The Challenges and Opportunities for NAATI Translators in the Era of Globalisation

Although the pace of globalization slowed somewhat during the pandemic, the pre-Covid rate has now resumed. People and their businesses and organizations are communicating as never before. The main obstacle remains the numerous language barriers. The translation industry is intimately tied to the need to communicate across the language divide, presenting opportunities and challenges along the way. 

For translators based in Australia who have the advantage of a national accreditation authority, NAATI (the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters), the growth in the worldwide demand for quality translation services gives them a head start over other native English-speaking translators elsewhere in the world. NAATI-certified translators are certainly in demand and the onus is on them to respond to the positive effects of globalization on them.

The opportunities for NAATI translators in the era of globalization

The main advantage of globalization as far as NAATI translators are concerned is that it provides a global market for their services. Not all translations can take place through online communication, but a surprising amount certainly can. In what seems now the dim distant past, the average trained translator would have an office and deal with clients on a face-to-face basis or through the medium of postal services. Most clients would have been local. Now, there are virtually no boundaries, meaning translators in Australia have potentially almost limitless numbers of clients.

The very reason why globalization is occurring, i.e. the existence of the internet and vastly improved forms of communication also allows NAATI translators to have virtual offices. The translator based in a small, country town in outback New South Wales has the same opportunities to carry out translation work as a translator in metropolitan Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane. Home-based offices have tremendous advantages in terms of the cost of maintaining a business as there is no longer any need for renting office space and personnel to maintain it.

The challenges for NAATI translators in the era of globalization

Of course, there are challenges associated with globalization, too. The demand for traditionally popular language pairs such as French and Japanese has been swamped somewhat by the diversity of other language demands. For trainee translators, this does provide more opportunity than a challenge as there are many more languages to become familiar with and offer in translation, but for older translators, there may be less demand for some of the languages they may have offered in the past.

Translation has also become a more complex and demanding career as the need for more technical translation has increased. The growth in globalization has its parallel in the growth of scientific and technical communication, necessitating a better familiarity with scientific and technical terminology. Cultural nuances have become more diverse and translators must accustom themselves to the need for more localization techniques to retain the relevance of the material they are given to translate, especially in marketing translation.

Lastly, there has been a steady increase in the proficiency of machine translation technology. While it has yet to match the current level of development of artificial intelligence, the reality is that machine translation tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated. As yet, for most commercial and professional translation tasks, human translators are still a necessity, it is important for NAATI translators to keep a close eye on the trends and make themselves familiar with the trends in technology which can actually make their jobs easier.

How NAATI translators can overcome the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities


The steady pace of globalization presents both opportunities and challenges for NAATI translators. The challenges must be met to take advantage of the opportunities. Examples of ways that translators can help to adapt to a more diverse and dynamic translation environment include:

  • continue to learn about new technologies and how these can help to expedite translation tasks;
  • build professional links across the translation industry;
  • branch out into more specialized niche translation markets to take advantage of the growth in these areas;
  • become more astute in self-promotion and marketing of one’s own translation strengths.



NAATI Certified Translators versus Bilinguals

How many languages can you speak? If you can only speak your own native language fluently then you are classified as monolingual. Bilingual people can understand and speak two languages fluently, while those lucky enough to speak more than two languages fluently are classified as multilingual.

Bilingualism can be a step toward a career as an interpreter or translator, but just being able to be fluent in more than one language isn’t sufficient in itself to be either. That takes training and in many cases a process of certification and accreditation before becoming either an interpreter or a translator. Each country has different rules about what is needed to become a professional translator. In Australia, the vast majority of professional translators have gone through professional training in translation and have passed exams that allow them to obtain certification from the National Accreditation Authority of Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). It is a requirement in Australia that all official documents are translated by a NAATI-certified translator and not just by someone who happens to be a bilingual speaker.

What is special about a NAATI-certified translator?

1. Study and certification

NAATI sets the standards for professional translators and interpreters but is not itself a training facility. If you are looking to pursue a career as a translator or interpreter in Australia, then you are likely to be already bilingual or go through a language course that develops your second language credentials. Beyond bilingualism, there are courses available in many tertiary institutions which are aimed at providing training in translation. Once a would-be professional translator has had sufficient training, he or she would then sit an exam or exams set by NAATI which test the person’s abilities in a specific language as well as their skills as a translator. NAATI has a range of exams that can lead to different levels of certification in both translation and interpretation.

2. Research skills and subject matter expertise

Most professional translators will tend to specialize in the field of translation. There are some translators who will offer a generalized translation service, but the breadth required to be a competent translator of every type of text or document usually precludes a generalized approach. This means that translators will become legal translators, medical translators, scientific document translators, marketing translators, or literary translators, just to name the most common categories. Professional translation requires an intimate knowledge of the variety of content that is to be translated and this requires considerable research skills and acquisition in particular of knowledge of terminology unique to the field of translation.

3. Knowledge of cultural variations

Marketing and literary translators will soon be aware of the need to consider cultural variations in language when they translate content on a professional basis. A good sound background in the cultural context of the population for which the translations are aimed is a necessity for a good translation.

4. NAATI-certified translators for immigration and citizenship applications and other legal documents

While not all countries demand professional qualifications and standards for the acceptance of officially translated documents, many others do. In Australia, government agencies and many employers and educational institutions will expect translated legal and personal documents to be translated by a NAATI-certified translator.


It can be seen from the content of this article that bilingualism, while an ingredient in what a professional translator is required to be able to master, is not in itself sufficient. The corollary is that anyone seeking a translator for anything of value or importance should be looking for a professional translator and if in Australia, that means a NAATI-certified translator.

Preparing Properly for the NAATI Test is the Best Route to NAATI Accreditation

Advantages of Professional Certifications and Accreditations

It is quite possible to survive as a translator or interpreter in Australia or New Zealand without certification or accreditation with a body like NAATI (the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters). Still, the possibility of lucrative work and career prospects are very limited, even if your grasp of a second language other than your own is quite sound.

A career in translating or interpreting generally requires NAATI accreditation first and then a subsequent application for membership with one of the professional associations, like AUSIT or NZSTI. Respectively, these are the Australian Institute of Translators and Interpreters and the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters.

Professional accreditation and association membership are generally necessary if you intend to get a job as a translator or interpreter with one of the many agencies that provide professional translation or interpreting services. Translation and interpreting work for the government and large corporations also depends on NAATI accreditation.

Understanding the Difficulty of the NAATI Test and Factors Affecting Pass Rates

So, how hard is the NAATI test? The contradiction is that many people who sit the qualifying NAATI exam, particularly the exams for professional translators and professional interpreters actually fail. The pass rate is typically only around 10 to 12%.

Is the NAATI test difficult? The high failure rate in the NAATI test is a measure primarily of a lack of thorough preparation for the exam and unfamiliarity with the style of questions in the exam, rather than any suggestion that the NAATI professional exams are too difficult. It is entirely possible to pass the NAATI exam on the first attempt as long as the hard work of preparation for the exam has been done first of all.

How to pass the NAATI exam at the first go

There is no easy way to pass the NAATI exam at the first go apart from ensuring that you have completed all the course work related to the NAATI exam thoroughly first. Most courses that lead to professional translating and interpreting as a career are available at all major Australian and New Zealand universities. Completing a recognized translating or interpreting course at one of these institutions is the best guarantee of passing the NAATI exam on the first go rather than becoming one of the unfortunate 90-odd percent who have failed to prepare themselves first.

Like many exams, the NAATI exam is designed to ensure that your working knowledge of both your own native language and your second language is good enough to cope with the demands of professional translating and interpreting.

The NAATI coursework will certainly help to prepare you for the all-important NAATI exam. Most successful would be professional translators and interpreters who have not only mastered the complexities of a second language but have understood the particular demands of the profession they are aspiring to become part of.

As far as passing the NAATI exam goes, either for professional translating or interpreting, there are many NAATI exam samples to practice on and it is quite useful to take at least one or more NAATI practice tests. Your success in these practice tests and exams will give you an idea of whether it is feasible to take the final NAATI exam itself. NAATI accreditation is not cheap, so it does not make sense financially to sit the exam without making sure you have a good chance of passing it.

NAATI Course fees

NAATI sets a variety of fees depending on whether you intend to become an accredited translator or interpreter and at what level you intend to aim. There are introductory and more advanced levels, each of which has its own exams and fee structure.

In general, the higher the accreditation, the higher the fee. For example, the fee for the Certified Conference Interpreter, Certified Specialist Interpreter, and Certified Interpreter exams are currently 880 Australian dollars each, while the Certified Provisional Interpreter fee is 550 dollars. For translators, the exam fee for the Certified Advanced Translator level is 770 dollars, while the Certified Translator exam fee is 550 dollars.

NAATI does not actually run courses. These are provided by colleges and universities in selected cities. Courses are designed to lead to translation or interpreting exams set by NAATI. The course structure and fees for these courses can be determined by looking at the individual university or college websites. The fees tend to be similar but not necessarily exactly the same. Note that the course fees themselves are not necessarily the most expensive part of studying to be a translator or interpreter and often it is the accommodation and other expenses that determine just how much it costs to become a professional certified translator or interpreter. That means that the NAATI course fees in Perth, the NAATI course fees in Adelaide, and the NAATI course fees in Melbourne all seem to be similar, but the expense of staying in these cities can be quite different.