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Inttranews Special Report - Ukraine

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When a country faces a revolution in which linguistic divisions are a crucial factor, interpreters and translators play a vital role. This was recently illustrated in Ukraine, when more than 12,000 foreign journalists and observers arrived for the December 26 elections, creating high demand for linguists.
To find out more about the problems they face and how they solve them, Inttranews has interviewed the Ukrainian Translators' Association (, and a freelance translator and interpreter, Irina Lychak (


Inttranews: When did you start operations?
Ukrainian Translators Association (UTA): The Ukrainian Translators Association (UTA) was founded in March 1999 in response to an overwhelming demand in the quality of translation and interpreting services.
Irina Lychak (I.L.): In 1991 as an in-house translator and switched to full-time freelancing in 2000.

Inttranews: What are the main difficulties you have to face, and how do you try to overcome them?
UTA: In the middle 1990s, both translators and customers faced a number of difficulties: low-quality translation/interpreting services, dumping by unqualified translators, lack of information resources and technical support. To overcome these difficulties, translators combined their efforts and founded their professional organization, the Ukrainian Translators Association. Since the very beginning, UTA has clearly set out the strategies to address these issues i.e. promotion of international and domestic standards and uniform requirements for translation/interpreting services and translators? qualifications; development and implementation of the voluntary certification system for translators and translation companies; protection of translators? rights and interests, training and other activities.
I.L.: The main difficulty I faced was lack of information on establishing and working as a freelance translator. Actually, I had to study corresponding forums on because it was not possible to find local sources of information in Ukraine. Currently I am in the search for efficient marketing possibilities and techniques. It has been helpful to use Alex Eames's Tranmail list of translation agencies, which I bought some time ago and which helped me to market my services to foreign translation agencies. However, the issue of attracting local clients remains open to me.

Inttranews: Have you been contacted in relation to the recent events in Ukraine, and if so, by people from what countries?
UTA: No. UTA is a non-political public organization.
I.L.: I received one request from my Ukrainian colleague who was looking for an interpreter to assist a journalist from the U.S. during her business trip to Donetsk.

Inttranews: What effects have the recent events in Ukraine had on your work?
UTA: As a number of foreign journalists and international observers arrive in Ukraine in connection with the recent events, translators and interpreters are in high demand. As a rule, foreign customers are not familiar with the Ukrainian translation market and find it more reliable to seek UTA's advice and assistance in finding partners in Ukraine. We are always pleased to assist everybody in cooperation with our members and try to find the best solution reasoning from the customer's needs.
I.L.: There was a sharp decline in the volume of translation orders I received over three weeks starting from October 22, the next day after the second tour of the Elections. However, when signs of stabilization had shown, the situation with my workload improved.

Inttranews: In every country around the world, governments play a major role in the language industry. In what ways does the government affect your work?
UTA: As the Ukrainian laws do not provide for mandatory certification of translators or translation companies or the system of sworn translators, the translation market in Ukraine, probably, is not as much affected by the government as it may be affected in other countries. However, the translation industry, as any other business sector in Ukraine, is affected by the general government policy towards economy, investment conditions, small business, fiscal regime, international relations etc.
I.L.: In no way. Probably, because for the country with economy in transition there are other sectors vital to its survival that require immediate governmental attention, regulation, and support.

Inttranews: In what ways could the future government improve your working conditions?
UTA: The translation industry, as any other business sector in Ukraine, may be affected by unstable economy. So, the government policy towards stability in economy, small business support and the active foreign policy will promote the development of business in Ukraine and of the translation industry as well.
I.L.: It can favour development of domestic businesses (small and medium-size, especially). This, in turn, will stimulate demand and development of local market of translation and interpreting services, which, in my opinion, is currently underdeveloped in Ukraine.

Inttranews: Is certification as a translator or interpreter useful in Ukraine?
UTA: UTA certification requirements are stringent and imply a successfully passed exam in translation/interpreting (for individual members) or a certified quality system including ISO 9000 requirements (for collective members), strict observance of UTA Code of Conduct and international and domestic translation standards, strong experience, deep knowledge of subject area, positive customers' references etc. Only in this case, high quality of translation/interpreting services may be guaranteed.
I.L.: No, not in Ukraine. I have only one Ukrainian client, and it doesn't matter for it, whether I am certified or not. However, I believe that certification helps to stand out among Ukrainian translators on the international market and to enjoy more international client confidence.

Inttranews: What effect has European enlargement had on your work?
UTA: Certainly, the European enlargement has had an impact on the whole society and consequently on translation business. As the market for translation services continues to expand, the matter of quality, translation standards and certification is of particular importance.
I.L.: No any effect.

Inttranews: In what ways could the international translation community help you?
UTA: We use every effort to cooperate with foreign translators? organizations, study foreign experience, translation standards and practice, and share our experience. Undoubtedly, such cooperation is of mutual benefit.
I.L.: Share its experience and best practices. As far as I know, the Ukrainian Translators Association already invites language experts from abroad to conduct seminars on translation and interpreting.

Inttranews: If there was one thing you could change in your market, what would it be?
UTA: Unfortunately, not so many Ukrainian translators/interpreters and translation companies understand the importance of their certification in order to promote the best translation standards. However, UTA makes every effort to promote the best translation standards and to protect the rights and interests of translators and interpreters.
I.L.: Rates. Sometimes they are ridiculously low.

Inttranews: Is there any other subject about the language industry in your country that you feel is of particular importance? If so, what is it?
UTA: In the context of European enlargement and globalization, more effective implementation of international standards in rendering translation services is of particular importance. In this connection, the Ukrainian Translators Association actively supports initiatives in this field and seeks support of the international translation community.
I.L.: Raising respect to the profession.


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