Huang Youyi is a Vice President of the China International Publishing Group (CIPG), Vice Chairman and Secretary-General of the Translators Association of China (TAC), and Vice Chairman of the International Federation of Translators (FIT). After graduating from Beijing Foreign Language College (now renamed Beijing Foreign Studies University) with a Major in English, he joined CIPG.
The following is an edited transcript of an interview conducted by China.org.cn with Mr. Huang Youyi.
China.org.cn: As a Vice President and Secretary-General of the Translators Association of China (TAC), would you please talk about the status of translation in China?
Mr. Huang: Two things show that translation in China has entered a new development phase. One is that the development of globalization has created a heightened demand for translation between Chinese and foreign languages in various realms and professions; the other is that demand for translation has been greatly fueled by those economic sectors which seek foreign investment from and business opportunities in the outside world.
The initiation of "the reform and opening-up" policy and onset of globalization have presented new opportunities for translation in China, but not without some headaches. For example, although much effort was made to encourage language students, it turned out that mastery of language alone does not guarantee a quality translation. For a long time, there had been a common misconception that a talented linguist automatically makes for a good translator.
China.org.cn: How do other countries and regions deal with the problem and dispel the misconception?
Mr. Huang: As early as the 1960s, some insightful people in a number of countries and regions – such as Sweden, Australia and Hong Kong – realized that a mastery of language is only the foundation of good translation. Universities in those countries and regions made a point of incorporating translation into curricula for college students, as well as postgraduate studies for a master’s degree or a Ph.D. At the same time, translation accreditation by government-authorized bodies came into its own there. Subsequently, translators were able to start their own business with such an accreditation and the customers could assess a translator by whether he was qualified to this standard. Prices were charged in accordance with the market.
China.org.cn: Would you please talk about how China handled the problem?
Mr. Huang: Translation circles in China were also conscious of the problem. In 1996, based on a survey of opinion, TAC filed a proposal suggesting that central government offer translation curricula as an independent discipline in universities across the country. Initially the suggestion was met with skepticism. Some people thought that majors in foreign language were the equivalent of translators. We rebutted this case by questioning why there was a need to offer Chinese curricula in the universities given that we were Chinese?
To meet the growing need for translation, the Ministry of Personnel drafted the temporary regulations of the China Aptitude Test for Translators and Interpreters (CATTI) in 2003 in a bid to establish professional criteria for the translation industry. Currently, the test has two levels intended for candidates of varying degrees of proficiency.
In 2006, the Ministry of Education decided to offer translation curricula in 15 universities, requiring students to hone skills in cross-cultural exchanges, written translation, and interpretation. Among them, interpretation comprises simultaneous interpretation and consecutive interpretation. A school of foreign languages in a university can enroll 70 students while a translation program can enroll no more than two students.