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Seeking to harmonize translation standards and procedures

Translators are “cultural ambassadors” who perform the “heroic task” of venturing through “those dark chambers where vocabulary, syntax, rhythm, and verbal music are mixed up and transformed”, reported the Financial Times in a recent column.

Verbal music indeed. As part of its ongoing efforts to improve efficiency and to begin to harmonize translation standards with other international financial institutions (IFIs), the IDB recently joined forces with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, plus sister organization Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC), in a joint seminar titled "Translating for IFIs", which attracted translators from as far away as Sao Paulo, Lima and Santiago.

All four IFIs have a heavy demand for translation, and outsource to freelance contractors in Latin America, the Caribbean and other continents.

The sessions focused on the business of IFIs in general, translation and quality control in the organizations, and information technology for translators. Staff translators spoke on techniques for crafting highly readable translations that fully capture the writer's meaning and intent. Experts from the IDB, IIC, IMF, World Bank and the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) explained what each organization does, how it works and where translation fits into the process. Because translators need a clear understanding of the concepts behind the documents they translate, IFI economists were enlisted to speak on the project cycle, structured finance and other technical topics.

The IFI translation managers are also making extensive use of information technology to enhance translation quality and productivity. While they all agreed that machine translation is not appropriate for complex analytical documents, “computer-assisted translation” (or “CAT”) is extremely useful. CAT tools help translators by storing technical terminology in two or more languages for instant retrieval and by recycling previous translations sentence by sentence in a “translation memory.” Workflow management software helps keep track of the thousands of documents translated annually by each organization.

All four IFIs participating in the seminar are also using or about to launch Extranet websites for freelance translators that will give the freelancers worldwide access to in-house glossaries, style manuals and other resources. 

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