The meeting focused on several key topics such as the difficulty in hiring and retaining language service staff and especially the shortage of qualified staff for some languages such as English. Succession planning was also debated at length, which is not surprising given that 43 % of translators in UN services will have retired within five years. Other topics included the use of new technologies in translation services (including machine translation, which participants agreed is bound to become part of the mainstream translation process), the use of performance indicators to measure the performance of linguistic services and customer satisfaction, and the organisation of Joint Training Ventures (JTVs), which are cost-effective courses offered by international organisations. This is an area where the Translation Centre has been particularly active in the last few years by providing just such a JTV on ”Best practices in revision” on several occasions to organisations from the UN system.
A number of peer sessions were also organised to allow participants to share their views on topics such as terminology management, traineeships for translators, how to train translators to work in highly technical environments, new demands such as 24/7 translation for the web, etc. Concerning the latter, several organisations confirmed that the explosion of information and of social networks (blogs, websites, etc) has resulted in an increase in the demand for web and blog translations, with very short turnaround times, frequent changes in dynamic content, and which require web-specific translation skills. The ideal ratio between in-house and freelance translation was also discussed.
The participants agreed on the following specific conclusions and appropriate measures that should be taken out in their organisations and should also be recommended to their policy-making bodies:
1) The overall goal of human resources policies should be identifying, attracting, training and retaining qualified staff and enhancing the pools of professionals who could be retained not only on permanent posts, but also as off-site, temporary and contract service providers. This work should be coordinated within and among international organisations. IAMLADP, particularly its Universities’ Contact Group, is an appropriate platform for such interinstitutional coordination across occupational groups, languages and geographic locations.
2) Adequate financial and human resources should be provided for policy implementation.
3) Activities could include awareness-raising through participation in career events, development of outreach communication tools and, more importantly, provision of direct pedagogical assistance to qualifying specialised interpretation and translation schools. The latter should include placements for promising graduate students as interns and trainees.
In a nutshell, multilingualism, far from being only a cost for international organisations, is the price to pay for democracy.
The meeting was a good opportunity for the Centre’s representatives to meet the management of European institutions that are part of the Centre’s client portfolio as well as the management of other international organisations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, FAO, NATO, the International Monetary Fund, the International Telecommunications Union and the European Patent Office, to name but a few.