What freelance translators can expect of agencies, and vice versa
Representatives of SENSE, the Association of Translation Agencies in the Netherlands (Vereniging van Tolk- en Vertaalbureaus in Nederland, VViN), the Dutch Society of Interpreters and Translators (Nederlands Genootschap van Tolken en Vertalers, NGTV), and the Dutch Association of Freelance Translators (Vereniging van Zelfstandige Vertalers, VZV) have created a model best practices document called the ‘Convenant Vertaalsector Nederland’ (Dutch translation industry memorandum of understanding), which is now available.
The Convenant explains what freelance translators and translation agencies in the Netherlands typically consider good practice in their dealings with each other. This gives freelance translators in the Netherlands a better idea of what translation agencies in the Netherlands expect of them, and vice versa. It is also a way for local translators to hold local translation agencies accountable for unethical behaviour. We hope that the Convenant will help newcomers to our industry learn what translators and agencies can expect and should deliver to each other.
Representatives of these associations met several times over the course of three years to discuss what their members consider best practices. The Dutch Convenant was created in the spirit of the original Hungarian Covenant, although it differs from it in many ways, which reflects the Dutch freelance translator environment.
Where to download
History – the ‘Hungarian covenant’
Following years of distrust between freelance translators and translation agencies in Hungary, two language associations decided in 2013 to create a memorandum of understanding to bridge the divide in their industry. These were the Association of Hungarian Translators and Interpreters (Magyar Fordítók és Tolmácsok Egyesülete, MFTE) and the Association of Professional Translation Service Providers (Professzionális Fordításszolgáltatók Egyesülete, Proford).
They began by creating two separate documents that detailed what each of them expected of the other party. Representatives of the two associations then met with each other to discuss each other's beliefs and proposals. The result of their subsequent cooperation was the creation of a unified document that quickly got the name ‘Hungarian covenant’ (officially it was called the ‘Translation Cooperation Agreement’).
Signatories of this ‘covenant’ were not bound by it – i.e. it did not supersede any other agreements between them – but it helped explain to everyone involved what was generally expected of each other. It was eventually translated into English and became a point of discussion for a number of English-language translation associations all over the world.
Subsequent discussions were joined by a second Hungarian translator association called the Association of Freelance Translators and Interpreters (Szabadúszó Fordítók, Tolmácsok Egyesülete, ZSOFT), which resulted in an updated version of the Hungarian ‘covenant’ in 2022.
The representatives of the Dutch associations initially thought that it would be possible to simply translate and adapt the Hungarian document for local conditions, but they soon realized that Dutch translators and agencies have different concerns than their Hungarian counterparts, and that creating a new document would prove more fruitful. The sections of the Dutch Convenant correspond broadly with that of the Hungarian ‘covenant’, but the Dutch Convenant was written from scratch.
Frequently asked questions about the Dutch Convenant
Q: What is the Convenant?
A: The Convenant Vertaalsector Nederland (Dutch Translation Industry memorandum of understanding) sets out the best practices for cooperation between translation agencies and freelance translators.
Q: Why was this Convenant created?
A: The four signatory associations (VViN, NGTV, VZV and SENSE) recognized that there is a desire among translation agencies and freelance translators to have healthy professional cooperation in which the parties respect each other's independence, regard each other as equals, and strive for the highest ethical standards.
Q: Who is the Convenant meant for?
A: Although the Convenant was drawn up by the VViN, NGTV, VZV and SENSE, the Convenant is meant for anyone working in the translation industry in the Netherlands (i.e. all freelance translators who work for translation agencies and all translation agencies that work with freelance translators).
Q: Is the Convenant compulsory?
A: The Convenant is not legally enforceable, but instead acts as a code of conduct, a set of recommendations or guidelines that agencies and translators can agree to. Agencies and translators remain free to accept or reject individual sections of the Convenant. We hope that the Convenant and its future versions will become widely accepted in this industry.
Q: How should agencies and translators use the Convenant?
A: If you represent a translation agency or if you are a freelance translator, and you support the Convenant, please state this fact on your website, in your email signature, and in other communications. If you disagree with any section of the Convenant, please mention this and briefly explain your reasons. If you claim to support the Convenant and do not mention any objections to it, other agencies and translators will assume that you support the Convenant as a whole.
Q: What should I do if the Convenant is contravened?
A: If either the translation agency or freelance translator suspects or discovers that the other party is not adhering to the Convenant despite having claimed to support it, the parties should raise the matter with each other and do their best to find a resolution privately. This applies regardless of whether either of the parties is a member of a signatory association. There are no set rules for dealing with contraventions of the Convenant. Different associations have different protocols for assisting their members. If you are not a member of any of these associations, but the contravening party is, please inform the relevant association of this fact.
Q: Will the Convenant be revised?
A: This version of the Convenant is intended to be used for three years (i.e. until 31 October 2025), after which it will be revised during subsequent rounds of talks by representatives from the signatory associations, based on comments from their members or the public. The Convenant may also be revised at any other time.
Q: Where can I send comments about the Convenant?
A: If you have any comments about the Convenant or wish to propose any corrections or updates, please contact any of the four signatory associations. If you are a member of one of the associations, please contact the association that you are a member of.
Q: Is there an English translation of the Convenant available?
A: SENSE commissioned an English translation the Convenant, which can be viewed and downloaded here.