Will Brexit Weaken the Presence of English in Europe?

18 07 2016

The European Union currently has 24 official languages, one language chosen by each of the 28 member countries. All enjoy equal status, a founding belief being that every citizen has a right to know what is going on in their name and to play an active part if they wish to.

English was chosen by just one country: the United Kingdom. Ireland chose Gaelic, and Malta chose Maltese, in spite of the fact that English is in everyday use in both of those countries. The existing structure of the EU dictates that if the UK leaves the EU, so does English as a member language.

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One of the practical consequences of that for the UK and other English-speaking nations that trade with the EU, would be that EU documents would not be produced in English by the internal EU translation entity, DG Translation. All translation would have to be done by the foreign, English-speaking companies or governments, at their own expense. Another consequence is that English is currently one of the three EU “working languages” used to apply for EU Patents, among many other processes, giving English-speaking researchers and corporations an edge over competitors who don’t work in English, French or German (the other two working languages), and that advantage would be lost.

The three working languages account for about 70 percent of material that is translated in the EU, according to Europa.eu, the EU’s official website. The other 30 percent is comprised of legislation and major policy documents, which are translated into all 24 official languages.

What is the linguistic future of the EU? As the UK begins to execute its EU departure, opinions vary as to whether English might be kept on as a working language, and there are strong comments from EU commissioners both for and against. The process could take up to seven years, European Council President Donald Tusk has warned, and the question of language is only one of many – but it’s one that cuts deeply into the emotions of Europeans all over the map.

Skrivanek has been providing translation services to the European Commission, Translation Centre for the Bodies of EU, European Parliament etc. since 2003, and in that time has delivered over 1,000,000 pages in 14 languages, including English, covering a wide range of subject matter. We will be watching developments closely, and our clients both commercial and institutional can rest assured that we will track changes and new requirements in order to provide exactly what is needed.

J. McShulskis

 Contact us!

www.skrivanek.com

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Skrivanek Opens New Branch in Austria

22 09 2014

Skrivanek Group opens its 17th branch abroad, in Vienna, Austria.

“The Austrian business market is sophisticated,” said the company’s founder, Pavel Skrivanek. “We believe that our customized, high quality language services are needed and will be valued, at both the corporate and the consumer levels.” Skrivanek’s experience opening new offices abroad since its inception in 1994 is extensive, but in every country there are unique challenges.

Skrivanek_Austria“While German is the official language in both countries, Austria is quite different from Germany,” Pavel Skrivanek said. “The Austrian people have a different mentality, and their culture is unique. Therefore, business in Austria requires an individualized approach. Our new branch in Austria is essential for optimizing the services we offer our Austrian clients.”

Skrivanek Group’s twenty years of experience integrating new offices into foreign business cultures has prepared it well for expansion into Austria. A presence in this country with a steadily growing population of almost 8.5 million people will allow Skrivanek to establish its expertise in a location that will facilitate excellent regional networking.





Machine Translation is not Google Translate

5 03 2014

Google Translate is one of the most popular instant translation systems available online, and while it is certainly a type of “machine translation,” it’s quite a different tool than those used in certain situations by professional language service providers (LSPs)such as Skrivanek.

google-translateTo generate translations, Google Translate (GT) searches millions of sentences for comparable patterns in origin- and target-language documents that have already been translated by human translators and entered into its database. Then, basically, it makes an “educated” guess as to what an appropriate translation would be. This process of seeking patterns in large amounts of text is called “statistical machine translation” (SMT).

You’ve probably seen how GT works: type in words and you will receive a quick translation (in any of 80 languages) that will range in quality from excellent to questionable, depending on how much text for your language pairing has been fed into the GT database. Google Translate director, German computer scientist Franz Josef Och, describes the GT process as the computation of “probabilities of translation” through comparison of the submitted text with billions of words of “learned” text in GT. The more text is available in the database, the “smarter” GT becomes. Tellingly, the GT creative team is made up of mathematicians and programmers and does not include any linguists.*

On the other hand, software systems such as PROMT, Asia Online, SYSTRAN and Moses, referred to as Machine Translation (MT), are complex, customizable translation engines that are specifically trained for certain projects or content in order to maximize efficiency and accuracy. Often used for technical and repetitive texts without subtleties, MT can assist large corporations in the translation of materials they simply would not have the capacity or budget for otherwise.

In the past MT systems were often entirely “rules based” (RBMT), meaning that information about language structures – not mathematical formulas – formed the foundation of their programming. Now MT engines like those mentioned above are often hybrid systems that combine RBMT and SMT. Basically, MT engineers “train” the sophisticated MT programs with glossaries from relevant fields, along with text from specific documents and corrections from previous mistakes, resulting in a tool that becomes more refined the more it is used for each client. This kind of multi-faceted MT requires extremely high levels of capital investment for both hardware and software, and for the process of customization.

Instant online translation tools like Google Translate are a gift in an era of communication expansion so extensive that a large American corporation might want immediate access to comments tweeted by an Icelandic teenager about its latest product. There are numerous instances of such social and commercial interaction online when communication speed is more important than language precision.

But for linguistically and culturally accurate translations of text that contains any ambiguities, nuances or critical information, hands-on human intelligence is still essential. Even complex MT systems are most appropriate for only some types of texts and then merely as producers of raw output that is checked, smoothed and corrected by human post-editors.

For further information:
http://translate.google.com/about/intl/en_ALL/
http://www.skrivanek.com/en/technology/machine-translation/

*”Google Translate Has Ambitious Goals for Machine Translation,” by Thomas Schulz, Spiegel Online, Spiegel.de, September 2013

J. McShulskis