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Round Table Discussion: Translation


The translation workshop took place on Tuesday, 9 November, in the form of a round-table discussion.

The participants were:

- Mr. Daniel Gouadec, University of Rennes II;

- Mrs Marie Mériaud, director of ISIT (Higher Institute of Translation and Interpretation), Paris;

- Mrs Giulana Zeuli, director of the Tyrone Guthrie Centre (ITIA - Irish Translators and Interpreters

Association), Dublin;

- Mr. Dieter Rummel, translator, Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union, Luxembourg;

- Moderator: Mr. Pierre Janin, special adviser, General Delegation for the French Language and the

Languages of France, Ministry of Culture and Communication, Paris.

The workshop sought to consider translation as one of the essential tools for building a plurilingual Europe. It tried to summarise the state of affairs regarding translation in Europe.

European plurilingualism is a new phenomenon, the extent of which ought to be assessed; each country has its own arrangements for preserving and enhancing its languages. There is still a lack of cooperation on translation between these languages, these corpuses, and on university training in the translation professions, even if it is slowly being put in place. National governments, traditionally monolingual, must take account of the mobility of people and services, which means that translation is needed much more often than used to be the case even a short while ago.

Prof. Gouadec highlighted the urgent need for reflection on the status of translators and the translation


The translation professions are expanding significantly and becoming more varied: examples include theatre surtitle translation, pre-translation (preparation of the materials to be translated), management of corporate language needs, etc.

This development is taking place against a background of industrialisation. Translation is increasingly being

treated like any other product: segmented, subjected to calibration and benchmarking. Computer tools such as lexicons, databases, knowledge base explorers, etc. help translators in their work but will never be able to replace them.

Translators are more exposed than other professions to the chill winds of global competition. Europe could give consideration to the solutions imagined in Canada, where the government has set itself up as a sort of national  "translation agency". The value created by translation activities is an important economic issue.

New technologies have brought tools such as terminology databases that make translation more efficient and of higher quality. Translator forums are also an interesting collective response to the dispersed nature of the profession.

Mrs Mériaud described the master's in linguistic management that her institute, ISIT, launched in 2004 with

seven other European universities. The translation professions are changing, since firms need cross-cutting skills that are linguistic but above all cultural. Those taking the course learn how to manage, plan and organise any activity that implies the use of foreign languages within an enterprise. The essence of training translators consists in teaching them how to transfer a message from one culture to another, which therefore implies a thorough knowledge of national and corporate culture types in different countries.

Mrs Guiliana Zeuli described the translator colleges network. In place for twenty years or so, the entirely nonprofit network comprises one college for each European country, or almost (at least in EU 15). Most of the colleges provide accommodation as well as facilities for work. They are an opportunity to bring translators together for colloquiums or seminars, like the literary translation seminars in Arles, and for translators to meet each other and visit the country whose language they translate. The network, firmly established, could be one of the staging-posts of a European translation policy.

Mr. Dieter Rummel, for the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union, described the particular features of translation in the European administration, with its twenty official languages. Translators often have the opportunity of changing posts after a few years at the Translation Centre, showing their capacity to adapt.

Translation is both a specific linguistic activity, calling for a particular set of technical skills, and a vehicle for communication between cultures which has to solve a whole range of different problems. It is therefore

intimately connected with the construction of the European cultural and economic area. It is more of an

opportunity than a problem for Europe, provided that it is given a place and a status that makes it less vulnerable to globalisation.

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