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Joining the ITI as a Qualified Member (MITI) – how was it for me?

Céline Graciet’s post over at her blog, Naked Translations, got me thinking about my own experience of applying to be a Qualified Member (MITI) of the ITI, which fortunately was not as bewildering as Céline’s experience sounds.

By the time I applied for MITI membership, I’d already been a member of ITI for some time, having first joined as a student member while studying for my MA in Translation and Linguistics in 2003. This gradual transition through the membership grades may well have made the procedures more familiar to me than it would to someone perhaps coming straight in as an MITI. When I began working as an in-house translator a year later I then ‘upgraded’ to Associate membership. Anyone with a proven ‘professional interest in translation or interpreting’* and who can provide two references can apply to be an Associate member.

This means that the main difference between Associate members and Qualified Members is that Associates have not been ‘officially’ assessed or examined by ITI; Associates are also not listed on ITI’s directory. However, they are very much part of ITI and enjoy many of the same benefits as MITIs (at a fraction of the membership subscription that MITIs pay).

When the time was right to apply to for MITI membership, I opted for the exam route, which is quite different to the assessment route (I think the cost is more or less the same). The ITI admissions officer was helpful and clear in her instructions, but I have to say I thought there were some areas for improvement in the exam itself. For example, my text was way out of my subject areas, despite specifically stating these in advance on the application form. I wouldn’t have dreamed of taking on the text if offered it as a real-life job. Needless to say, it was one of the most challenging translations I’ve ever worked on (and rightly so), a real test of my linguistic research and translation skills. I enjoyed the creative challenge, but it would perhaps have been more of a test of my ability to translate in my specialist fields if I had been examined in one of the subject areas I actually translate in.

I took the exam in the comfort of my home office over a weekend. I received the text on the Friday evening and had to deliver it back to the ITI office the following Monday. It was a relief to be able to do the exam at home, on computer, rather than in an exam hall on paper. This also replicated my normal translation environment. I’m not sure if it’s common knowledge that the ITI exam is sat in this way; it was certainly one of the attractions for me. I felt the results could go either way right up until I received them, but I’m happy to say I did pass. Similar to Céline, to get any feedback at all (i.e. more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’) I would have had to pay around £50-60. Even though I passed, I’m sure the feedback would still have been informative. I think the exam does have a fairly low pass rate, something around 20-30%, much like the CIOL DipTrans, but I don’t think that should put people off if they feel ready and enjoy a challenge. The bar for professional recognition should of course be set high, while remaining achievable.

What attaining MITI status meant for me was that I was able to feel a lot more confident about hitting the ground running in my new freelance career. I have felt a lot more sure-footed about my work ever since. Because I haven’t ever really been freelance while an Associate member (I went freelance shortly before my exam results), it’s hard for me to compare the benefits of Associate vs. MITI in terms of the amount of work I get, but I *have* got some excellent clients simply through my ITI directory listing. Besides being able to meet and share ideas with other translators and attend discounted training events and conferences, the main benefit for me is confidence in my work. Having that external validation is like having a seal of approval, especially if you’re starting out as a freelancer like I was.

I hope this post helps give a rough idea of what it’s like to take the exam route to be a Qualified Member of ITI, and I also hope many more people will decide to do it. For others’ sake, I also hope Céline’s blog post will be used by ITI as constructive feedback so that the overall application procedure will be made as transparent as it possibly can in future, for example automatically including feedback in a revised application fee. However, even as an Associate the benefits of being an ITI member are numerous, so if MITI is not something on your business plan for 2011, I’d certainly argue that Associate membership is worth looking at.

*Wording from ITI’s website

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9 Responses and Counting...

  1. Wendy Rees

    January 31, 2011

    It’s really interesting to hear how the application procedure for MITI, and the experiences people have had with it, have changed over the years. I applied in the late 90s when working as an in-house translator, and I was lucky that my employer offered to finance it for me (not entirely altruistically – she needed an in-house MITI to qualify for ATC membership, or something similar).

    I opted for the assessment route rather than the exam, as at the time, living 90 miles from my then boyfriend (now husband), my weekends were far too precious to me! I can’t remember what the two pieces were that I submitted, but they were texts of which I was particularly proud and for which I’d received positive feedback from the clients. There was no feedback provided from ITI, and I’m not sure it was even offered, but at the time my only niggle was that the whole process seemed to take an age. However, I was successful which meant that a couple of years later, when I decided to leave and go freelance, I was already an MITI.

    I have been stunned to read of Céline’s problems – I had always assumed that texts for assessment were vetted to ensure they were suitable before the process got too far, thus giving the applicant the opportunity to submit something different if there was some problem with the original texts. I agree that it would be beneficial if feedback were to become part of the “package”, whether successful or not – there is always a lot to be learned from any kind of peer feedback.

    I know that ITI is in a state of flux, so let’s hope that this is one of the things that changes.

  2. Stephen Emm

    January 31, 2011

    I would definitely back you up on this. I took the ITI exam in 2008 and was successful. As I had been working in-house, mainly on technical texts, for 6 years, I did not find the translation too challenging, but for a student fresh from their degree or MA I think it would be fairly difficult. I also think there could be more transparency in terms of the marking process.
    Joining the ITI as a qualified member has definitely been a very positive experience for me. As a result of being featured in the directory of members I have gained several customers and attracted regular inquiries.
    I would urge all translators who meet the criteria to apply for qualified membership.

  3. Nikki Graham

    January 31, 2011

    This is very informative. I had no idea you could sit the exam at home in normal working conditions. Might put it on my to do list now when home life calms down a bit. Thanks for taking the time to write about your experience.

  4. Susan Lick

    January 31, 2011

    You mention that before applying for a MITI status, you were an ITI Associate. This article also says that you took a PSG course organised by the ITI, which one has to pay for as well. Was it before or after your successful exam? I just wonder if being an Associate and doing a PSG or Orientation course where you meet people who might be your examiners in the future helps to attain the MITI status. I just wonder because a friend of mine applied once, was turned down, took a PSG course and was admitted on the second attempt. Maybe getting oneself known to ITI important bods (and paying them) is a key to success?

  5. philippa

    January 31, 2011

    @Wendy Rees & @Stephen Emm I really appreciate you sharing your experiences, it’s really good to hear from others you made it in.

    @Nikki Graham – glad I’ve provided some relevant information, and I hope you find the time is right for you too soon.

    @Susan Lick Impressive research skills! I did take the ITI PSG course, in 2008. I took the ITI exam in 2007 and heard that I was successful in February 2008, if I remember correctly (that was the month I went freelance) – the PSG began in March 2008.

    I’m not sure what you’re suggesting re paying ‘important ITI bods’, but as far as I know the ITI contracts external examiners to assess its exam papers. The PSG ‘mentors’ come from a wide variety of backgrounds and language combinations and are not necessarily in any position of influence in ITI. They are all voting members of ITI with specific experience in aspects of running a business.

    I don’t think any of them are currently ITI examiners as well as being PSG mentors, but the mentors can change from year to year. Full disclosure: I’m a PSG mentor this year, but not an ITI examiner. MITI candidates do not know who their examiners are, and I believe this works vice versa (which would seem proper), but you may like to check this with the ITI office if you’re in any doubt.

    *Reply edited to show the correct years – put it down to an addled mind after a long day. 31 Jan PH.

  6. David Turnbull

    January 31, 2011

    Thanks for this, Phillippa. I should think MITI will be on my list in the next couple of years. It was good to hear about the home exam option, which at least seems to obviate the assessment guessing-game that Céline experienced, even if you might have to deal with texts that slightly out of your comfort zone.


  7. Wendy Rees

    January 31, 2011

    Just to clarify, texts submitted as assessment or exam texts are assessed and moderated by two separate professionals, both working in the candidate’s language combination and subject area.
    Neither the assessor nor the moderator have any idea of the candidate’s identity, and their identities should not be disclosed to the candidate. If a report is requested, this is written by the assessor and again, all identities are kept confidential.

  8. Nick

    January 31, 2011

    I sat and passed the ITI Membership exam in 1989, the first year that it was held. I was proud of passing it at the time, and I am still proud of it twenty-something years later.

    At the time, I found it to be a rigorous exam – and rightly so. It is designed to be an exam appropriate for an experienced professional with several years of experience under their belt, so the standard should be high. But one has four days to complete the exam, and it is basically one day’s work, so there is time to do the translation to a very high standard, check it, tweak it, etc.

    And I was delighted to be able to sit the exam in my normal working environment. Back then, it was a fairly revolutionary approach.


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