Twice The Benefits

The Advantages of Dual Professional Memberships as an Interpreter

The Benefits of Dual Professional Memberships as an Interpreter

Professional memberships are expensive and newcomers to the business may need to gradually add them to their portfolio as their work-levels increase and they can afford them. This article takes a look at the benefits of having memberships in two different countries, both of which are relevant to your work – in this case the UK and Germany.

I was recently asked by one of my students why, when I mainly live in the UK, do I also have my two German professional body memberships. This question came as a complete surprise to me and made me think.

Perhaps I should first outline briefly that my memberships with professional interpreting and translation bodies are the following.


British Memberships:


  • Fellow of the ITI (Institute for Translation and Interpreting)
  • Fellow of the CIoL (Chartered Institute of Linguists)
  • Chartered Interpreter
  • Member of the APCI (Association of Police and Court Interpreters)
  • Member of AIT (Association of Interpreters and Translators)
  • Member of the NWTN (North West Translators Network)
  • Registrant on NRPSI (National Register of Public Service Interpreters).
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


German Memberships:


  • Member of the BDÜ (Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer) – German Association of Interpreters and Translators
  • Member of the VKD (Verband der Konferenzdolmetscher) – German Association of Conference Interpreters


Well, actually, why do I have all these memberships?


Initially I was tempted to say that as a lecturer in conference interpreting and a public service interpreting trainer I have to know something about everything (at least superficially), just in case my students ask about it. But once I started thinking about it, I realised that that is not actually true. My students benefit from it to a much lesser degree than I thought they would. The main reason for this is that I am not the one sharing my professional body experiences with them as we actually invite representatives from the respective bodies to talk to our students and they answer any questions that the students might have. My knowledge is only there for backup should a further question arise later.


So, what is the real benefit of my memberships?


In addition to my lecturing/training work I interpret between German and English (both ways) in the international conference, business and public service interpreting field. Due to the fact that this article is being published in the ITI Bulletin, I selected two of my major memberships, one being the ITI and the other being the BDÜ (German Federation of Interpreters and Translators). I will principally compare these two organisations, but I will also refer to some of the others wherever relevant. To aid brevity, from here on in I will refer to my memberships of the ITI and the BDÜ as my “dual membership”.


It is difficult to categorise the benefits of dual membership into any kind of a strict hierarchical beneficial order as many of the benefits are interlinked, so I have decided to simply list the benefits as distinctly as possible starting with “a foot in the door of the other country”.


A foot in the door of the other country


Whether we are interpreters or translators it is important that we keep abreast of what is going on in the country/ies in which our other language is spoken. For those of us blessed with family and connections in the other country this is not quite as difficult. But for those of us born here in the UK, it is not as easy to keep up-to-date with what is happening within our profession and field of expertise in the other country/ies. Sure, we can watch internet TV and access online foreign newspapers, but this is no match for reading about, and even better, interacting with our counterparts in our own particular profession in the other country. Dual membership facilitates this and maintains our foot in the door of the other country.


The Publications


Both membership organisations publish a magazine, namely “The Bulletin” for the ITI and the “MDÜ” for the BDÜ. Both magazines keep me up-to-date about what is happening in the respective markets but also worldwide in the profession. The usefulness of professional publications does not, of course, restrict itself to only the above two. I have found that even “competing” publications which are produced around the same time each year, never seem to cover the same topics and, even if the topic is in principle the same, they will cover different angles.

The Magazines’ contents range across both interpreting and translation with varying topical emphasis in different editions and I have found that reading them truly qualifies as high-value continuous professional development (CPD). Whether you are learning about professional indemnity insurance, newest technologies, upcoming events or CPD opportunities – you are given a different person’s angle on the topic


Beneficial Use of Modern Technology


We live in the so-called information age and dual membership provides a wealth of opportunities to exploit new technologies.  Never before has it been so easy to instantly, network, share ideas, and ask for and give advice to colleagues in our particular field. For instance, on the BDÜ website within the members only section they have a dedicated area which houses a wealth of information from business guidance, reviews and recommendations for business tools to the interactive member forum.

Within both the ITI and the BDÜ opportunities also exist to join networks dedicated to a special area of work or a particular issue. Many of these networks exist simply as an e-group or message board, while some also have a website with a directory of specialist translators and interpreters and one or two act in a more representative capacity, working to forward their members’ interests. Some also organise annual meetings and workshops at which their members can learn from each other in a professional yet collegial atmosphere.

Although it will of course be more relevant to participate in the networks in the country where one lives, I have found that the members’ forum of the BDÜ is a great source of insider information in relation to invoicing issues, business procurement and sometimes simply “what is that word in German?”


Work opportunities/Clients


Both the BDÜ and the ITI have a directory of members. Both list entries by membership grade or membership type e.g. FITI, MITI or Corporate Member and this widens the range of your potential clients within private and public sector organisations, helping to market your services. This has led to a number of interpreting assignments I undertook for German authorities and clients who were travelling to the UK to either investigate serious international fraud, a tax scam or simply host their multi-national conference in UK. They were pleased at the ease of simply consulting the German BDÜ directory for an interpreter in situ in the UK and, in the same vein being able to reduce their carbon footprint at least to some extent. I have also had BDÜ member colleagues from Germany recommend me to their local clients who needed a Manchester-based interpreter and I have done the same in turn for my Germany-based colleagues. Networking in its most mutually beneficial way.


Networking especially if new to the profession


The ITI operate many regional and subject/language-specific networks and these groups support members and offer newer members a great way of networking with other members. There is also a dedicated forum supporting new members, which can be accessed on their website. If you are a relative newcomer to the profession, you will be welcome at all the Institute’s events and activities and benefit from contact with established professionals and many networking opportunities. Several of my students have successfully used the regional networks as a gateway to establishing themselves within the translation and or interpreting community in the North West of England.


Opportunities for training


Continuous Professional Development is becoming a prominent feature of professionalization in a profession which is still lacking official recognition. We differentiate ourselves from others by our qualifications, our level of experience but also, and in my opinion most importantly, by showing that we are constantly “upskilling” and expanding our knowledge and specialisms.

At both the BDÜ and the ITI members enjoy discounted entry to the annual conference, weekend workshop, plus seminars and webinars – these are all invaluable opportunities to gain new skills, demonstrate your commitment to Continuing Professional Development and network with fellow professionals.

Many of our memberships bodies now want to see evidence of this in the form of CPD records and the ITI actually has an online CPD recording system which is extremely useful as a log of your achievements.


Reduced rates and special offers/professional indemnity/book discounts


Alongside the professional standing and credibility memberships give you, there are a number of additional benefits an interpreter can benefit from.

Professional indemnity insurance packages are offered at a reduced rate because members of professional bodies are deemed to be “lower-risk”.

There are discounted rates on software and other professional products, legal advice helplines, continuous professional development courses, the possibility of advertising in the membership magazines as peer support schemes giving advice and support to new members and those seeking extra guidance and so much more.



Prestige/Professional standing


Finally, I would like to emphasize that we can all contribute to the professionalization of interpreting in so many ways – belonging to professional bodies contributes to professionalization. I show my memberships on the back of my business card and clients often comment on this. Sometimes sadly with comments such as “Oh you do this professionally do you?” – which often makes me want to ask “And are you doing your job as a hobby, I take it?”. But joking aside, it shows our client that we are truly professional.

When a client decides which interpreter to use, even without specific understanding of what they mean, they will always have a tendency to pick their interpreter on the basis of how qualified they seem, how experienced and not least on the basis of their memberships. Even if they do not have an understanding of interpreting, they do understand that a professional membership means that the applicant has had to jump through a number of hoops to get there.


I am aware that memberships cost money that we first have to earn. I always advise my students to choose carefully which professional body to join first. Factors such as relevance to their type of interpreting, professionalism displayed by the organisation, what they offer to their members and a quick benefit-cost-analysis are useful tools to use when making this choice. And don’t forget to ask members and experienced colleagues for advice.


Kirsty Heimerl-Moggan
UK-based German - English Conference, Business & Legal Interpreter

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