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Particularities of web translation in European Union

Web translation

The shift from translating mainly legal documents to translating websites influences translators’ workflow, terminology, as well as revision practices.

The EU Directorate-General for Translation is organised into language departments, one for each official language of the European Union. In addition, there are a number of non-languagespecific units that deal with outsourcing, IT tools etc. In 2006, the Translation DG created a special translation Unit for web texts. Unlike the language-specific departments, this Unit is multilingual, producing translations in all of the official EU languages.

The Web Unit comprises a team of just over one hundred translators. Part of their work involves editing texts that Commission departments intend to publish on their websites. A large number of these texts (which are usually drafted in English, sometimes in French) are then translated into several other languages by the Web Unit.

The traditional language departments receive their tasks from a planning unit, which checks that translation requests are conform to rules about length, format and deadlines, and that priorities are respected. Heads of Unit then distribute the translation tasks among translators, and once translations are ready, the assistants forward them on to the requesters and ensure that they are archived under the correct code. However, the structure is simpler in the Web Unit: language teams of 3–8 translators distribute the work among themselves and once a translation is complete, they send the final product on to the requester.

The members of the reference group had all previously worked as translators in one of DGT’s language departments and could therefore compare these two main production lines in DGT.

The main differences mentioned spontaneously were:

  • the variety of texts,
  • a sense of closeness to the reader,
  • freedom.

Different technical tools, frequent contacts with the requesters and the particularities of a multilingual unit were also mentioned. All of these particularities, perhaps with the exception of tools, were viewed positively by reference group members. Indeed, the most striking feature of the interviews was the very high level of satisfaction and motivation which the reference group members expressed in their work.

“You have to think a lot more than in traditional translation.”

Interviewees mentioned that the “functional approach” to translation may be even more useful in web translation than translation in general, and they are aware of this in their own daily work: the function of each element in the text should be understood and taken into account in the translation. The place of the element on the web page and the place of the page in the website are factors to be considered when choosing the suitable translation, in order to help the user to navigate on EUROPA.

In addition, the web translator has to place important words in the title, at the beginning of the text and in the invisible metadata in order to improve the page’s chances of appearing near the top of the Google results list. Web translators consider their work quite technical especially in the sense that they have to understand how the Internet works.

One of the translators interviewed said that she feels more responsible now than in the traditional translation unit, because now she can see the result of her work, while the texts she used to translate seemed to “disappear in a drawer”. Seeing a news item that she had translated feature on the national news the following day gave her a sense of importance that she did not have before, the functional significance of good translation being less directly apparent for legislative and administrative texts.

Translating for the web requires the use of a particular IT tool for editing metadata, Trados TagEditor being the one currently in use by DGT Web translators. Its influence on the translators’ work as well as other technical considerations will also be presented in this chapter.

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