standard
  • Module 3 is designed to further students’ translation skills by preparing them for the pressure of producing a professional translation through the acquired skills under time constraints. This is for those who have registered to sit the DipTrans examination the following January

Preparing for and passing the IoL DipTrans is a lot of work that requires discipline and commitment but the end results can be quite rewarding. In a world in which communication and the exchange of information are increasing the Diploma in Translation can open up a new career path with endless possibilities for professional work.