I sat the Diploma in Translation (Chinese into English) today.

For those who have never heard of DipTrans, it is a translation exam organized by the Chartered Institute of Linguist UK. Passing the DipTrans is a requirement for CIoL membership. DipTrans is notorious for its difficulty, with a first-time pass rate of only 20%. It is, however, a widely recognized international qualification and I believe it is considered an “unofficial” professional qualification here in Hong Kong, as least by those in the translation industry.

Candidates have to translate a text of moderate length in each of the three papers. Passing all three papers is required for award of the DipTrans. Candidates may re-sit any failed paper in the next year and have five years to pass all three.

This year’s paper 1 (general translation) was of average difficulty. The main challenge came from the text’s heavy use of figurative language and unusual comparisons, such as “語言是一個漂移不定的框架,而人們生活於其中” (or something like that, I don’t remember the exact wordings). In some parts I (literally) pulled my hairs out trying to understanding what the author was saying, something I didn’t expect as a native speaker of Chinese.

For paper 2 (semi-specialized), I chose the business text. It was an excerpt from an investment report and therefore quite similar to what I translate routinely at work. Overall this was the easiest of all three papers, except a few difficult areas. The other two options were technology and literature. The technology text was rather difficult, and I ruled out literature even before the exam.

For paper 3 (also semi-specialized), I chose the science text, which concerned eutrophication and blue algae bloom in China’s lakes. I was actually more familiar with the content of the legal text, but closer inspection of it revealed many traps. The third option, social science, was full of obscure jargons and therefore too hard.

I was quite surprised to know that I was the ONLY candidate, which also meant I had my own room. The invigilator told me there would be 20 candidates in the English-Chinese exam on the following day. A stark contrast but understandable. People are often more comfortable translating into their mother tongue, which, for most people in Hong Kong, is Chinese.

I hope I can pass at least one paper (I dare not expect too much, since it’s so easy to fail in DipTrans – if you’ve read the examiner’s report then you know what I mean). I would get REALLY depressed and demoralized if I fail all three, not to mention that re-sitting is very expensive. The exam costed me about HKD8,000 this time, and the fees go up every year.


55 thoughts on “DipTrans

  1. Hello Kevin,

    I sat the Dip Trans (English to French) in January too. Just had the results 2 out of 3.
    Do you have your results? How did you do?
    Let us know

    Kind regards

  2. Really want to share with you the experience in this test.
    It’s hard to find someone in HK who sat for this test.
    I initially thought you are overseas (as opposed to HK) guy as you had some French blogs.

  3. Hi There!
    I’m from HK too who took the IOL dip trans exam on Jan 2010. I am still waiting for the result! The IOL people said that they had already sent it out to individual candidates on 10 May 2010. Goodness, i’ve waited for more than 4months. I’m going to call them to ask for what happened if i still couldn’t get it by 27th May.

    Wondering if the Volcano eruption of Iceland is the cause for the delay…….

    1. Hi Miss The-One-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named,

      The volcanic ash might have caused the initial delay announced on IoL’s website. But in your case, I suspect there is a postal error. It has happened to me too. I asked IoL to send me a receipt for the exam fee and it never arrived, though they claimed it had been posted. You may ask IoL (or the examination center, in our case HKEAA) to tell you your results over the phone, if you’re anxious, which you must be 🙂

      Good luck!

  4. Hi Kevin

    OMG! Now i can see that postal error is a kind of common mistake made by the IOL, the authority for Translation in UK! ~_~”‘

    Okay, i’ll call the HKEAA tomorrow morning! Guess what happened today! I tried to call the HKEAA for exam details, but the tape recorder said that their working hour is already over by 17:00PM…

    Thanks anyway. 😛

    1. In IoL’s defence, The UK/HK mail service, rather than the IoL, is to blame for any postal error. This is unless the institute got your name/address wrong, of course.

  5. I couldn’t believe what i just heard this morning! The HKEAA said that it’s none of their business whether or not I received the result from IOL!

    Staff’s attitude of all government departments will get every HK citizen angry sooner or later………Unhelpful at all. Just sit and wait for 17:00PM to come!

    So, there’s no other way but to call IOL ,spending another $50 for LDT. apart from the $8000 already spent for the exam fee…….

  6. Look, Ms Unkown,

    You should read my post and mail me for advice.
    Your case happened in me last year. Guess what happened?
    They (CIOL) made mistake in my address, and the result was posted to some house (I am living in Block 6 and they probably sent it to 16).

    You don’t need to waste the money making long-distance call. I could give you an email, and the contact person. I think better not to disclose it here, or that lady may be furious.

    Mail me then. It seems that I am crazy guy in this site, as I always ask people to mail me…. please, haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

    Janitor (aka Kevin#2)

  7. Regarding the HKEAA. They are xxxxxx.

    Don’t waste your time with them. I had had very unpleasant experience with them last year, and I filed my complaints to HK Ombudsman, who ruled that my complaint stand.

    As a matter of fact, I want to go to Apple or Oriental. But the failed paper (which I thought I should have passed, here a very unpleasant event with CIOL and their examiners) added extra pressure and frustration to me. So I gave up.

    Perhaps I could tell the story of HKEAA if you guys don’t think I am crazy nut.


  8. Sigh! Many people on Proz.com got their results by calling their exam centers. Here in HK the exam center says it’s not their business…

    Miss Anonymous, I hope Kevin (aka Janitor) can help you with his info. The attitude of CIoL is not good either. They seem too busy to even acknowledge receipt of email enquiries. I still don’t have my payment receipt. I’m going to London next month and I’m going to ask them in person.


  9. Some guys in the CIOL are very helpful. Last year, when I checked why I have got nothing even at mid-June, she (the exam supervisor) immediately sent me a soft copy results. The hard copy actually came some weeks later when I found out the address bug in the blunder.

  10. It seems that you could claim the money by the receipt!?
    what a lucky guy you are.
    To me, useless. If the exam fee were HK$100, my employer would probably consider giving me HK$20 subsidy.

      1. It’s okay, Kevin! You can ask your credit card company to send you back the consuming detail, then your boss can know that you did participated the exam.

        Anyway, i am still anxious to know if the IOL headquarter people would be able to find out your payment receipt from their messy record in a jiffy. Might cause you another month!:P

  11. You are lucky.

    Last year the HKEAA charged me HK$9,300 (YES, nine-three-zero-zero) for using computer ONLY. You now know why I called them xxxxxxx.

    Pity that the ombudsman could only say they overcharge and could not do anything good to candidate, so the ombudsman office could close for its inability.

      1. What computer? You mean the electronic dictionary?? Did HKEAA refund you the surcharge?? $9300- $8000?

        1. Not a electronic dictionary. This is not allowed.
          I mean to use a computer to do the test. Of course they unplugged the internet cable. They also did not install electronic dictionaries inside the computer. In short, it’s “MS word” and a printer.

  12. Don’t know how to start a new thread. Just saw this on the government website. The 42.7% seems “impressive”.






           考生人數 成績達到語文能力要求(三級
    閱讀     1,303   862(66.2%)
    寫作     1,598   682(42.7%)
    聆聽     1,347   969(71.9%)
    口語     1,431   626(43.7%)
    課堂語言運用  310   291(93.9%)

    1. Schools & teachers nowadays only learn how to punish students for some very silly mistakes / wrong deeds. For example, when i was in F6, i was given a demerit (小過), merely for being unpunctural for school for 8 times! I was only late for 1 mins- 5mins!

      What a shame and pity! The 17 -yr-old school boy who dropped dead today had got something to do with the (somehow narrow-minded?) teachers.

      quote ” 廣播批教師 其後遭記過

      黃父續說,約10日前,兒子要與同學準備一篇內容是稱讚教師的講辭,以在學校讀出廣播,惟同學當日忘帶講辭,最後只由兒子負責講,但兒子卻偏離主題,只說了自己的不快和一些批評教師的說話,最後他因這件事被同學排擠,不肯坐在他身旁或與他說話。校方後來就事情告知黃父,而兒子其後又被記了一個大過,但父親不知道該大過是否與廣播一事有關。end of quote

      I mean those teachers would never review their own matters. What do you say?

      1. My primary school was also known for punishing students for small things. For example they’d smack your palm if they find your shoes (bak fan yu) dirty, which happened to me (it was a rainy day!!!). But my parents told me not to take such ridiculous discipline seriously.

    2. I took the benchmark test many years ago and the difficulty was somewhat between HKCEE and HKALE. How could any teacher of the English language fail the test is beyond me.

  13. If your bar is not too high, the standard of local teachers is indeed too low.

    I have not sat for it, but heard a candidate say it’s very difficult.

    1. The writing paper, especially the part where the candidate has to explain grammatical errors, is arguably more difficult as the candidate may not have training in linguistics.

  14. Well, only teachers can sit for the test , right? So either you’re a teacher or just get the question paper to do it at home yourself:)

    1. Not really. Working teachers have to pass the test if they want to continue teaching English. Prospective teachers need to pass the test if they want to start teaching English.

  15. Ha! Let say, if i never had a tertiary degree, but passed that Benchmark test, I could still work as a teacher in High school?

    1. I think you need both a degree and a pass in the benchmark test (or a qualification that offers exemption from the test).

  16. Hi Kevin

    I am really interested in teaching job.
    Do you think that Dip Trans could open the door? if the condition is the same as what Miss Anonymous suggested.

    1. What kind of teaching job? Secondary school? You already have sufficient language skills so the question is whether you’re prepared for a teacher’s life. Teaching is a tough job nowadays in HK…

  17. I could never understand why anyone would be interested in such boring occupation. Maybe too much listening of the song “To sir with love” ~_~”’

    Or just for the government / institute ‘s allowances?

    Sorry for my being cynical. But i really dislike teachers 😛

    1. Hold on, do you mean you dislike teachers, or being teachers?

      Btw we still don’t know what you do, Miss Anonymous. Because you took DipTrans I assume you’re a translator. Care to share?

      1. Well, as i have such an unfriendly attitude towards teachers, I cannot possibly be a teacher myself 😛

        I’m not a translator, which i’m now trying to be. That’s why i took the DipTrans exam. But is it so easy to find such a job? You tell me! :))
        I’ve been working as a merchandiser for a few dreadful years since graduation.

        1. Any particular field of translation you’re interested in?

          Actually, you don’t need a DipTrans to start translating.

  18. Ha! As you know, paper certificate is regarded as the most basic entry ticket for every respectable job in HK, it’s just the 1st step that leads to an opportunity for interview, or, merely a brief conversation.

    I didn’t get an A-grade for Eng. in the A-Level exam, so i need this diploma to gain others’ trust. :))

    What other options do i have?

    1. DipTrans will give you more than an interview. With it, you’re likely to beat a majority of other candidates, assuming they’re all beginners.

      Speaking of which, have you got your results yet?

      You can find a translation house where you’d have exposure to a larger variety of subjects. Or you can find an in-house position in a law firm, financial printer, the press etc if you want to go specialized. In the latter case you’re likely to gain more industry knowledge which needless to say is equally important to language skills.

  19. ” DipTrans will give you more than an interview.”

    Now I can see why I failed, because i underestimated it. Anyway,i’ll work hard and try again next year……. Well, I got the soft-copy of the result by e-mail, and they really got my address wrong…….

    How long have you been a translator?

    1. 8 years, though many people I know got their DipTrans much earlier.

      And don’t worry, only around 20% can pass the DipTrans the first time according to some statistics. I wish you better luck next year 🙂

  20. Hi Kevin, how did you prepare the exam? Any good advice? I want to sit the C – E combination next year but don’t have much experience translating into E . Thanks in advance…

    1. Hi Rachel, my only suggestion is to read the examiner’s report. The 2008 and 2009 ones are free downloads from IoL website.

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