All of us who are involved in the translation and localization world know perfectly well that we are in a deregulated industry, in which we institute our own standards, if they are not already imposed for us by our direct or end customers. We also know that every business has its own procedures, sometimes similar, and on other occasions absolutely the opposite. But all these procedures seek the same purpose: to achieve the translation or localization of a product with the highest possible quality.
This is a comment made by Juan José Arevalillo Doval, managing partner of Hermes Traducciones y Servicios Lingüísticos and President of the Technical Committee for the Standard EN-15038, in his 2005 paper “The EN-15038 European Quality Standard for Translation Services: What’s Behind It?”
We begin our own paper by establishing a dialogue with another text on globalization by Pierre Cadieux, President of i18N Incorporated, and Bert Esselink, entitled “GILT: Globalization, Internationalization, Localization, Translation”, in which both authors confess their sense of guilt in relation to their inadequacy in correctly defining the other terms that compose the acronym. They recognize, as did Donald DePalma and Hans Fenstermacher (2002), the impossibility of grasping the meaning of such disparate and volatile terms as globalization, internationalization and localization.
The relentless movement towards unifying language industry procedures around the so-called GILT effect (G11n, I18n, L10n and Translation) worldwide is a peculiar trend that started at the end of the 20th century, and still pervades our perception of translation as a multidisciplinary, industrialized, business-oriented phenomenon. The transition from the 20th century to the 21st century has been marked by radical changes in the language industry under the banner of globalization, which follow a similar pattern: a sudden increase in the spread of information worldwide, the massification in the production of information and data management routines, influential internationalization strategies, and the establishment of consistent reciprocal relationships at an international level as well as the emergence of globalized multilingual collaborative networks.
The revolution in the so-called “language economy” landscape can also be explained by the development of digital translation worldwide, the globalization of content management/information retrieval systems, the development of complex networking routines designed to help multilingual collaborative activities, as well as huge investment campaigns oriented towards the deployment of intensive globalization strategies.
Ultimately, however, this commoditization of translation services, as stated by Reinhard Schäler (2005), has decisively affected the role, position and function of the contemporary translation professional, with unpredictable consequences that need to be assessed accordingly.
The transformation of translation products into consumer goods (Schäler 2005) is also the result of a change in the paradigm of the production and circulation of translated goods. It represents a shift from a politically-oriented philosophy to a purely commercial market approach, that has affected the role, position and function of the contemporary translation professional. Besides being a functional and professional network, it is still a hybrid social and relational system (Caria 2005: 37), characterized by complex interdependencies that are established at different stages (Hermans & Lambert 1998: 118).
Because of globalization policies worldwide there has been a huge increase in translation output, something that has imposed new constraints on the profession in terms of speed, quality and accuracy. Following this massive transformation of translation services into a commodity, there are more people consuming translated materials than ever before, thanks to an increase in the sales of consumer goods, appliances, tools, technology, electronics devices, gadgets, games, etc. This diversification is also reflected in a higher degree of thematic specialization, as well as text diversity and language combinations/pairs. Therefore, translators are increasingly faced with greater and stronger competition, more specialization, new standards and patterns in terms of demand, accuracy and quality, and, of course, new power relations as well as higher levels of exposure and social criticism resulting from the leading role that is ascribed to the profession from outsiders.
The way translation services are being transformed into consumer goods or into a commodity shows a unique, inseparable connection with the dynamics of globalisation.
The birth of this new type of economy based on the production of specific goods and services that are mainly associated with intellectual labor or activity, focused on the creation and circulation of information, and linked to the so-called mercantilization of knowledge in the Information Society, can also be explained in the light of the most recent changes and profound changes in the paradigm of production models and the organization of work according to new industrialized patterns (Caria 2005: 29). Also worth mentioning is the subsequent transition to new industrialized patterns which are increasingly more rigid and subject to tightly-corseted rules, where new production models are associated with much more flexible post-Fordian schemes, characterized by the massification of production routines. Organized on a global scale via a network of connections that are established among different economic agents, this new working environment will eventually lead to the ability to articulate high productivity patterns with informatized, standardized production units, which are easy to program, and able to respond quickly and adequately to the ever-increasing changes that are observed in terms of demand (product flexibility) or technology (process flexibility). But these processes and changes, of course, run the serious risk of completely erasing the individuals behind them.
We should perhaps start by trying to search for the answer to the following questions. Firstly: “What is it to translate today within a business-oriented context?”, and, secondly: “How far is this new focus on standards and metrics affecting the way translators see themselves when confronted with a market that is increasingly more specialized, volatile and unique?”
There are new constraints and requirements that affect translation practice in general, and the individual translator in particular, based on new business-oriented patterns,, accounting for a socio-professional devaluation of translation .
According to Don Kiraly, we are now witnessing a sort of “whirlwind of change in the language market” (Kiraly 2000: 2), requiring for “deep fundamental and decisive changes within the scope and nature of translation skills” (Kiraly 2000: 19-20).
In the last few decades, the provision of specialized language services worldwide has benefited immensely from the exponential rise in computer-oriented solutions aimed at simplifying the process of handling a wide range of translation projects or assignments at a local level, in such a way that computer science and the world of technology are actually pervading translation practice from top to bottom. Both informatics and the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) are gradually affecting all stages of translation logistics, from setup to breakdown, helping in the process of designing integrated, modular “turn-key” services, and developing tailor-made, customer-oriented products or solutions according to the needs and requirements of the market.
However, in conjunction with its growing technical complexity and specialization, as described by Miguel Núñez Ferrer (2005), most of the different and complex ways of providing translation services have also evolved. This new trend towards doing business according to standardized, rigid production models explains why translation companies often try to replicate assembly-line manufacturing methodologies, where lean production is valued, time-to-market is privileged and working routines are automated in order to improve the final-end product that is offered in terms of its quality, coherence, consistency, and layout. Also, the structure according to which high-quality services are provided is gradually becoming more professional, routine-based and stereotyped.
To contextualize our approach, we have decided to focus our attention on the analysis of the so-called “professional collective identity” that is developed by translators in the course of their activity, as defined by Anthony Pym (2000) in “Training Translators and European Unification: A Model of the Market”. This model starts from the notion that there is a “structurally fragmented market that is in some ways the logical consequence of globalisation” (Pym 2000: 9) and the result of the division that has been established in the heart of what is usually called professional, intellectual labor.
According to the research being done in the field of the professionalization of translation practice, namely in the sub-domain of business translation, it seems possible for us to harmonize two apparently distinctive areas which are, however, complementary and unified by a common destiny: profession and training. Indeed, based on the literature available on the subject of translator training, the conjugation between the world of work and the academic world geared towards teaching and training translators does actually seem to be one of the ways in which it will be possible to increase credibility and emphasize the qualitative self-assertion of the kind of professionals working in the sector.
Our aim will be to assess the type of profiles and needs of the sector as well as the characterization of a certain profile that is characteristic of the typical Translation Service provider. We consider it possible to detect four major contact points and four underlying dynamics that characterize both spheres of knowledge and their respective areas of practical implementation.
Firstly, there is the dynamics of globalization.
Secondly, we see the dynamics of translation as both a process and a product. Within this translational dynamic we also find a whole set of strategies and aspects that could enable specialized training for the translator as well as promoting the ability to adapt to the most varied situations, language pairs and subjects.
Thirdly, we consider the whole dynamics of teaching and training, in which we will include the ability to learn new skills, acquire knowledge, and develop professional aptitude. Considering the current circumstances, in which translation actually occurs, this type of dynamic may eventually imply the redefinition of the training paradigm and ultimately change the whole teaching and learning process, in a market-oriented and highly formatted kind of vision.
Finally, we propose the analysis of business-oriented dynamics, more concretely, and language derived from management theories. This business-oriented trend is characterized by the perception of translation as a pure act of management, as suggested by Steyaert and Janssens (1997: 143), and also by the requirements of standardization in the language industry through the adoption, introduction and internalization of new norms, standards, formats, regulations and precepts which are specifically oriented towards managing and assessing the processes involved. These include breaking down, classifying and cataloguing all the stages involved in the translation process, project management, and quality management and control, using the most adequate and diverse control mechanisms and control metrics. Finally, this approach hides the need to rebuild and reformulate the whole concept of ethics and the dynamics of providing a specific translation service within a business-oriented perspective (Hermans and Lambert 1998: 127). It also hides the absolutely crucial importance of integrating the translators themselves into the objectives, goals and strategies of the translation agencies, influenced by a healthy atmosphere of dialogue, cooperation and, last but not least, the integration of a certain type of strategic business-oriented philosophy into the translator training curriculum.
Standards as Applied to Translation Services: The New EN 15038
In “Accreditation and Standards in the Translation Industry”, Roger Chriss (n/d) states that “[t]he translation industry is in desperate need of some fundamental definitions”, and he is eager to get a specific set of terms and procedures that will ultimately govern best practices in professional translation:
The translation industry needs to find some simple, clear-cut, straight-forward definitions of what a translator is, what a translator does, how a translator should translate, what constitutes a good translation, what a translation agency is and does, and how translation agencies and translators, or translation employers and translators, should interact with each other, to name a few possibilities. (Chriss n/d)
The complementary notions of quality and excellence, as applied to industrial domains in the last two decades of the 20th century, played a decisive role in the formation of a new professional awareness of the need to improve services and products. This obsession with quality-oriented procedures resulted in a real standardization fever that led, according to Juan José Arevalillo Doval (2005), to the production of a multitude of different quality standards in a number of areas, issued and approved under the ISO umbrella .
The European standard was designed to implement a whole series of necessary requirements and procedures, by focusing the attention on the product itself, as well as on the quality of the type of service to be provided by each TSP.
The “EN-15038 European Quality Standard for Translation Services” will ultimately have a profound impact upon the way people see translation as a professional service, not only by affecting the profession itself and translation practice as well, but also the way professionals will start to behave and relate to their peers and customers alike.
The whole concept of the translator itself ends up by being completely redefined, if not erased, by means of the inclusion of a new terminological concept such as the TSP or Translation Service Provider, i.e. “person or organisation supplying translation services” (EN 15038 2006: 6) and, above all, by the distinction that is drawn between translation service provider (TSP) and translator (“person who translates” i.e. “renders information in the source language into the target language in written form” (EN 15038 2006: 6).
The European standard also specifies the basic requirements that are necessary to achieve the status of a Translation Service Provider, by accurately describing a wide array of disparate items and procedures that gravitate around the concept and are involved in the provision of quality services (e.g. human and technical resources, quality management, project management, the contractual framework, business relationship), as well as a whole new range of concepts associated with the notion of a translation service (e.g. value-added services, locale, controlled languages, pre-editing, post-editing; checking, proofreading, reviewer, and style guides.)
The EN 15038 Standard for Translation Services is also involved in the establishment of basic requirements of the Translation Service Provider’s profile. Among them one can find human resource management skills, professional skills, translation skills, linguistic and textual skills, research skills, information retrieval/knowledge processing skills, cultural skills, interpersonal skills, technical/technological skills, revision and editing skills, material resource management, and professional development.
Some Brief Findings and Future Opportunities for Integrating Training
We would like to obtain some insights that might be useful for the training of future translators, geared towards and influenced by specific professional and business-oriented contexts which may eventually produce concrete effects in the elaboration of future study plans. First of all, we have the ubiquitous and transversal nature of translation in today’s world. More and more translation is being done and there is an increasing need for multilingual communication. The production, management and circulation of information is growing daily, as is the volume, intensity, depth and specificity of the major requests for translation. In the face of the structure and constraints of globalization, translation agencies are faced with a wide array of requests which, on the one hand, are rooted in more diverse supply and, on the other, in more specific demand. Nevertheless, globalization is responsible for the dissemination of information on a global scale, and poses new threats and presents new challenges to all the companies/individuals engaged in the production and provision of multilingual services. To mutate and adapt to an increasingly voluble, volatile and dynamic market specific strategies are needed to reset and redefine the whole concept of business goals, from language pairs to specializations. Finally, rendering the most complete range of integrated and multimodal services possible is pivotal. At the same time, in spite of the typical deregulation and fragmentation of the industry, we are gradually witnessing an increase in the levels of expectations and rigor, as well as the growing emergence, and even imposition from the outside, of standards and regulations concerning quality and productivity. This will eventually lead to the redefinition of professionalism as applied to translation.
Standardization, Training and the Profession: Some Doubts and Directions…
There are many questions and doubts that surround the implementation of the new translation standards, and there are threats and challenges arising from its future implementation.
In the face of this new configuration of the translator’s profile and function, the kind of training provided should be as polyvalent and versatile as possible, as well as sufficiently multifaceted, integrated and multimodal. It should also be geared towards the so-called new satellite-professions or extensions of the task of the translator (i.e. the localization industry) and conveniently open and available so as to solve the problem posed by the specialist/generalist dichotomy. Paraphrasing Cauer (1914), the type of training offered should be as general as possible and as specialized as necessary. the “functional translator” (Nord 2005: 210-211) is a professional translator who is aware that translation today is used in the most varied communication situations, thus requiring a special flair for articulating professional knowledge with the most suitable social norms and technical-functional skills. Can just one type of training, although balanced and diversified, as well as compatible with the new personal and professional demands on the translator, meet the diverse requirements of the new market? This new market is where the individual translator is confronted with the specific dynamics of project management, human resources management, materials management and, above all, the application of a specific know-how. In this sense, a multi- and interdisciplinary approach seems to be a wise option to provide trainees with strategies and solutions that will eventually allow them to easily integrate and adapt to the new working contexts, with a vast array of language combinations, thematic and conceptual specialization as well as technological diversification and complexity. Basically, a more human interactive and proactive kind of training focused on the trainee as a person, while professionally oriented and focused on such crucial values as the quality of service, ethics, and deontology, to eventually regain a new technical culture of the craft, and develop the knowledge of what to do and how to be, that is deeply rooted in specialized contexts of social interaction. This training model could meet the demands and constraints of a profession while responding to the four challenges of a true ethics of professionalization, as proposed by Jacques Delors et al. (1997), i.e. learning to be (individual), learning to know (knowledge), learning to do (technique) and learning to live together and interact (social).
The winds of change are affecting the craft of translation, especially at a time when the vast majority of the most recent publications on the theme (Thomson-Wohlgemuth 2004, Pym 2005 & 2006) seems to be redirecting our attention to the essential role played by the human element that somehow seemed to get lost in the translation process, i.e. by privileging people and behaviors, as opposite to industrial patterns that are exclusively focused on the value of functional and technical qualities.
 See also “Between Babel and Bytes – The Discipline of Translation in the Information Age,”. The article focuses our attention to the need to adapt competencies to newly-created expectations.
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