Inttranews Special Report: Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union Translation Job Market translation jobs
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Inttranews Special Report: Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union

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The Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union is one of the smaller translation services of the EU, regularly translating documents in an extremely varied range of subjects into and out of all 20 official languages of the European Union.
So how does it operate? What are its deadlines? How does it meet them? What are its quality criteria? Inttranews set out to find the answers, which will no doubt be of keen interest to freelancers and translation companies alike…

Inttranews: When was the Translation Centre set up, and what is its purpose?
CdT: The Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union was created by Council Regulation (EC) No 2965/94 of 28 November 1994, as last amended by Council Regulation (EC) No 1645/03 of 18 June 2003 to make a rational response to the translation needs of a large number of European agencies and offices.

The Council enlarged this role in 1995, considering that it was necessary to strengthen inter-institutional cooperation in the field of translation, "to enable the Centre to carry out, in the medium term, any activities the amalgamation of which has been decided on in accordance with the rules in force".

This enlargement, introduced by Council Regulation (EC) No 2610/95 of 30 October 1995, gives a new dimension to the key role of the Centre. Firstly, translation and related activities are extended to those institutions and bodies having a translation service. This type of cooperation is established on a voluntary basis and with the aim of absorbing any surplus work that may arise.
Secondly, the amendment to the Founding Regulation involves the active participation of the Centre in inter-institutional cooperation with a view to "rationalising working methods and making overall savings". The Centre is therefore a full member of the Inter-institutional Committee for Translation and Interpretation and contributes to activities in the following fields: resources, terminology, administration, external translation, new working methods and techniques, etc.

The Centre is established in Luxembourg, in accordance with the decision taken by the Heads of State and Government of 29 October 1993 on the location of the seats of certain decentralised agencies.

Inttranews: Who does the Translation Centre translate for?
CdT: The Centre has made arrangements for translation services with:

  • CEDEFOP (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training-Greece)
  • CPVO (Community Plant Variety Office-France)
  • EAR (European Agency for Reconstruction-Greece)
  • EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency-Belgium)
  • EEA (European Environment Agency-Denmark)
  • EFIL (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions-Ireland)
  • EFSA (European Food Safety Authority-Italy)
  • EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction-Portugal)
  • EMEA (European Medicines Agency-United Kingdom)
  • EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency-Germany)
  • EUMC (European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia-Austria)
  • EU-OSHA (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work-Spain)
  • EUROJUST (The Netherlands)
  • EUROPOL (The Netherlands)
  • ETF (European Training Foundation-Italy)
  • OHMI (Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market: Trade Marks and Designs - Spain)
  • ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control - Sweden)
  • European Commission (Luxembourg/Belgium)
  • Council of the European Union (Belgium)
  • European Court of Justice (Luxembourg)
  • European Court of Auditors (Luxembourg)
  • Committee of the Regions (Belgium)
  • European Investment Bank (Luxembourg)
  • European Central Bank (Germany)

Inttranews: Who finances the Translation Centre?
It is an agency governed by European public law, with legal personality. It has its own financial resources constituted by the payments made by the bodies, institutions and organs for which the Centre works .

Inttranews: Can private enterprise make use of your services?
No, the Centre can only work for Community agencies and institutions.

Inttranews: How many translation staff do you employ, and what is the breakdown per language?
The Centre employs currently ca. 85 translators in 20 languages. The size of the language groups differs between 3 and 7 colleagues depending on the request for translation in the respective languages.

Inttranews: What is the breakdown in terms of male and female translators?
Almost two thirds of the Centre’s staff are female.

Inttranews: What is the largest translation job you have had to do, and how long did you take to complete it?
Our largest translation job is the translation of the list of goods and services in the trademarks applications for the OHMI European agency based in Alicante (Spain). This is a weekly on going project which amounts to several thousands pages per week in 380 language combinations

Inttranews: How much of your work is sub-contracted?
About 40 % of the translation work is translated by external translators.

Inttranews: How many sub-contractors do you have?
We have about 700 contracts with freelance translators. About 50% of these contractors are agencies, 50% are individual translators.

Inttranews: How do you select your sub-contractors, and on what basis?
The Centre’s work with freelance translators is governed by the rules for public procurement applicable to all EU services. Depending on the size/field/language combination of a translation job we either publish calls for tenders or negotiates with individual translators/free lance agencies.

Inttranews: Do you sub-contract translation work to freelancers or only to companies?
[see above] The Translation Centre works both with individual freelance translators and agencies.

Inttranews: How can a freelancer or company become one of your sub-contractors?
Within the framework of its activities, the Centre calls on external translators, who are selected on the basis of procurement procedures ( see above). You will find all the information as regards ongoing calls for tenders in our web site, at – .

Inttranews: Do you have a quality control system?

Inttranews: If so, on what type of quality assurance system is it based? One developed in-house, or an ISO type quality management system? What are its broad outlines?
The Centre is a member of the European Foundation for Quality Management.

Inttranews: Are all of your translations proof-read? If so, who by?
Yes, all translations done by external contractors and most of the in-house translations are proof-read.

Inttranews: Is quality certification of sub-contractors an existing selection criterion, and if not, is it likely to become one?
In the technical specifications of calls for tenders we usually ask to tenderers to describe their working methods. This includes, obviously, the quality assurance strategies in place. These strategies may be very different, depending on the contractor. Certification can, of course, be an important indicator; however, what we are looking for in general is a clear, coherent approach.

Inttranews: What kind of software do you use to speed up translation work? How do you see the future in terms of machine vs. human translation?
The Centre has used translation memory software since 1997 very systematically for numerous translation projects; there is clearly a benefit in terms of productivity, but also in terms of coherence of terminology. However, the technology also creates some over-head (e.g. creation and management of memories etc.) that should not be underestimated.

The use of computers has clearly a major impact on the work of translators. We do not see this in terms of machine vs. human translation, but rather in the sense that the machine assists translators in doing their job better.

Inttranews: What databases do you use? Do your sub-contractors have access to them? Are they fee-paying?
We use a large number of Internet resources, namely the web sites of our partner agencies. Since summer 2004 all terminology work is done in the interinstitutional terminology database “IATE”. This database is not yet accessible to the public, but this is planned for the first quarter of 2006.

Inttranews: How are the databases updated, and by whom?
The IATE database is updated interactively by translators and terminologists in the EU translation services.

Inttranews: There has been considerable debate in recent weeks about the number of languages used by the Commission, such as excluding Italian from press conferences, for example. Does the Translation Centre effectively translate into and out of all 20 official languages, or in practice are the languages limited?
CdT: The Centre offers translation services in the 20 official languages of the EU – and in some others. The combinations we work in depend on the language policies of our clients. In practise some languages combinations are more frequent then others.

Inttranews: Does the Translation Centre have a long-term language policy, such as translator training schemes to include future languages as enlargement continues? If so, could you briefly describe it?
The Centre offers languages classes to its translators for the official EU languages, but also for the languages of candidate countries. Besides that we visit universities in the accession countries to communicate our translation needs to students of languages.

Inttranews: What are the main difficulties the Translation Centre has to contend with, and how do you try to overcome them?
Lack of providers of translation services for a number of very specialised fields and/or linguistic combinations. Market research and visits to the “new” countries to have a better grasp of the offer are some of the actions undertaken.

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