17 July 2015

Future legal implications for the translation and editing professions


The government is currently in the process of setting up the Regulations for the South African Language Practitioners’ Council Act (No 8 of 2014). This basically means that the Act itself is fairly vague and many, many questions regarding the role of the South African Language Practitioners’ Council, membership, accreditation, voluntary bodies, etc. have to be addressed in the Regulations, which is a quicker process than promulgating a new act. The public had the opportunity to comment on the process until 23 June and they should be promulgated sometime in the next months. The South African Translators’ Institute (www.translators.org.za) has been closely involved with this process and, I am happy to say, looking out for the interests of its members.


It looks like these regulations will have a number of implications for language practice in South Africa. In future, translators, editors and interpreters (and later other language practitioners as well) will have to be registered with the SALPC if they wish to work professionally. This is great in the sense that unscrupulous people won’t be able to charge for professional services that they are not qualified to deliver (like the publicly humiliating incidents of sign language interpreting in the last year or so). It looks like initially everyone working with the official languages of South Africa will get registered with the SALPC and then in time an accreditation system will be phased in, after which one will be unable to offer services for which they are not accredited. SATI is working very hard to let their accreditation be recognised so that one does not require getting accredited again, but that may not happen. I also know of a number of language practitioners who have degrees behind their names, but who have never become accredited with SATI, and they will obviously need to get accredited with the SALPC. One will also have to pay annual membership fees, again the amounts are not known yet.


Personally I am a bit dismayed at the thought of having to pay even more membership fees, and I am sure everyone is hoping it will not be too exorbitant. It is also an incentive to get accredited for more services in the next year or so, in the hope that such accreditation will be carried over. I have worked perfectly happily without even knowing about the SALPC, and in some ways this act and the regulations seems like over-regulating a profession that mostly attracts intelligent, conscientious people anyway, but let’s hope that it will be beneficial especially for young people getting started in the field and working in the African languages.



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