What is language practice

The term language practice refers to any and all of the following: translation, interpreting, editing, proofreading, text review, copywriting, terminology work and lexicography.

Language practice is at present unregulated in South Africa, except for sworn translation. What this means is that free market principles apply and anyone who wishes to may work as a language practitioner (translator, editor, interpreter) if they can find a client wishing to use and willing to pay for their services. There are no formal requirements to be registered or have any particular qualifications.

In 2013, the government began a process of regulation and in 2014 passed the South African Language Practitioners’ Council Act (Act 8 of 2014). This Act will establish the South African Language Practitioners’ Council (SALPC), which will oversee the profession. All language practitioners will in due course have to be registered with and accredited by the Council in order to work as translators, interpreters, language editors or terminologists. Regulations have been published under the Act, giving some further details of the requirements; others will be set by the SALPC when it is established. No date of implementation has yet been announced for the establishment of the SALPC. Belonging to an organisation like SATI means that one is kept up to date on developments and requirements and as a practitioner you can be sure that your professional association is working to protect your interests in relation to the legislation as far as possible.

However, this legislation requires various government structures to set up language units, which in turn influences the demand for language services, especially in the indigenous languages. Thanks to globalisation there is also a demand in our country for translation between local and foreign languages.

Good translators/interpreters generally have some theoretical knowledge of their profession, in addition to the basic requirement of a natural ability to understand, interpret and transfer the underlying meanings of a text in such a way that they remain faithful to the original and sound like they were produced in the target language.

Experience in conjunction with thorough on-the-job training was often considered more valuable than academic qualifications in the past. However, some formal training is always a good idea and is becoming the norm today. A variety of institutions offer training in different types of language practice. Modern language practice training courses usually include a substantial amount of practical work and mentoring, which is very useful. Members of the South African Translators’ Institute are involved in all the various aspects of language practice: translation, interpreting, text editing, proofreading, text review, copywriting, terminology work and lexicography.