Status and technology in the professionalisation of translators. Market disorder and the return of hierarchy

Anthony Pym, David Orrego-Carmona, Esther Torres-Simón

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The professional status of a translator is traditionally indicated by a set of social signals including previous experience, academic qualifications, professional accreditation and membership of associations. When those signals shifted from print and word-of-mouth to electronic media, some degree of market disorder resulted with respect to globalisation of translator-client contacts, the growth of volunteer translation, access to free online machine translation, and the corresponding motivation to steal the identities of professional translators. Three case studies of websites and forums that have been associated with market disorder (, a comparison of aRGENTeaM and GrupoTS, and the Translator Scammers Directory) indicate that the initial disorder has been challenged and in some cases significantly corrected, with new forms of signalling appearing within the electronic environments. has instigated its own accreditation system, the volunteer subtitling communities have developed elaborate internal hierarchies of control, and the stealing of translators’ identities has been challenged through more sophisticated use of the same electronic media that allowed the thefts. In the new configuration of signals, however, it would seem that academic qualifications have less market value than does verifiable professional experience, while professional accreditation still has value but can be forged. For many segments of the translation market, the return to market equilibrium will require greater attention to new signalling mechanisms, with more sophisticated uses of electronic communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-53
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Specialised Translation
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

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  • Electronic media
  • Signalling mechanisms
  • Translator professionalisation
  • Translator status


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