Why is the ATC Understood as a Professional Association?
The ATC (Association of Translation Companies) is a professional association dedicated to representing and maintaining the quality of professional language service provision within the UK. To understand what this means, we ought to first investigate what a professional Association is and why they are important to professional language service providers. In the words of the UK science council, a professional association is:
“An organisation with individual members practising a profession or occupation in which the organisation maintains an oversight of the knowledge, skills, conduct and practise of that profession or occupation”.
Professional associations are especially important in the professional language service sector. Unlike in some other sectors, such as law or medicine, the professional Language service industry is subject to little regulation by statutory bodies commissioned by the UK government. Thus, to maintain client confidence, Language Service providers within the bound together to form non-profit associations, overseeing, knowledge, skill and most importantly the conduct and practice of Interpreting and Translations Companies within the UK. This, in turn, protects clientele from poor standards of language provision, boosting confidence and demand for professional Language service provision in the UK. The most notable of such associations in the UK, nominated to represent us in the EU through the EU ATC, is the ATC.
Why is ATC Membership Important to Professional Language Service Users?
As previously mentioned, there is a distinct lack of statutory oversite in the language service sector. While this has many benefits, such as fewer restrictions on newer innovative forms of professional language service provision, such as telephone interpreting, it also has some issues. In particular, there is no service-specific minimum standard set out in the law meaning clients may sometimes fall victim to fraudulently low-quality services, i.e. through unprofessional machine translations. Thus, unless a Professional Language Service Provider contractually binds themselves to a minimum service standard, there may be no regress for aggrieved clients. However, as a professional association, the ATC has set out minimum service standards it expects all its members to meet, alongside arbitrators and an ethics committee to enforce these standards, should clients’ service users have genuine complaints. Thus, ATC membership acts as an assurance as well as insurance to language service users. Given the importance of the content Language Service Providers are typically asked to convey, the security provided by professional associations such as the ATC is critical to clients.
How Professional Associations in the Professional Language Service Sector Assure Clients- ATC:
The ATC has 4 main qualities that instill confidence in clients buying services from members of the association:
Firstly the ATC Sets out a clear professional code of conduct, which all associated professional language service providers need to adhere to as part of their membership. This sets a minimum expectation for clients who purchase associates services. Within the code of conduct there are among other things:
• A promise of quality assurance, declaring that all interpreting and translations work has been done by suitably qualified linguists.
• A promise of fair dealing with clients, employees, and the wider public.
• A declaration of accountability to ATC arbitrators and the ATC’s ethics committee.
Secondly, as part of ATC membership Applicant companies must provide, among other things:
• Proof of quality standard accreditation such as ISO accreditation or equivalent national standard or, proof that they can and do work to such standards.
• The terms on which they offer service to clients and employees.
• Proof that members have managed to function for a relevant amount of time by providing accounts and referees.
Avenue for Regress
As previously mentioned all ATC accredited companies are legally bound to respect the decisions of ATC arbitrators and their ethics committee, which aggrieved clients could potentially contact. This opens an avenue of regress to clients and one significantly less stressful and costly than legal remedy.
The ATC is a non-profit institution, therefore, they have less incentive to lower standards in pursuit of financial gain.
Outside the ATC- other Professional Associations in the Professional Language Service Sector:
While the ATC is the main Professional association in the UK Language service sector, there are some others, such as the CIOL. However, this article focuses on the ATC as it is the one nominated to represent the UK Language Service sector in the EU ATC and it represents Professional Language Service Providers, as opposed to linguists. Some other institutions may represent specific aspects of the language sector, such as just interpreting or just translating, or they may register individual linguists as opposed to language service providers. One such association is CIOL (Charted Institute of Linguists). Most Language service work is done through professional language Service Providers who are insured and can provide services in a very wide variety of languages, as such the ATC was chosen to represent the language service industry. However, should a client wish for a one-off service, they may choose to find a linguist directly, through associations like the CIOL. Though clients should note, individuals may not be insured, and the documents may not be proofread by other parties, as is part of the standard procedure for work done by translation companies. Also, language providers will have contracts with their linguists, in which they use economies of scale to drive down the cost of their linguist’s skills. As such, it is generally considered safer and cheaper to hire linguists through language service providers.