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Translators aid understanding
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Translators and interpreters should not only be outstanding linguists but more importantly, they should respect diversity and promote cross-cultural understanding, experts said at a summit of international translators yesterday.

The remarks were made at the 2008 World Congress of the Federation Internationale des Traducteurs (FIT) which opened in Shanghai yesterday, the first time the global conference has been held in Asia.

Wu Jianmin, former Chinese ambassador to France and former president of the Chinese Foreign Affairs University, said in his keynote speech that the role of translators in bridging the cultural gap was vital.

"The scale of inter-cultural exchanges has never been so large in the history of mankind, while translators are indispensable in these exchanges," said Wu, who worked as an interpreter for Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and other Chinese leaders between 1959 and 1971.

The world, however, appeared to be dominated by Western culture in the past few centuries, he said. Lack of understanding for oriental culture made many people mistakenly consider the rise of China as a global threat, Wu said.

"Oriental culture is far from being understood by the West," Wu said at the opening ceremony, adding that translators were frontier workers who should respect other cultures and then promote cross-cultural communications.

At the United Nations, where tens of thousands of language workers join hands to work on six different languages, translators and interpreters were hailed as silent partners in the diplomatic process, congress delegates said.

"Translation in the UN context is not so much a job but a vocation that presents a unique challenge," said Yohannes Mengesh, assistant secretary-general for the UN General Assembly and conference management.

For instance, translators and interpreters at the UN should demonstrate an excellent command of three UN official languages, including English, French, Chinese, Russian, Spanish and Arabic, and avoid miscommunication.

Although translators are not supposed to be experts in issues discussed at conferences, they should be psychologically comfortable with playing a supporting role to help experts talk, the Ethiopian UN official said.

Delegates also discussed the qualification problems of translators and interpreters at a sub-forum yesterday afternoon.

The congress will end this Thursday.

(Shanghai Daily August 6,2008)


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