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MPs cannot read 'badly translated' EU papers

The Local · 12 Jun 2012, 11:02

Published: 12 Jun 2012 11:02 GMT+02:00

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According to a report in Tuesday's Saarbrücker Zeitung newspaper, the Bundestag has had to send over a hundred important EU documents back in this legislative period alone, because its committee members could not work out what they were supposed to say.

Some EU documents are now seen as a "consultation obstacle" – and this at a time when parliamentarians across Europe are fighting to tackle Europe's debt crisis.

The flawed translations have apparently slowed the work of the interior, finance, budgetary, economic, and defence committees in the German parliament. The paper also says that German versions of the documents are sometimes missing altogether.

The problem has apparently been a long-term one. Gunther Krichbaum, chairman of the Bundestag's Europe committee, told the paper that the European Commission had been promising a new "translation strategy" for a long time, "but nothing has happened."

Stefan Ruppert, domestic policy spokesman for the Free Democratic Party (FDP), added, "There are just more and more of [the bad translations]."

Bundestag MPs are to discuss the problem on Thursday, and are expected to recommend that the government demand that the EU Commission allocate sufficient resources to make better translations.

The European Union currently works in 23 languages, with thousands of officials devoted to translating documents - at a cost of several hundred million euros a year.

The Local/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:00 June 12, 2012 by pepsionice
The shock may be that German political figures actually read every line of text they are handed. Unlike American political figures who are handed 2k pages of text, and just told to vote for it.
12:08 June 12, 2012 by Navigator_B
German MPs, you're not meant to understand these documents in any language. They're only written for the people at the top who make the decisions. It's your job just agree to them.
13:13 June 12, 2012 by the.local.reader
Yet the translators working in EU offices at Brussels or Luxembourg are earning huge wage and enjoying tremendous benefits, compared to their peers. Shameful.
13:28 June 12, 2012 by FefeBotnet
Nonsense, none of the incomprehensible stuff will have been produced by the translators working in EU offices. Most of the work is outsourced to translation agencies, who further outsource it to freelancers. The lowest tender gets the contract. I'd put this down to cost-cutting and the use of inscrupulous middlemen, nothing else.
13:45 June 12, 2012 by AlexR
Yay! Spend more of our tax money to re-translate badly translated documents.

"The EU institutions spent around €1 billion on translation and interpreting in 2007, representing around 1% of the EU budget or €2.50 per citizen. This figure would continue to rise by 5% annually."

15:59 June 12, 2012 by Karl_Berlin
In 99% per cent of cases the following applies (from my experience):

If a translation is bad, it's because the source document was worse.

You should see the turdish c*ap that lands on translators' desks. Sentences with no verbs or sentences basically written by "authors" with a very poor grasp of their own language. And often customers don't want to be bothered in the case of questions, so you have to go it alone and "guess" (nach bestem Wissen und Gewissen) what the customer may have meant.

I work for a few companies (freelance) where I am the go-to guy when customers complain about a translation they have received from other translators. And from the many such cases I have gone through I can confirm that it's almost always the customer's fault. They hand in cr*p with stupid deadlines and expect masterpieces to come out at the other end. And yet ironically, when it comes to customer complaints, I reckon most of the translations returned were in fact of a way higher quality that the poor quality submitted for translation in the first place.

Just my two cents worth......
16:44 June 12, 2012 by Leo Strauss
`Technocratic scientific dictatorship` translates into `Europäische Union`. What`s the problem?
17:31 June 12, 2012 by LIMA
We do not care what it says - just vote for our Pay rise and Pension supplement.
19:54 June 12, 2012 by sony 24
Happen something like that , because a lot of " translator " not good on that field and in another hands, a lot of translators couldn't get that opportunity.

I'm also Translator/Interpreter and Proofreader as well, working for few agencies and my client never return some documents like " bad translation ". In this job no place for mistakes or something similar.
19:57 June 12, 2012 by vic46de
I am a freelance professional translator, and I refuse to bid on EU translation tenders for a number of reasons:

- Too much hassle, they want a whole load of references and documentation. I don't have that much time to burn.

- They usually want bidders to cover several languages, which effectively excludes sole freelance translators.

- The price is not generous even if you get the contract as a direct provider. If you get it through an agency which takes its own cut first, you're on the breadline.

- It is reported on the grapevine that a number of agencies enter bids and ask for CVs and references from high quality freelancers to bolster their bid, but when the jobs come in they actually give the jobs to cheaper translators.
02:26 June 13, 2012 by catjones
I told the EU not to outsource but, oh no. they wouldn't listen. Contracts have been translated and signed and next year the EU moves from Brussels to Hyderabad. When they Europeans find out, they'll be pissed.
08:58 June 13, 2012 by DoubleDTown
Maybe they really ought to re-think the 23 language thing. English, English, English. That's the Answer.
09:26 June 13, 2012 by bryansutton
- The price is not generous even if you get the contract as a direct provider. If you get it through an agency which takes its own cut first, you're on the breadline.

reply by Boss jeans
11:03 June 13, 2012 by yourkeau
I agree with Karl_Berlin. EU legislation documents are not written in English, the language is called "EU-Bureaucratish". Translation from one bureacratic language to another is a tricky thing...
11:35 June 13, 2012 by FefeBotnet
Tricky thing or not, there are plenty of able, qualified translators doing half-assed jobs and justifying it to themselves with the argument that they're getting paid peanuts. And that's probably fair enough.
11:51 June 30, 2012 by fairtrad
Average price paid by the UE is between 20 and 30 €/page, external contractor price (after RFP). Documents usually require high technical knowledge and years of experience. Any linguist would understand why at this rate quality standards cannot be met. Paying for quality once is cheaper on the long term as it does not require retranslations or new tenders, but apparently this "strategy" is too hard to understand. A an agency manager , I have stopped answering to UE RFP because at the rates proposed by my competitors I simply cannot provide a good quality (translation by a professional, proofing by a second equally experienced linguist, DTP and Project managing). The shame is that people who decide about these matters in the UE have no idea of the average cost of good translations.
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