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Translation Market Expected to Boom
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Liu Xiliang, president of the Translators Association of China (TAC), said on Sunday that with the 29th Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and 18th FIT (International Federation of Translators) World Congress in Shanghai, both in 2008, China could expect soaring demand for translation services over the next few years and the industry could be entering something of a golden era. 

The organizers of the two-day China International Forum on the Translation Industry, which opened yesterday morning in Shanghai, held a press conference later in the day.

"At a global level, by the end of 2007, the output value of 'human translation' is predicted to reach US$11.5 billion and 'machine generated translation' to arrive at US$134 million," Liu explained. 

"Statistics show that the output value of China's translation market stood at 11 billion yuan (US$1.375 billion) in 2003 and possibly exceeded 20 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion) last year," he said.

Currently China has about 60,000 professional translators and interpreters and hundreds of thousands of people are engaged in translating in a variety of forms. There are more than 3,000 translation agencies or companies nationwide -- over 400 registered in Beijing alone -- with a total annual turnover of some 13 billion yuan (US$1.625 billion).

"An essential resource to international communication and globalization, the translation sector is an important economic player," said Sheryl Hinkkanen, FIT secretary-general. "It has created at least 125,000 jobs in Europe alone and the number is estimated to be double that worldwide."

According to a statistical breakdown of data produced by the US Allied Business Intelligence Inc., during the five-year period from 1999 to 2004, the value of the global translation market rose by 23 percent, increasing from US$7.6 billion to US$9.3 billion, she explained. "Europe and Asia both witnessed an increase of 32 percent and China, with the fastest growth, is undoubtedly the biggest contributor to the Asian market."

As the world became more global in outlook, language was the key to success in social, economic, political and cultural development, Liu said. "The translation industry as a newly emerging force has entered the economic arena," he observed. "Therefore it's an urgent task to discuss ways to strengthen its competitiveness and promote its sustained development."

Although prospering, the domestic translation industry had been troubled by vicious competition and confusion in management. "Shoddy products are still flooding our translation market," he said.

In an effort to regulate the market, the TAC and China Association for Standardization jointly drew up the "Specification for Translation Services -- Part I: Translation" and the "Target Text Quality Requirements for Translation Services," which were circulated in November 2003 and June 2005 respectively. A national standard for oral interpretation will be published soon. "However, we still have a long way to go before a truly mature market is established," said Huang Youyi, vice president and secretary-general of TAC and vice president of FIT.

Hinkkanen said the structure of the translation sector had undergone fundamental changes worldwide at a very rapid pace. Ever since the early 1990s, it had evolved from individual national markets into a global industry. 

"Standardization is one response to the altered operational environment," she said. "First come the national standards," she said. For instance, Italy in 1995, Germany in 1998 and Austria in 2000 formulated their own standards for the services and activities of translation and interpreting enterprises.

"The current development is toward a broader approach," she added. Among the latest efforts is the European standard for translation services drafted in March 2006. It may come into force in the second half of this year.

"Another thing deeply concerning me is the fact that the significance and value of translation work is far from being fully realized by the public," Liu said.

The rights and interests of translators and interpreters, who are doing tough work for meager earnings, didn't always receive appropriate protection, he said. For example, it was still common for publishers to deny a translator's lawful claim to sign their names on works of translation, he commented.

Liu urged TAC, the "voice" of those involved in translation services across the country, to take effective steps to put an end to the current situation and create a solid market environment.

( by staff reporter Shao Da, May 29, 2006)

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