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Chilean Ministry of Public Works Misinforms Foreign Investors Interested in Tenders

(The process started with this letter, continues in another article. Find the link at the end of this article).

Versión en español: El Ministerio de Obras Públicas de Chile desinforma a inversionistas extranjeros

Ministry excludes competent translators from tenders

This is the translation of a letter sent to the Chilean Minister for Public Works, Mr. Alberto Undurraga Vicuña, on April 25th 2016, explaining in detail why a ruling issued by that Ministry includes important mistakes, which damage the country's interests:

In 2012, in President Piñera's government, the former undersecretary of that Ministry, Mrs. Loreto Silva Rojas, established bidding terms for a number of tenders that included instructions for supplying documents in languages other than Spanish (Attached Document: Ruling excerpt). A technical and professional analysis shows clearly that there are evident and important mistakes, caused, either due to lack of knowledge about translation, or designed intentionally to fit a minor and exclusive group of translators (some members of the Chilean association of translators, COTICH), giving them a privilege with no sound technical support, contravening all recommended and market practices.

Although it is true, that any of these requirements can be selected, as a whole they exclude the vast majority of Chilean translators, despite some are similar or more competent than those of COTICH, or than those translators in the other categories required, as much due to specialties or as translators. To try to make believe that the requirement, defined under Nº2 below, is a real option for the excluded translators is a false claim, because what it demands implies an attempt to intimidate, an obstructive procedure, not inclusive. This requirement should be substantially modified to really be an option for those translators not belonging to the other categories, apart from smaller changes in the other categories.

I will try to be very didactical, so the errors in these requirements are clearly understood, something neither the lawyers of the General Comptroller or of your Ministry can or want to understand.

1) You don't have to be an expert in anything to understand that, if in the Chilean embassy in Washington and in the Chilean embassy in London there are no lists of translators, and the response by Mr. Lorenzini, from the embassy in London, confirms that translations must be done in Chile (Attached Document: Request-London), then, the sentence "or accredited and/or authorised by the Chilean Consulate in that country", is false. If this requirement was designed as something exceptional, to cover cases when a pair of languages are not available in Chile, it should be established as exclusively exceptional, because it contravenes the recommendations from experts (as explained in Nº5 below).

2) Maybe, you don't have to be an expert in translation, law or anything else either, to recognise that the procedure: "it must be accompanied with an affidavit in Spanish, signed before a certifying officer by the legal representative(s) of the party or member of the group who delivers the document, where he/she declares that the translation is accurate, true, complete and fit, taking full responsibility for its contents and for any potential mistakes, omissions or inadequacies in it" is a crude and twisted obstacle preventing other competent translators from competing on a level playing field with translators belonging to COTICH. It has the connotation of scaring, driving away or intimidating the potential clients of translators who don't belong to COTICH.
A client, who puts in the hands of a translator his million-dollar project, is the most interested party in assuring its quality is undisputed, and may establish the reviewing and validation measures recommended by the experts, something equally relevant for those translators in COTICH as those who don't belong to it. But, instead, making the client declare (under oath) before a certifying officer or a Notary Public about something he is not an expert witness, is intimidating; it is not even near to equivalent. This is not validation, it is an obstacle.
What might be unknown to you is that the only entities, which are competent at certifying the quality of a translation are the "Translation Competence certifying or accrediting organisations", and in Chile there is none. Only in China, Australia, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Finland are there official organisations, which certify the competence of a translator (Hlavac, 2013). In Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, Croatia, Mexico, Spain, Argentine, United Kingdom, The USA, there are organisations of this kind for certifying interpreters (Hlavac, 2013), but an interpreter is not the same as a translator. What most countries have are private entities, which certify a translator's competence, with translators' associations being some of them, although these certifications are not accredited officially (Hlavac, 2013). Furthermore, none of these entities, or the other organisations mentioned above, CERTIFIES THE QUALITY OF A SPECIFIC TRANSLATION, instead they certify that a given person holds the MINIMUM competencies required to be considered a translator. And in many of them, including the COTICH (except in some special cases), that certification is not obtained through a translation exam, but using criteria that is clearly controversial. None of these private entities certifies the quality of a translator in a SPECIALTY, i.e. engineering, contracts, business, law, etc.; they don't have the technical competence or the organisation to do that, or they are not interested in doing it. The University of Cambridge has an exam for certifying specialties, but only for use of English (in business and law) in the workplace, not for professional translation. There is a difference.
According to unofficial sources, there are about 3000 people in Chile who declare they are translators, including good, bad and amateur service providers, and just over a hundred of these belong to COTICH. Some were members of COTICH but have cancelled their membership. Some are members of other translators' associations, with similar or better reputation than COTICH. Some are translators with extensive experience, but don't belong to any association.

3) You don't have to be an expert in translation either, to perceive that: "by a court appointed expert witness registered as a translator in the Nómina de Peritos of any Chilean appeal court", also is a delusive and obstructive option, considering the amount of registered experts (interpreters - only 2 in 2014, and although currently the number has increased to 44 for all languages), considering an interpreter is not the same as a translator, and considering these kinds of translations are very demanding in man hours (usually imply full time work for weeks and at times with a team of translators). Additionally, some background data present in the "Nómina de Peritos", which I won't detail here and now, cast shadows on the screening methods for nominating those experts, their expertise, so having this category as a validating method of translation/specialty quality might not be trustworthy.

To assess the validity of the other requirements established ("An official translation performed in the source country", "translator accredited/certified by the authorities of that country", "a member of the COTICH"), you do need to have adequate knowledge about the profession of a translator and how the translation market operates, and I'm very sure, that both the lawyers of the Chilean Comptroller’s Office (who studied documents submitted in April 2014) and the Head of the Unidad Jurídica of your Ministry, don't have that knowledge. Did they seek advice from experts in the profession to establish their position regarding the roots of the issue? Which experts? Related to COTICH?
The mere fact that, lawyers of the Comptroller’s Office as well as those of the Ministry, dismiss or don't address the roots of the arguments included, makes one assume there was no such advice, or intentionally, they avoided touching those points: the Translation standards, the recommendations from experts, how the market works, the obstruction for whoever is not part of the COTICH.

A technical analysis of these requirements, by someone who has extensive knowledge and experience in this field, shows the following:

4) Official translation performed in the source country: In most countries throughout the world there is no "official translation" of private documents, unless they are part of Government to Government official procedures. This is not the same as "apostille", or the procedure for certifying that those signatures on a document are genuine; this has nothing to do with translation. This requirement is false.

5) A translator accredited/certified by the authorities of that country:
- Only in Australia, China, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Finland are there official entities who certify the competences of translators (and interpreters) for private and public procedures (Hlavac, 2013). These are the only OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED TRANSLATORS in their countries. Despite, some additional countries have official entities for certifying interpreters, an interpreter is not the same as a translator. The practice they are involved in is very different, creating different routines, habits and results (Robinson, 2004; Traductor o Intérprete).
Even if, a non-official certification in the source country - the usual certification procedure for translators in most countries - was accepted by the Ministry as a requirement, it would conflict with one issue: the vast majority of these certifying organisations or entities follow the translation standard ASTM F2575, which is endorsed by translators' organisations and many market players: "A translator should only translate into his/her native language” (Attached Document: Native Language).
So, if a translator lives in country A (Sweden), holds an official certificate from that country and is a native of that country, he wouldn't be considered competent to translate into the language of country B (Chilean Spanish). A native from country B who lives in country A, might be considered native in language B, but being disconnected from that country's current real life would affect his competence. In consequence, this requirement is untrue, or at least, it has no support among translators' associations, translators' standards, or in the global market, except, maybe, as very exceptional cases.

6) A translator registered, in the required specialisation, as member of the COTICH:
As mentioned above, COTICH does not certify, nor validate, nor examine the specialties of its translators . Its members can declare whatever specialty they want. Many translators, not only in COTICH, self-declare any specialty without any evidence or proof of knowledge, except having translated some documents in that field or having passed a half year course on specialised translation in that field. Nothing compared to having a degree in Engineering, Biology or Law, or having spent 10 years working in a mine, a hospital, or construction sites (not as a translator). The idea of what a specialty is about, for many translators and translation schools, is quite superficial, far from the challenges a translator usually has to address in a specialised translation.
Translation programs offered in Chile have features which undermine ones trust on the quality of the professionals they produce, especially regarding their command of languages, but also due to the fact that the Chilean market gives them very few opportunities to correct/improve/expand the scarce knowledge they receive.
Some of these are members of COTICH. We can also find among the members of COTICH, translators who are owners of translation agencies, something just as incompatible as having businesses as members of a consumers’ association. COTICH is not the only one with this problem in the world. Finding a competent translator, of the appropriate specialty, requires much more than belonging to COTICH.

Mr. Minister, the purpose of this letter is not simply to protest against those paragraphs, but against the apparent lack of ability to analyse or lack of meticulousness and depth in how your staff has processed this topic. In fact, in my request for information I only asked to know if those paragraphs were still in force or if they had been modified. However, your staff delivered as answer much more than what I asked. Obviously, it was not necessary to send me the Comptroller's report and it produces the logical question: Why was it sent, if it was not what I asked? Does the person who wrote the Minuta 52925 know, the requirements have mistakes, and he needs to support the lawfulness of those requirements (not their accuracy) leaning on the authority of the Comptroller's Office? The scarcity of technical arguments related to the translation profession, and the use of lawyer's flourish, delivered as response by your Ministry for the Comptroller's report, does not clear up the basic issues complained against: the exclusion of competent translators using inconsistent requirements.

For these reasons, Mr. Minister, and because my work and my livelihood have been damaged significantly by these requirements, and in view of the risk that others may wrongly believe your methods are worth imitating, I have decided to distribute this letter or a similar one to all the media and other people, left and right, up and down, in Chile and where I can abroad, with the main purpose of finding out if they read the same nonsense I do. I'm interested in knowing if I've gone nuts and I don't understand what I read, or it's your people or the Comptroller's Office who are acting dumb.
If it's not me the mad guy, then consider modifying those paragraphs, open up to suggestions from me and/or others and including those suggestions without obstructive conditions, and sit at the table staff willing to collect, study and apply such changes, not those people who dismiss objections without thinking and are damaging your Ministry, our country and translators.

The most comprehensive solution for the formal validation of translators to ensure translation quality, necessarily requires the creation of a technical entity, a "Translators Competence Certification or Accreditation Organisation" state-run, pluralistic, transparent, professional, fair and impartial. If you are so interested, really, in receiving guarantees of quality in translation, then you could endorse and support the promotion of such an entity. Maybe it's not easy to build, but somewhere you must start, and we'd all receive the benefits. These entities might not be perfect, but they grow in fairness and pluralism.

I hope you will let me perceive a quick and determined reaction to correct what I have expressed in this letter, because we soon need guarantees, which the current system does not deliver.

Attached Documents:
- Ruling Excerpt (link in the text)
- Request-London (link in the text)
- Legalisation procedures in London Consulate
- Native Language (link in the text)


Hlavac, Jim (2013). A Cross-National Overview of Translator and Interpreter Certification Procedures. Monash University. The International Journal for Translation & Interpreting Research, Vol 5 No 1 (2013) Full Article

Robinson, Douglas (2004) Becoming a Translator, An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation , (pgs. 88-89 or 74, print or PDF).

Se despide muy Atte,


Note: Some links in this text are not in the original letter, because the Ministry already has those documents.

Continues: The MoW responds, but...


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