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Variety of web translation in European Commission

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“My work is a puzzle, with often ten subjects to be treated in one day. This guarantees that I will never be bored, but on the other hand I cannot specialise either.”

The texts treated in the Web Translation Unit are on average shorter than in traditional language departments, and so are the deadlines. There are also many more text types than in the traditional translation units: news items, citizens’ summaries of legislative projects, entire websites; texts for specialists, for the young; search forms, guidelines, etc. Translators encounter a greater variety of styles than their counterparts in language departments. On average, the texts are closer to the informal end of the style spectrum than other DGT source texts.

Translators work for varied requesters and not for a few Directorates-General only, as is often the case in specialised translation units. Within a day, the translator may touch on several fields, and so must do a lot of basic research and learn something new on a daily basis. Given the small size of language teams, there is little room for thematic specialisation.

Talking about their work, interviewees tended to mention the daily news article for the Commission homepage and large website projects. However, a significant part of the work actually consists of forms, tables and other material which is technically slow and cumbersome to translate. This is handled by the Web Unit because it is intended for the web environment, not because such documents require a special web style. In addition, they translate “Citizens’ summaries” which give brief and easy-to-read overviews of major Commission proposals.

DGT web translators also carry out spot-checks on Commission websites, either online or on staging servers; these include sites translated by DGT and others that come from an external translation source. As webmasters are not able to consult speakers of all languages when they upload texts, a multitude of simple errors go uncorrected – titles with missing words, ungrammatical expressions when a number is removed or a person’s name is changed, etc. This kind of error casts a shadow on the credibility of the whole portal, making spotchecks highly valuable. In some cases, translators are given a login to the content management system of the requesting DG and can translate online.


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