Partage :

Translation in Argentina: an exceptional case in Latin America

By Norman Darío Gómez Hernández

Argentina is a benchmark for translation in the region, due, among other factors, to its long history of immigration and its renowned publishing and audiovisual translation industry. This country also boasts important legislation regarding the protection of sworn translators and has major translators’ associations that, by law, bring together professionals in this field. The country also has the most extensive offer of undergraduate translation training in Latin America. If we put together the 39 programs offered in 20 state and public universities and others taught in several institutes of higher education, we can count around 65 translation programs in the country. 

The origins of translation in the country date back to almost the post-independence period and the beginning of the 20th century, due to the historical and political events of that time. As Professor Georges Bastin1 points out: 

[T]he rejection of everything Spanish led to increased interest in other cultures, which in turn stimulated translation. In addition, the waves of immigrants arriving on Argentine shores tended to promote cultural interchange and, consequently, translation activities.

Tsugimaru Tanoue2, who drafted the law that created the translators’ association, explains that the professional title of Sworn Translator (in Argentina, ‘Traductor Público’) emerged in 1868 with the creation of a series of laws and decrees specifying examinations and degrees to allow a person to work as a translator, although at that early stage there was still no training courses offered. The beginning of the career of Sworn Translator at the university level came about when, in 1913, this training was included in a program offered by the School of Economic Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). However, it was not until 1938 that Sworn Translator studies received recognition as a field of study at that university. In 1968, under the auspices of the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences of the UBA, the programs of study (known as traductorados), which are still in existence today, were finally consolidated. The UBA was also in charge of conducting the first annual exams in Latin and the chosen language offered to those wishing to become Sworn Translators. This process of examination can be traced back to the end of the 19th century, together with the beginnings of the Buenos Aires translators’ associations. 

Languages and translation training

A positive factor for the development of translation in Argentina is the good command of English held by a high percentage of its population. Policies aimed at the propagation of this language have taken the country to first place in the English Proficiency Index3 ranking in Latin America for several years, reaching a ‘high’ level, in contrast to almost all Latin American countries which are ranked at the ‘low’ or ‘very low’ level. 

It should be noted that in most Argentinian universities an intermediate knowledge of a foreign language is required prior to entering translation careers. This also favors the predominance of English, which is reflected in the translation programs available. Regarding the 39 degree programs4 offered in public and private universities, there is a clear dominance of the English-Spanish language pair (24 programs). However, four other languages are also offered: Portuguese-Spanish (6 programs), French-Spanish (4), Italian-Spanish (3), and German-Spanish (2). The data also show that thirty-one programs (79%) train sworn translators, three others (all private) train interpreters, two others grant the title of scientific and literary translator, two more are for general translators, and one university offers technical translation. 

The high number of Sworn Translation programs may be explained by the legal support provided by Law 20305 aimed to professional translators. The Sworn Translator degree in Argentina is obtained following a four-year program. Unlike in most other Latin American countries, it is not possible to enter the profession by means of an examination presented before a state-authorized institution. However, for language pairs with no degrees offered, there exists the exceptional title of ‘Suitable Translator’ (Traductor idóneo). This is usually awarded, for example, by the UBA after a candidate has taken some compulsory subjects and passed an examination before an expert committee. The applicants must also register at the Colegio de Traductores Públicos de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires – CTPCBA (Association of Sworn Translators of the City of Buenos Aires), in order to be able to practice as Sworn Translators.

A criticism of this variety of academic programs is the existence of some study plans which only include a small number of subjects related to translation, or which emphasize aspects that are barely or not at all related to professional translation. An analysis of several programs of study carried out by researcher Norman Gómez5 shows that the proportion of translation-specific subjects only covers around the 30% of the total subjects offered with the context of the programs of study. One reason for this may be that many translation programs in Argentina, and elsewhere, that were created following the so-called ‘boom’ of that discipline in the 1980s and, therefore, that copied the model of building upon already existing language careers, tried to adapt theoretical approaches or didactic models originally designed for European or North American contexts. Interestingly, in spite of the plethora of undergraduate programs found in Argentina, there are only four postgraduate programs on offer. 

A supervised profession 

Regarding regulations for the development of sworn translation, Law 20305 has regulated the practice of the profession in Buenos Aires since 1973. However, this law serves as a model for the rest of the provinces and is used to limit the functions, rights and obligations of these professionals. All sworn translators must register their professional license in one of the country’s public translators’ associations, with the CTPCBA being the most recognized. It comprises about 4300 translators covering more than 30 foreign languages. Besides the more than 11 Colegios (sworn translators’ associations) the country has renowned associations such as the FAT (Federación Argentina de Traductores), the AATI (Asociación Argentina de Traductores e Intérpretes), and the AATT (Asociación Argentina de Traductores Técnico-Científicos).

 A well-earned tradition

In summary, it can be said that the practice of translation in Argentina has a long tradition and is supported by well-established regulations and by stable and representative trade organizations. This contributes to the existence of a significant number of translation programs, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, throughout the country (although highly concentrated in the Province of Buenos Aires). There is, however, a need for more collaboration and expansion of academic and research networks within the nation and with other countries, in order to share experiences in the field and explore the knowledge of other countries in the region for the sake of a better training of translators.

The sworn translator profession in Argentina: some highlights

  • There are around 47 schools providing translation training.
  • Students can choose between the Legal or Sworn Translation program and the Technical-Scientific & Literary Translation program.
  • The Sworn Translation program is often offered in the School of Law, and many courses are common to the Law degree program. 
  • Students take courses such as criminal law, contract law, family and estate law, property law, etc.
  • Only people who have obtained a Sworn Translation degree may become members of the Translators’ Association.
  • Both sworn and technical translators are trained to translate into Spanish but also into the foreign language of their language pair.

Norman Darío Gómez Hernández holds a doctorate in Didactics of translation from Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany. He is a lecturer at the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences and a member of the Research Group on Translation and New Technologies at the University of Antioquia.

1) Bastin, Georges (2005): Latin American Tradition. In: Mona Baker (ed.): Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies. -electronic version. London, New York: Routledge, pp. 505–512.
2) Tanoue, Tsugimaru (1981): Régimen legal de la traducción. In: Rodolfo et al. Witthaus (ed.): Régimen legal de la traducción y del traductor público. Buenos Aires: Abeledo Perrot, pp. 11–29.
3) EF-Education First 2016a, p. 27
4) Although the number of training programs for translators and interpreters exceeds 60, if university and non-university programs are counted.
5) Gómez, Norman (2022): La enseñanza de la traducción en pregrado universitario en Hispanoamérica: estudio de casos múltiple de seis instituciones con programas de traducción (Argentina / Colombia / Venezuela). Mainz: JGU-Publikationen.


Partage :