Why stories about the European Commission getting lost in translation are a good thing

Courtesy of the Financial Times, here’s the latest from Brussels on EC language and authoring management issues. The recent round of EU enlargement has probably produced the largest volume of news stories about translation/interpretation in the history of journalism. Although many have been amused accounts of Maltese problems or feigned awe at the size of the EC’s translation budget, such coverage can do nothing but good for the cause of multilinguality. Above all by drawing public attention to the real problems of managing large-scale translation loads across a very large number of languages. If our global future is to be multilingual, then any solutions the EC comes up with (training, technology, sizing tasks, rethinking authoring specifications etc) will probably become benchmarks for such emerging multilingual regions as South Africa, India, and South East Asia. In fact, I wish the EC would report even more widely and deeply on its problems and on some of the efforts to solve them (e.g. the outcome of the 2003 tender for ‘computer-based language resources&#8217wink. That way we might be able to push public awareness about ‘big translation’ beyond the usual ‘tower of Babel’ headline.

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Andrew Joscelyne
European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.

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