Big demand for policy translators

By Zhang Haizhou(China Daily) Updated: 2017-03-07

Foreign experts want to read about China's economy in own language

Huang Youyi did not expect that people from the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, a constitutional consultative assembly in France, would ask him for the official French version of China's 13th Five-Year Plan when he was part of a Chinese delegation to Paris in May.

Surprised, he was told the French had been closely watching China's economic trends.

"They said the French parliament was drafting its own new industrial policy and was wondering how it could fit with the Chinese economic plan," Huang, vice-president of the Translators Association of China, said on Monday.

He had to turn down the request, as no official French version was available, but the episode prompted Huang to realize a big and rising need for translations of China's official documents.

"Only a small part of such papers have been translated.... I then realized this is already an urgent issue," said Huang, who previously was vice-president of China International Publishing Group.

All of the openly published policy papers should have their official foreign translations and be published simultaneously with the Chinese version, Huang suggested in a proposal he submitted to the ongoing annual meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, of which he is a member.

Readers would include foreign diplomats, journalists and think tanks, he said.

The need to know more about China has propelled the quick rise of the country's language service industry in recent years.

The number of translation companies in China surged from 18 in 1980 to roughly 73,000 in late 2014.

More than 104,000 candidates sat for the China Accreditation Test for Translators and Interpreters, rising from about 5,000 in 2004, while the pass rate was less than 20 percent, according to Huang.

Introduced in 2003, the CATTI is the country's official test for future translators and interpreters of English, French, Japanese, Russian, German, Spanish and Arabic.

While the size of the industry will promise enough talent, accurate translation of official documents is an issue to be addressed. The key is not to translate them word for word, according to Huang, but to "get the message across" to different cultures.

"You are not translating the actual words. You are translating the meaning between the lines," Huang said.