Lost in translation

20 Dec 2004

The EU is in danger of becoming overburdened with interpretation problems unless it deploys technologies such as translation memory systems, online terminology databases and web services, a Dublin-based translation specialist has warned.

Ken Behan, vice-president of sales at the Dun Laoghaire subsidiary of Bowne Global Solutions, warned that the EU is facing a significant challenge in dealing with its translation and interpretation requirements as a result of the EU expansion.

According to Behan, the expansion of the EU in May increased the number of potential language combinations for communications purposes to a staggering 380. He said that there is currently a backlog of approximately 60,000 pages to be translated and the EU has implemented a number of measures such as shortening the length of texts to try and combat an ever-worsening situation.

Recently Charlie McCreevy, internal market commissioner of the EU, admitted that there is an issue with translation and indicated that requirements of translating new legislation on bank capital into the 20 official EU languages may slow down EU adoption of the legislation.

With countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey lined up to join and the Irish Government also seeking official language status for Irish, the linguistic challenge is set to increase. One of the biggest challenges has been recruiting appropriately qualified translators for some of the new languages or, in the case of Malta, even finding any translators at all.

Bowne, which employs 260 people in its European headquarters in Dublin, has established a dedicated division to focus on solving the translation and interpretation challenges of the EU. The strategic response will focus on the development of translation resources for less common languages and an increased focus on the use of technology to provide a short-term solution.

“The solution in part is using technology for translation services in the form of translation memory systems, online terminology databases and web services,” Behan suggests.

“The EU could work together with a translation service provider as well as with universities to implement special training and education programmes in member states to combat the shortage of qualified translators,” says Behan. “Bowne will also seek to form alliances with partners that offer complementary services to the EU in order to develop the most efficient language solutions.”

Bowne already has extensive experience working for the EU and translates the Verbatim Proceedings of the European Parliament into English and Danish, as well as draft technical regulations from all languages into German, English, Danish and Finnish. This team will be based in the Dun Laoghaire office and will work together with the other Bowne offices throughout Europe to meet the EU’s needs.

By John Kennedy