“No one is forced to attend any seminars, so if people want to, then that is up to them.”
If you were paying attention in your history classes, you may remember that during the Middle Ages, the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church were selling “indulgences” that affluent sinners were encouraged to buy to have their sins forgiven by the Church and thus also by God.
Nobody was forcing the well-heeled sinners to buy “indulgences”. Nobody, that is, with the possible exception of Jesus himself because if you failed to purchase sufficient indulgences from Catholic Church for the sins committed while you were still alive, Jesus would be sure to have a word with St. Peter who would then have no choice but to send the person who failed to purchase the required “indulgences” straight to the infernal fires of the innermost circle of Hell, no matter how loudly the poor sinner might be banging on the Pearly Gates.
You could buy “an indulgence” even if you committed murder, although this one was of course expensive, the equivalent of a very expensive car today, a Lamborghini rather than just an introductory Hyundai, Toyota or Ford model, especially if the murder was particularly heinous.
When Bob Dylan says in his song “Masters of War”:
“Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could?
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul”
he must have been alluding to this system of “indulgences”.
Clearly, Bob Dylan doesn’t want to understand that money always had and always will have the power to buy everything and anything, but that’s his business.
The growing disagreement with Church practices, which eventually led to several translations of the Bible into several national languages in Europe, resulted in religious wars that lasted for over a century in what became known as Reformation, namely a mostly futile attempt to reform the greedy practices of the Catholic Church. Because the Catholic Church was simply not reformable, at least not in the 14th and 15th centuries, the immorality of the requirement for purchasing “indulgences” as penance for human sins eventually also resulted in the split of the Protestant Church from the Catholic Church.
Although no one was forced to buy “indulgences” from the Pope, if you were Catholic and failed to pay for your sins in this manner, you were sure to go to Hell based on the teachings of the infallible Catholic Church, and some people thought that this was just a bit too much.’
More than half a millennium later, the American Translators Association is now encouraging translators who are “ATA-accredited” to attend various kinds of seminars to be granted continued professional development points (CPDs), because without CPDs from these seminars, these translators will not be able to maintain their “ATA-accredited status”, ATA’s equivalent of sending translators to hell (with a small “h” in this case, I think), for failing to purchase ATA’s indulgences called CPDs. I’m not sure how exactly these things work in the UK, but I hear they have a similar system there too.
The ATA continuing professional education points (or CPDs) are indulgently granted, albeit mostly in small numbers, for just about anything.
I am told that you can get CPDs for things like listening to people who explain to you how to eat properly (as a translator), how to get paid by payment-forgetting translation agencies, how to maintain the proper spirit, posture and weight by practicing yoga (as a translator), or how to purchase a special table so that you can stand up while translating instead of sitting down like normal people do when they are working, and various other revolutionary concepts.
And of course, you can get CPDs for seminars about how to use absolutely indispensible computer tools such as Trados, and about proper techniques for post-processing of machine translation detritus. It’s all about continuing professional development of translators. And since the mission of the American Translators Association is to make sure that its members are well prepared for present and future challenges, this naturally also includes the obligatory use of Trados and expertise in proper post-processing techniques applicable to machine pseudo-translations. If you don’t use Trados and don’t even know how to post-process pseudo-translations, how can you even call yourself a translator, huh? Go and get some CPDs so you can sleep at night.
Fortunately, even just listening to me is worth a few CPDs. After I once gave a talk by Skype to a regional ATA section, I found out to my surprise that the translators who listened (with baited breath?) to my introduction to the mysteries of translation according to the Evangelium of Mad Patent Translator were also granted some CPD points.
I felt honored and humbled at the same time.
I will be surprised if the CPD situation does not eventually result in the equivalent of religious wars and a major split in the translating profession in United States and possibly also in other countries.
I just hope that I won’t end up like the quarrelsome Bohemian reformer Jan Hus who was first excommunicated and then condemned as an obstinate heretic for his preaching against the immorality of “indulgences” to be burnt at the stake at the Council of Constance in 1415.
Jan Hus came to Constance to defend his teachings (he was famous for fiery sermons against greed in a little church, which you can still visit when you go to Prague along with other tourist traps as the restored church where he used to preach is still there), and also to defend himself against the charges brought against him as he was assured safe conduct by the Emperor, whose name was Sigismund, as the Emperor’s word obviously meant something. What he didn’t understand was that although Sigismund would never go back on his word, he only meant safe passage from Prague to Constance, not including also safe passage from Constance back to Prague.
I think that the contradictions behind the granting of CPDs by several translators’ associations to members of some associations are one reason why there is already a split occurring among translators. Beginners flock to seminars, most of which require payment of a fee, so that they could be indulgently granted CPD points in recognition of their efforts to zealously educate themselves in a manner approved by the ATA here (and I am told that a similar system is practiced also by the ITI in UK).
Most experienced translators, however, not only don’t give a damn about CPDs, they think it’s a total joke, and as far as I can tell, one reason why they are leaving the ATA in droves is that they just can’t bring themselves to participate in silly seminars without which they would be unable to maintain their ATA-certified status.
Just like the immorality of the Catholic Church so well illustrated by the invention of “indulgencies” more than half a millennium ago led to a split in the Church, the silliness of the requirements for “CPDs” as practiced now by the American Translators Association is thus causing a split among translators.
I think that ATA should do something about this problem, preferably get rid of this newly invented system of “indulgencies for translators”.
Unless ATA does so, I think that it will become a home mostly just for beginners, also known as “newbies”, who are always warmly welcomed by the association, while more experienced and more established translators will be shunning the institution that was established more than half a century ago.
And because history tends to repeat itself, the more experienced translators who don’t agree with the system of “indulgences” for translators may at some point start their own association of translators, or join existing associations in other countries that don’t have silly rules that are really hard to swallow – unless you are an inexperienced, naive newbie who just blindly and unquestioningly trusts an established authority.