Report: The Standards of Linguistic Competence

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The Translating and Interpreting (T&I) Program in the School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning at RMIT University was commissioned in late 2006 by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) to:

• conduct research into whether there were problems of language proficiency with NAATI accredited practitioners
• assess the quality control mechanisms in place within the language services industry and
• compare NAATI’s testing procedures with those of comparable overseas organisations.

The researchers were asked to recommend changes to the quality control mechanisms in the industry and to NAATI examinations, if they considered they were indicated in the outcomes of the research.

The methodology adopted was to conduct a national survey of a representative sample of language service providers and consumers, professional associations for translators and interpreters, ethnic organisations and Chairs of NAATI examining panels. Focus groups were planned for Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. A separate survey form was sent to a number of international organisations.

The research showed that, with a few minor exceptions, Australian respondents were generally not concerned about the English proficiency or proficiency in languages other than English (LOTE), of accredited practitioners and in particular those accredited at the NAATI Interpreter and Translator levels in particular. Most of the concern expressed about language proficiency was over practitioners in unaccredited or recently accredited languages, plus to a degree a small number of specific major long-accredited languages, usually from East Asia. The survey data suggested there are widely different responses from medical and legal consumers on English proficiency, with medical consumers more likely to feel that the situation is getting worse.

The impact of perceptions of poor language proficiency on service providers was overshadowed by other concerns, many of which were related to ethics and professional conduct. Among consumers of language services, concerns about language proficiency were mixed with concerns relating to the variability of accredited practitioner behaviour and demeanour, ethics and professional conduct. There were concerted calls for both groups for better training and monitoring of standards.

Read the full report > NAATI Report 

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