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High-Stakes Translation

I’m recently back from sunny Portland, Oregon after attending the 2015 ICE Exchange, hosted by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence

What did we learn?

Acronym check: Translators obsess on acronyms and they are particular in the credentialing trade too. So “ICE” is pronounced “I-C-E,” not “ice.” And a “subject matter expert” is not a “smee,” she’s an “S-M-E,” thank you very much. Same with calling a psychometrician a “psycho.” It’s disrespectful. However using it as an adjective is a different story… 

International markets present enormous opportunity for credentialing organizations. At the same time, different cultural practices in overseas markets (they cheat) make it extremely difficult to protect testing intellectual property. Secure delivery systems and tests designed to be as unbeatable as possible are critical for credentialing expansion overseas. 

English-language domination of the credentialing industry will end. For many industries around the world, English is an important part of the credentialing process and knowledge in English is essential to career success. But that’s not true for many others seeking credentialing from internationally-recognized organizations. There is a lot of opportunity here, and that’s what I was hearing from the credentialing teams I spoke to.

Security is not the only pitfall overseas, either. Translation security risks abound, which is why I was surprised that test developers are using Google Translate for first-pass translation. Ouch! I like Google Translate as much as the next guy, but why give away your content to the number one search engine in the world? Translators have unwillingly contributed to the databases of Google Translate for years, so why not the testing industry too?

I got in an argument with a presenter over their decision to allow Spanish-language test takers an extra 50% time allotment on the examination as an accommodation for the extra number of words used in the Spanish language! And this was presented as best practice. No one else objected – so I freaked and let it go. After the conference I was strolling through the Portland rain and ran into another attendee. 

He says to me, “Oh, I’m glad I ran into you! I just wanted to let you know that I agreed with you at the conference earlier this afternoon. Language isn’t an accommodation. We never do that.”

I gave him a tongue lashing for not sticking up for me, but it was a great relief to know I wasn’t out of my mind.  

As credentialers take a closer look at these opportunities, they will figure it out. The information’s out there, like on our website, for example. And test developers are a pretty smart bunch, I’ve noticed. I suppose it’s for the same reason that all optometrists wear eyeglasses, or all psychometricians are, well, you get the idea.

– Ken Clark

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