Policy recommendations of the European Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism

25.08.2011

The Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism 1 was launched by the European Commission in October 2009. Commissioner Orban called upon the Platform to consult with civil society across the EU in order to submit a set of initial proposals to influence thinking at EU, Member State and regional level, and to help designing the financial instruments for the new generation of funding programmes (2014-2020). He also called for fresh research to be conducted in areas of particular interest and for good practice to be captured for knowledge sharing.

The outcomes of the Platform have now been made public by way of a policy paper (read the press release 2). The ‘Translation and Terminology’ working group, in which RECIT and CEATL were represented, made some very important recommendations concerning literary translation that have been included in the report (see page 58 ff).A selection:

  • The predominance of English as a source language is overwhelming. In nearly all countries, more than 60% of all book translations are from English, whereas the number of translations into English is limited to only about 3% of all books published in that language. This distorts reality. In order to correct the imbalance, the EU should encourage and help Member States to implement new initiatives, collect data about the books being published, including data about translations (source language, name of the translator). The data needs to be updated and widely disseminated.
  • The number of translations from less widely-used languages (LWULs) into other LWULs is very small. Concrete measures on national and EU level should be taken to promote literary translations of LWULs into English and other dominant languages as well as into other LWULs.
  • Literary translators are important bearers of culture, but the invisibility of their work gives them a very weak market position. As a result, the translators’ income fails to correspond to their level of education, to their creative efforts or to the amount of time they invest in their work (cf. CEATL’s ‘Compared Income of Literary Translators in Europe’ 3, 2008). Because of this, translation quality, therefore the quality of the image we have of other cultures, is under enormous pressure.
  • Any support programme for literary translation in the future EU Culture Programme should be focused both on the dissemination of works and on translation quality; moreover, translations of nonfiction should receive equal support.
  • Initiatives should be taken to intensify the cultural visibility of literary translators. According to the Berne Convention 4, signed by all European countries, literary translations have to be considered as original works. This needs to be highlighted. Measures should be taken to ensure a better legal protection of the translator as author. UNESCO’S Nairobi Declaration 5 can serve as a basis.
  • There are very few legitimate and sound degree programmes for literary translation in Europe. No centralized information exists and no common criteria have been formulated at European level. Very often literary translation is confined to being a minor subject for general translation students. With the creation of literary translation degree programmes, the courses need to be taught by lecturers who are experienced as literary translators.
  • Member States should fulfill the obligations laid down in the European Cultural Convention 6. Translation training should start in early high-school, and be linked to both language and literature/culture classes.
  • Mobility is essential to translators. It can be combined with a programme offering experienced translators the option of refresher courses and ‘on-the-job training’. A relatively modest but highly effective way of achieving this is the translation centre system. On an annual basis, the RECIT centres accommodate some 1000 translators in residence and involve more than 10.000 participants in events around literary translation, like translation workshops and conferences. The translators’ centres should be eligible to apply for structural support from the Commission.
  • Mobility grants should be made available to translators from all European countries, and to those translating from European languages.
  • The founding of new translators’ centres in countries that do not have any yet should be encouraged, in compliance with the Council’s Multilingualism Resolution 7, 4Ac: ‘develop the possibilities for and quality of training in translation’.

Notes

1. Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism

2. Press release

3. Compared Income of Literary Translators in Europe

4. Berne Convention

5. Nairobi Declaration

6. European Cultural Convention

7. Multilingualism Resolution

Documents produced by the Platform:

By courtesy of CEATL (www.ceatl.eu)

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