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Brussels puts out English mayday

The British are so bad at foreign languages that the European commission has had to recruit linguists from Spain and Greece to translate documents into English.

Internal commission memos show the standard of Britons who apply to be European Union translators is so dismal that Brussels is taking emergency steps to fill the linguistic gap, including posting recruitment ads on YouTube, the video-sharing website.

While other countries have pass rates regularly nearing 100% of those who take EU translation tests, as few as 20% of British applicants pass.

Brussels rules state that translators into English should have the language as their mother tongue. British standards are so poor, though, that the EU has taken emergency measures.

Potential recruits are being given remedial coaching to bring their abilities up to standard, while a Eurocrat has been dispatched to scour Britain full-time for anyone who can speak foreign languages well, and to encourage schoolchildren to study them.

The gap has led to countries such as Spain and Greece setting up special units to translate into English, and other countries such as Poland are expected to follow suit.

A memo to a director in the the European commission’s English translation department warns that the forthcoming recruitment competition, which should produce 70 new translators, is expected to yield only 17. It reads: “We do not really expect the targets will be met fully.”

British schoolchildren’s interest in foreign languages has long been waning. Brussels insiders say the government’s 2004 decision to let children drop GCSE languages worsens matters.

Marco Benedetti, director general of interpretation at the commission, said: “The shortage of English translators and interpreters is becoming acute in all international organisations.”

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said an increasing number of primary schoolchildren are studying languages.

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk

Microsoft has launched a new portal to involve Arabic speakers in the process of developing new technology terms for its products.

The Localization Portal has been developed to encourage users of Microsoft’s Arabic language products to comment on the translation of technology terms and to provide input into translation for future products.

Assem Hijazi, localization manager for Middle East and North Africa at Microsoft told itp.net: “This portal is the first time Microsoft looking for feedback from customers who are using the localized interface. We want them to send feedback to Microsoft telling us how they feel about the translation.”

Microsoft has been Arabizing its software since 1990, said Hijazi, mainly working with software developers, linguistic experts and technical experts to develop Arabic translation of technology terms. While these experts have provided terminology, Microsoft is now looking to the customer to help guide future translations.

“If you are dealing with linguistic experts and they just translate from English to Arabic, this could have meaning for them, but we need to understand the actual user of the language interface. The most common users for us are in the public sector, education and older people, who prefer the Arabic interface, so we need to ask them how they feel about the translation. Does it make sense? Sometimes you can translate linguistically, but it does not make sense for the users,” Hijazi said.

The new portal will host a small set of new Arabic translations of technology terms, taken from Windows Vista and Office 2007. The site will show the English term and meaning, and the Arabic translation, and will allow visitors to enter feedback on the translation.

Although Windows Vista Arabic has a translated glossary of over 500,000 terms that have been built up over the years, the portal has only around 90 new terms, so that users are not overloaded with terms.

The portal is intended to provide an ongoing forum for Arabic translation, with new terms added at regular intervals. Microsoft Live terminology is slated for the next update.

The aim of the portal is to settle on one translation for terms for all Arabic users, and then to have that included in the next cycle of product development, said Hijazi. A single agreed upon translation not only benefits end users, but also makes it easier for ISVs that are developing Arabic solutions.

“We need everybody using the Arabic interface, or that deals with IT in general to enter their feedback. We are using one standard Arabic across the world, so if we can get common, valuable feedback on a term, we will change that term for the next generation of office products,” he said.

Source: http://www.itp.net

The court system can be difficult enough to understand for people with no legal experience.

Imagine how fast and far that confusion would grow if you didn’t speak English.

A team of interpreters fans out across the Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex almost every weekday, bringing help to people with “limited English proficiency” and keeping about 40 district, county and magistrate courtrooms running smoothly.

The 4th Judicial District, which includes El Paso and Teller counties, has one of the busiest Court Interpreter Programs in the state.
“It makes things run faster and smoother and gives us (judges) more confidence that people know what’s going on,” said District Judge Gilbert Martinez.

Martinez has watched interpreting services here grow from a hodge podge of people with questionable — or even unknown — skills filling in haphazardly to a professionally run program that uses certified interpreters and improved technology.

Courthouse Administrator Victoria Villalobos said program manager Tess Saenz, who was hired in 2004, has a lot to do with that.

“The difference in the system now is so huge, I honestly have trouble going back to what it was like, and I don’t want to,” Villalobos said.

“The level of professionalism has gone up incredibly,” Saenz said.

One of the first things Saenz did was buy sets of transmitters so one or more people can wear earpieces and listen to an interpreter speaking through a microphone elsewhere in the courtroom. That eliminated the need to have multiple interpreters working with several defendants or other people involved in a case.

Spanish is the most common language interpreted, with Korean second, Saenz said.

The office has four certified interpreters on contract – Saenz is the only full-time employee. They handle an average of 30 court hearings a day and interpret not only for defendants, but for victims, witnesses and parents of juveniles.

Colorado law mandates that the court shall provide, and pay for, interpreters in all felony, misdemeanor and misdemeanor traffic cases, as well as others such as dependency and neglect cases, for those who don’t understand English.

Interpreters follow a strict code of ethics that specify they can’t give any legal advice or even explain the law to people.

“It’s up to their attorneys to explain things,” Saenz said. “We absolutely cannot provide an explanation at all.”

And it’s not just a matter of being able to speak and understand a foreign language.

Court interpreters often read police or expert reports in advance so they’re familiar with legal, scientific or medical terminology. Saenz will often call a bilingual expert in the field to make sure she gets the pronunciation just right.

“Sometimes we prepare weeks in advance,” she said.

For longer hearings — like the homicide trial of an illegal immigrant accused of killing his Colorado Springs girlfriend that starts Monday — two interpreters are required.

“Research has shown that after a half an hour, mental fatigue sets in and you start to lose proficiency,” Saenz said.

While some believe no money should be spent on those in the country illegally, Saenz, Martinez and Villalobos said the legal system must be understood by those caught up in it.

“It’s a constitutional right for anyone facing loss of liberty,” Saenz said. “They have a right to understand the charges and what the process is.”

“People have to have faith in the court system,” Martinez said. “It only works if everyone in the system knows what’s going on. If they don’t, it’s not due process and it’s not fair.”

HOW MUCH THE STATE SPENDS ON INTERPRETER PROGRAMS
2004: $2,209,846
2005: $2,541,834
2006: $2,850,867
2007: $3,138,212
2008: $3,466,071
Source: Colorado Court Interpreter Program

THE BUDGET FOR THE 4TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT’S INTERPRETER PROGRAM
2004: $178,016
2005: $211,231
2006: $208,890
2007: $209,013
2008: $223,822
Source: Colorado Court Interpreter Program

Source: http://www.gazette.com

Indian-Arab cultural ties are set to blossom when the Arabic translations of some select titles by eminent Indian authors are published here next year.

According to Zikrur Rahman, director of the India Arab Cultural Centre (IACC), a total of 10 titles have been selected till now and approved by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Cultural Heritage (ADACH) for release at the annual Abu Dhabi Book Fair next year.

The books will include both fiction and non-fiction work. Some of the selected titles are ‘The Argumentative Indian’ by Amartya Sen, ‘The Idea of India’ by Sunil Khilnani, ‘The Shade of Swords’ by M.J. Akbar and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s ‘Wings of Fire’.

Though initially 30 books were targeted for translation, shortage of time made the organisers review their target.

‘Initially we decided to go with 30 (books). Since we don’t have time – the Abu Dhabi Book Fair will be in (the first quarter of) 2009 – we will be releasing fewer books,’ he said.

The seed for this project was sown in March this year when India’s Ambassador to United Arab Emirates (UAE) Talmiz Ahmad broached the issue with ADACH.

While IACC will be doing the translation work, ADACH will be the publisher of these books.

The project is part of a larger ADACH initiative, through its translation work commissioning body Kalima, to provide Arab readers greater access to foreign literature.

‘Back in India, we formed a working group. The working group consisted of publishers, academicians, publishers and a member from the ITPO (Indian Trade Promotion Organization) in order to see that we select those books which are of eminent writers,’ he said.

To a question on the translators selected for the project, he said that every effort has been made to ensure that the soul and the spirit of the books were not lost in translation.

The project is not confined to translation of Indian books alone and a reciprocal project is also being discussed.

According to Rahman, Alqubaisi is very enthusiastic about having Arabic works translated into Indian languages but they were faced with the problem of lack of good translators.

Apart from the translation project, the IACC-ADACH cooperation is also exploring other initiatives to further broaden cultural ties between the two regions.

An international seminar on archival material is also on the anvil.

‘I have already made a concept paper for this. There is huge archival material in Arabic language in India,’ he said.

‘Likewise, we are also planning a seminar in India on understanding Arabic culture before the end of this year.’

He said that such a seminar was needed because there were a number of things about the Arab world that remained unexplained in India.

‘Although there are a large number of Indians who come and work here (in the Arab world), there is no intermingling with Arabs. We need to understand Arab culture which is contemporary,’ said Rahman, a former Indian Foreign Service officer who had widely travelled across the Arab world during his career as a diplomat.

Source: http://www.sindhtoday.net

Here’s the thing about budget shortfalls and the budget cuts that result from them: Eventually, they become more than numbers.

Often, they turn into lost jobs. And sometimes, permanently closed courthouses, as well as delayed court calendars, no more marriage ceremonies during business hours and fewer funds for drug courts.

“Here’s what happens when we have funding shortages: The cases don’t go away, they just pile up,” says John Kostouros, communications director for the Minnesota Judicial Branch. “We don’t have the ability to control our workload. All we can do is manage it.”

Last month, “manage it” meant:

* Cuts in per-diem payments to jurors in Minnesota courts, from $20 a day to $10.

* Abolishing or holding open 9 percent of staff positions in the state’s courts.

* Permanently closing the Washington County Courthouse in Cottage Grove.

* Terminating civil arbitration services and ending funding for family court supervised visitation services in the Fourth Judicial District (Hennepin County).

* Closing court public counters a half-day each week in three judicial districts.

* Reducing funding for drug courts.

“Minnesota’s courts are some of the most innovative and efficient courts in the nation,” Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson says. “But there’s a limit to our ability to keep up with the caseload, given the current level of funding, and we’ve reached it.”

Kostouros points out that the Legislature did not cut funding to the state court system in the last biennium; rather, it was increased. However, the amount appropriated was $22 million short of what was needed to operate the state’s courts, and in the 2008 session, $3 million of that money was taken away, meaning a $19 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year that had to be corrected.

“We don’t run a lot of programs, so it tends to show up as slowdowns in our calendars, and we’re already seeing delays in many places,” he says. “…What happens is that it takes longer to get everything through the system.”

And meanwhile, just like everywhere else in Minnesota, the cost of doing business in the state’s courts continues to rise. One example that Kostouros cites is interpreter services: Minnesota courts had more than 35,000 interpreted events last year, and the courts are constitutionally required to pay for those interpreters. That number continues to rise as the number of non-English speakers in Minnesota increases.

In the Third Judicial District, which covers 11 counties in southeastern Minnesota, court administrators are no longer performing marriage ceremonies during business hours. Those services are available only after hours.

Washington County courts’ collection service has been abolished, which means that residents who can’t pay their fines in full are no longer able to work out a payment plan with the court; instead, they must pay the entire fine, or the matter will be passed on to a collection agency.

Civil arbitration services offered in Hennepin County courts have come to an end. The county also has closed all public counters Wednesday afternoons.

In a June speech to the Minnesota State Bar Association, Magnuson pulled no punches in assessing the court system’s financial health.

“Let me be blunt: Our situation is serious,” he said. “If this were a hospital room, this is the point where we would close the door, look each other in the eye, and soberly walk through our options.”

Magnuson talked about the $19 million shortfall, which he said would be rectified as fairly as possible across the entire system, “but the blunt truth is that the lack of resources will affect most areas of what the courts do,” he said, noting the staff vacancy rate, delays in civil cases, reduced hours at public service windows and cuts in juror per-diem payments.

“And the cuts to public defense budgets will exacerbate our problems, slowing criminal-case processing and jeopardizing progress in the very areas we have been working on in recent years as strategic initiatives: child protection cases and drug courts,” Magnuson said. “…We are asking more and more from fewer and fewer people, and feeling increased pressure to limit our efforts to do what many consider to be just the bare essentials of justice without innovation or forward thinking.”

A recent study by the Minnesota legislative auditor’s office found that the state’s Judicial Branch operates in a “highly efficient and effective” manner: The study found that Minnesota trial courts meet or exceed the case-processing times of other states, and carry caseloads that are 49 percent higher than comparable states.

Kostouros says the Judicial Branch is continuing to seek ways to improve efficiency. A special Judicial Council committee is studying changes in business and case-processing practices that would further streamline court business, and a new case management system, the Minnesota Court Information System (MNCIS), went live this spring. The system added technical innovations that will greatly improve efficiency, Kostouros said. He added, however, that “any future savings from these innovations will not be sufficient to address the current budget issues.”

In his speech to the state Bar Association, Magnuson alluded to the dismal budget deficit projections for the 2010-11 biennium.

“The cuts we have already sustained are certainly daunting, but the financial picture over the next biennium … is even grimmer,” he said. “… We cannot allow the next legislative session to be a repeat of the last one. Further cuts cannot be sustained, and funding of our basic employee costs and targeted investments will be absolutely essential.

“Our goal in the next legislative session must be to secure the resources needed to perform our constitutionally mandated function.”

Source: http://www.finance-commerce.com

On Thursday 25 June the Board of Directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit corporation that coordinates the global Internet system of unique identifiers, at the closing of its 32 International public meeting in Paris, unanimously approved the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) in the top level of Internet addresses.
The board endorsed the IDNC Working Group Report on recommendations for the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names, to expand the world’s Domain Name System and to work on adapting it to accommodate Country Code Top Level Domain Names (ccTLDs) in scripts other than Latin, such as Arabic, Cyrillic or Devanagri, and ideographic writing systems, such as Japanese, Korean or Chinese.

This process is a major improvement in the development of the Internet as a global information and communication tool as it will enable multi-script addressing and therefore ensure access to millions of users who are currently deprived of this core resource of Knowledge Societies due to language constrictions.

Background

In September 2006 ICANN Board charted a multi-stakeholder working group on Internationalized Domain Names (IDNC WG) to develop and report on feasible methods that would enable the introduction, in a timely manner and in a way that ensures the continued security and stability of the Internet, of a limited number of “non-contentious” IDN ccTLDs, associated with the ISO 3166-1 list of two-letter country codes (such as .fr for France or .jp for Japan). The introduction of a limited number of IDN ccTLDs under the recommendations of this Working Group, popularly known as “fast track” mechanism, must not pre-empt the ultimate long-term policy outcomes of the IDN cc Policy Development Process (ccPDP).

Building from UNESCO’s Leading role in the WSIS implementation, the Organization participated at the first two phases of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). At the second IGF in Rio de Janeiro in November 2007, UNESCO, ITU and ICANN organized a joint workshop on “Multilingualism in Cyberspace” where the three organizations committed themselves to cooperatively develop international standards for building a truly multilingual Internet including Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs).

Aiming at raising awareness among its Member States on the importance of IDNs for ensuring cultural and linguistic diversity in the Internet, in May 2008 UNESCO organized an information meeting with its permanent delegations entitled ‘Using your script to access the internet’ which provided essential information about main issues in Internet Governance, Multilingualism and inform action about the international fora where governments can participate.

UNESCO’s contribution

Ensuring a multilingual cyberspace is part of the organization’s mandate of promoting linguistic and cultural diversity. In January 2008 UNESCO joined the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of ICANN with an observer status and participated at the GAC’s work for the preparation of the IDNC WG Report.

During the 32nd ICANN meeting in Paris, UNESCO participated in the GAC sessions and promoted its role as UN Specialized Agency in charge of the promotion of Cultural and Linguistic diversity. In particular UNESCO offered its capacity in providing linguistic expertise, raising awareness in those countries that use a non-Latin script(s) and building capacity in Member States.

UNESCO’s contribution has been included in the final IDNC WG Report and in the official communiqué of the GAC to the ICANN Board, and has been stressed during the board meeting by the Chair of the GAC, Ambassador Janis Karklins: ‘The GAC believes that it is appropriate for an applicant to provide authentication of the meaning of the selected string [i.e. the domain name] from an internationally recognized organization. UNESCO could be one such organization.’

The importance of the contribution that IGOs can bring to the Internationalization of the domain names also was addressed by a member of the ICANN board, Mr Reinhard Scholl, Deputy to the Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, who stated that: ‘the communiqué also mentioned a welcomed presentation by UNESCO and ITU representatives regarding a proposed collaboration between their organizations and ICANN to advance multilingualism on the Internet.’

The way forward

Further to UNESCO’s contribution through the GAC to the IDNs process, UNESCO conducted direct information meetings with ICANN executive staff to explore possible future collaborations between the two organizations. These might include agreements in the framework of concrete projects or the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to ensure that all linguistic and cultural communities have their presence in the Internet.

UNESCO’s role in the development of a long term strategy for the implementation of Internationalized Domain Names requires a full engagement toward the next ICANN meeting, November 2008 in Cairo and political advocacy for the third IGF in Hyderabad.

Following the launch of this process in Paris, it is important that UNESCO brings its input in the upcoming months when the long term policy will be discussed and adopted. Furthermore, the Cairo meeting will be an occasion to involve the UNESCO Cairo Office and enhance its coordination with the headquarters, contributing to the multi-stakeholder regional project of Arabization of Domain Names under UNESCWA.

Garda spent €3 million on interpreters last year

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The Garda Siochána spent almost €3 million on interpreters last year, as the number of immigrants requiring translators continued to grow. The Garda deals with over 200 languages and dialects on a regular basis. Between 30 and 40 companies provided interpretation services to the Garda last year, a spokesman said.

The Garda recently issued a tender for the contract, which is the biggest public sector interpreting contract in the state. ‘‘We are in the process of awarding tenders at the moment, which are at the valuation stage, and these contracts are expected to be awarded by the end of the year,” said a spokesman.

However, the Irish Translators and Interpreters Association (ITIA) said it was hugely concerned at the quality of the service being provided to major state bodies.

Mary Phelan, secretary of the ITIA, claimed that the quality of interpretation work being carried out for major public sector bodies was often inadequate.

A number of agencies rejected charges regarding the quality of interpreting services provided to the state. They claimed they provided extensive and ongoing training, and regularly monitored satisfaction levels.

‘‘There are no controls in place to ensure a quality service is being delivered. There is an assumption that anyone who is bilingual can interpret. That is not the case, and specialised vocabulary is often needed, particularly in a courtroom setting,” said Phelan.

The contracts to translate for the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Courts Service and the Garda are the biggest public sector translation contracts in the country.

Together, the three bodies had an annual bill of about €5.75 million in 2007.

The HSE spent €750,000 on interpreting in 2007. It has a list of preferred providers that it issues to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

The Courts Service has a contract with Lionbridge, a multinational company with an office in Dublin. The Courts Service spent more than €2 million on interpreting last year, and expects to spend €2.5 million this year.

Phelan said many translators, some of whom have degrees in translation, were not prepared to work for the low rates in Ireland.

The sector is awaiting the results of a €100,000 study on interpreters for the public service, carried out by consultants Farrell Grant Sparks.

Source: http://www.sbpost.ie

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