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How to translate in a way which is credible in the eyes of readers?

How to translate

One of the greatest changes the interviewees have experienced on moving from one of DGT’s language departments to web translation is that they feel that the reader is closer to them, and this is a tremendous boost for their motivation and also for the amount of checks carried out before a translation is sent to the requester – in other words, for quality. The main source of ambition, motivation and job satisfaction of DGT web translators is the feeling that their work will be read by a large number of readers, and that it will serve a purpose.

This perception may be related to the fact that the translator sees the outcome of the work more quickly. Readers may also react more quickly to possible mistakes on the web, and thus feedback is quicker than if a complaint is channelled through the dedicated

Corrigenda feedback channel (The Corrigenda system deals with requests for the correction of minor errors in documents adopted by the Commission) by a customer DG.

Many explained that when translating in a language department, they never knew who would read what they produced, or if anyone would ever read them. The fact that they could expect their product to be modified several times – by the customer DG, the Legal Service, the other institutions – did little to motivate them to finalise a text in an easily readable, polished form.

Some translators explained that when they are translating legislation, they concentrate in producing a complete, flawless translation. In the Web Unit, they focus on the reader instead of the Commission. However, they do not always have clear information on the purpose or target group of the text, or even on the place of the page in the DG”s website. Basically, they understand that unless mentioned otherwise, the text should be targeted at the “general public”.

The reflection on being closer to the reader thus brings the translator closer to the receiving language community, while considering oneself translating for an invisible reader encourages the translator to follow a more “foreignising” path, to quote Venuti.

In practice, the background, needs and level of previous knowledge of website visitors vary to a great degree.

EUROPA has two audiences: those who know EU sites, and know how to find information there, and those who don”t, and who look for information in a different manner. The task of the Web Translation Unit is to help both groups to find their way.


  • Translating for the web at DGT consists of varied tasks. A DGT web translator”s job corresponds to what Daniel Gouadec calls an “engineer in languages and communication” – a translator with skills in languages, translation, fact-finding, editing, localising and publishing.
  • While the ultimate beneficiary of all Commission translations is the citizen (layperson or specialist), and while the customer DG”s opinion is respected, the stylistic authority is not the same for all translations. For choices of wording and style, the Commission web translator is dependent on what the supposed reader would expect or like to read, in contrast to his colleague in DGT”s language departments, where choices are most often based on the wording previously used by the Commission and the advice given by terminologists, the Legal Service or senior colleagues. The main downside here is that there is not enough information available on the users of various Commission web pages.
  • Reference group members felt that they were serving the European citizen more directly when translating web pages than in their previous task of translating legal documents.

© European Union

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