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.