China.org.cn: This year marks the international year of language, named by the UN and also the EU year of intercultural dialogue. How does your department promote innovation and communication between citizens and institutions and also boast the language industry in the EU?
JUHANI Lonnroth: Well because of this multitude of languages, the language industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. It grows at the pace of about 7.5 percent per year so the very fact that we have multilingualism as our policy already gives a boost to the language industry. But we have many programs to develop the language industry, too. For instance, we have invested about 60 million Euros – which is about 600 million Chinese yuan – over the past 20 to 30 years on machine translation.
China.org.cn: It is a really developing market.
JUHANI Lonnroth: It is a very quickly developing market, so we contribute to the development of technology. Beyond that, we have a lot of programs for language learning. And that as such gives a boost to the innovation of training of these various languages and promotes cultural diversity.
China.org.cn: Talking about the technology – the computerized technologies –they can be dated back to the early1980s. What happened when they started to be used in the EU? And what kind of influence has the computer technology had on the translation industry – especially in the EU?
JUHANI Lonnroth: Well it has had a major impact. If you compared the translations and the translation profession between say 1970 – 30 years ago – with the current situation, when translator had one paper and then another paper and he transposed the text from that paper to another language and, doing it by hand or using a secretary to dictate, and now when almost all translation is being done through computer technology, we have translation memories – huge repositories of previously translated text – which can be used or reused in the translation. However if you looked at the translator’s productivity, you can say that a very skillful translator translates say, four-and-a-half pages per day of a complicated legal text. This was the case also 10 years ago – or 15 years ago –so the new technology has actually helped us to standstill. We are riding faster in order to stand still because the texts we are translating become more and more complex and more and more difficult. So the new technology helps us translate as many pages now as we did ten or fifteen years ago. Had we not had the technology, we would translate less.
China.org.cn: Some people may say translation tools simplify translation. So what do you think?
JUHANI Lonnroth: Well they do, in a sense. Translators can also get a lot of assistance. Not only that, it’s not only a question of simplifying – it’s a question of quality. If the texts are more and more complicated, there are more and more risks that there are mistakes and the same terms are not used consistently across the various versions or various initiations. And therefore, the new technology helps the translator to maintain the quality and concordance and coherence between the various legal acts. This is also good for the citizens because their own rights and obligations are easier to implement if the texts are coherent.
The translation sector is a global market involving computerized tools, international competitions, and multi-national provision chains. And so the standardization is a response to the operating environment.
China.org.cn: Could you introduce the standardization situation in the EU?
JUHANI Lonnroth: Well standards are actually very important for us in two ways. I think we need to use the freelance market in the best way, we need to know the quality and capacity of the freelance companies who help us with the translation. So having some clear standards – which are being developed, by the way, in Europe and globally, too – having clear standards of how to select and rate these companies is very useful for the quality of the translation.
China.org.cn: But how do you make such a standard?
JUHANI Lonnroth: Well in the EU context we have just had an EU standard for getting a quality label for the freelance translators. This is not something that we have developed. This has been developed independent from EU, but we find it useful because those standards define what is a good translation – comparing what is the main requirement for these companies; do they have to have, for instance, revision capacity, accountability; and do they have to have some internal training? That is very useful for us in order to rate them, but beyond that I think it is important for us to improve the standardization of the program itself. And therefore, we are developing communication curriculum and skill requirements so we can also compare what kind of staff we recruit. What is really a translator supposed to be, supposed to know? We are in the EU context developing the European master of translation. Previously anybody can just say that if I know English or French or Romanian or so, I can be a translator but …