Reporting from Geneva

Today, dear readers, I am reporting back from the United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland, where I attended the CIUTI International Standing Conference of University Institutes of Translating and Interpreting.

First of all, I have to say that I was delighted to see that several presentations specifically talked about “building bridges”. So it seems that this blog is up with the trends!!!

The conference included an amazing 44 presentations in two days (yes, we were tired in the evenings!), and was attended by around 400 participants from all over the world – from BRIC countries to Oceania, Canada, the Americas and Europe.

Although the title of the conference includes the words “university institutions”, I was delighted to find that 67 delegates were freelance translators, and that agencies and the corporate world were also represented.

I’m just going to give you a (subjective) selection of three presentations that seem most relevant to the subject of this blog.

First of all, the excellent presentation made by Prof. Dr Frieda Steurs, the Dean of the Subfaculty of Language and Communication at Lessius, Antwerp, Belgium, on terminology and legal texts. Dr Steurs made some key points including:

  • terminology is the intersection of various fields of knowledge – logic, ontology, linguistics, information science;
  • the importance of separating source language and target language terminology management;
  • terminology as a core business;
  • an overview of European projects involving legal translation (see reference list below);
  • details of the TermWise project;
  • the need for all stakeholders to be involved.

A take-away quote from the presentation: “there is no knowledge without terminology”.

The second presentation that I would like to tell you about was by Christine Kamer Diehl, Senior Language Quality Manager at CLS Communication, an international language service provider having its headquarters in Zurich. She started by saying “Building bridges is one of the most fundamental and honourable tasks of the translator“. So of course I was happy!

Ms Kamer Diehl looked at building bridges between people and cultures in today’s globalized world, and what translators need to do in that context.

She stressed the importance for the translator community of:

  • delivering quality
  • moving from pure translation to cross-cultural and multilingual communication
  • stepping up, being more proactive, and getting the status that it deserves
  • adjusting to the virtual world and its tighter deadlines.

She then reported on discussions she had with translators to find out their views on global networking, which varied from very committed to not feeling involved. Advice was to network selectively, and above all to ensure that your interaction is high in quality.

Ms Kamer Diehl also underlined the value of networking between translators, academia, service providers and even clients.

In conclusion, she offered a warning – if the translation community does not set the pace and anticipate trends in intercultural communication, others will.

The last of my selection (sorry to readers in the rest of the world – this one concerns Europe only) is a summary of the talk by Liese Katschinka, the President of EULITA, the European Legal Interpreters and Translators Association, founded in 2009.

Ms Katschinka made it clear that the association aims not to compete with national translators’ organizations, preferring to work at institutional level – “networking on a big scale” as she said. EULITA does not therefore accept membership applications from individual legal translators in countries where such bodies exist.

Examples of other legal stakeholders that EULITA is working with are: senior police officers, asylum authorities, judges, and ministries of justice. Ms Katschinka also cited some of the association’s current and future projects: training for young lawyers on how to work with interpreters; a glossary comparing legal concepts (a long-term proposal); a database of legal translators throughout Europe; and e-learning tools for judges and prosecutors.

To conclude, some interesting quotations from the Conference (I await your comments!!!):

  • “there would be no globalization without translation”
  • “humans won’t be replaced by technology, but [those] who refuse technology will be replaced”
  • “the straitjacket of English will become increasingly difficult to bear”
  • “translators are builders of bridges between people who want to communicate”
  • “freeing translators from content and allowing individuals to create value through the linguistic assets and knowledge they possess”
  • “corporate language management drives the whole company”
  • “why do people accept that translators are not paid at the same rate as interior designers, lawyers or web designers?”
  • “the only way to combat drug trafficking and terrorism is to invest in training language and culture professionals”
  • “15,039 firms were offering translation and/or localization services on the Chinese mainland by the end of 2009”.

Photo credits with thanks go to a new friend Iryna Izmaylova, Head of International Affairs at the Open International University in the Ukraine. One photo by the author of this blog. A special hat tip to the ever-smiling Daniela for her fantastic organization.

List of European projects in the legal domain

by Prof. Dr Frieda Steurs

Grotius: establishing equivalent standards, in EU member states, for legal interpreters and translators
AGIS: Equal Access to Justice across Language and Culture in the EU
Aequilibrium: Instruments for Lifting Language Barriers in Intercultural Proceedings
Status Quaestionis: The Provision of Legal Interpreting and Translation in the EU
Avidicus: Assessing videoconference interpreting in the Criminal Justice System
Eulita: European Legal interpreters and Translators Association
Trafut: Training for the future
Impli: Improving Police and Legal Interpreting

5 thoughts on “Reporting from Geneva

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