Industry seeks next generation of linguists

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, December 8, 2012
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Science and technology fields require translators to have both abundant professional knowledge and excellent language skills.

But China's scientific-translation industry is having difficulty replacing a generation of aging multilingual scientists.

Scientist Li Pei, 93, is one of the oldest science translators in China. She started the foreign language department at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences from scratch, and established the translators' professional rank and title system currently in use in China.

On Tuesday, Li and nine other translators were honored for their outstanding work during a ceremony to mark the 30th Anniversary of the Translators Association of China.

"When Li took charge of translating renowned scientist Qian Xuesen's works in 2008, she adhered to high standards, and all the translators she hired to translate the work were students or assistant of Qian," said Li Weige, secretary-general of the Science & Technology Translators' Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"However, as translators like Li grow old, we have trouble finding such outstanding and dedicated translators," Li said.

On average, translators are paid only 60 yuan ($9.6) to 80 yuan per 1,000 Chinese characters, which means the young translators struggle to make a living.

"Science and technology translation requires one's high proficiency in science knowledge and language, but people with such skills usually choose other occupations other than translator, because the importance of translation is minimized in China," said Zhao Wenli, deputy secretary-general of the Science and Technology Translators' Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Since translations are not counted into one's academic achievements in China, fewer and fewer young scientists are willing to commit to a translation career.

"Scientific breakthroughs cannot depend fully on the innovation of our own scientists. In fact, our early achievements in research fields like aerospace, nuclear technology and man-made protein relied much on the experience of scientists from other countries," Zhao said.

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