8th Translation Contact Network
Some 65 representatives from 33 EU Agencies, Institutions and other bodies attended the Centre’s 8th annual Translation Contact Network, which was held online on 21 March 2023. This time, the focus was on the Centre’s multi-engine machine translation strategy and related quality assurance, ELA’s translation workflow involving national authorities, and good practice-sharing in the area of request and feedback management.

In her opening address, Ildikó Horváth (the Centre’s Director) highlighted the three aspects that she has been attaching particular importance to since she took up her functions in February 2022. These are meeting the Centre’s clients to become familiar with their way of working, identify their challenges and future needs with regard to multilingualism, and assess how the Centre’s services could best facilitate their operations; interinstitutional and inter-agency cooperation to share knowledge and best practices, and harmonise working methods and seek synergies; and public outreach, which includes sharing the Centre’s expertise with international organisations, universities and other educational institutions, the global translation community, and the public. 

Ms Horváth also referred to the Centre’s new Strategy for the period 2024-2027 which takes into account the latest developments in the translation and language service market and gives prominence to the Centre’s role in facilitating multilingualism in the digital age. As part of this Strategy, the Centre will continue to monitor new technologies and integrate them in the best possible way and as early as possible, combining them with the expertise of the Centre’s staff and cooperating with its institutional partners.

In the first presentation following the Director’s welcoming words, the Centre’s Head of the Translation Support Department together with an expert from the Advanced Language Solutions Section outlined the Centre’s recent progresses in machine translation (MT). The Centre has not only invested in developing its own custom machine translation engines in different fields, such as intellectual property, public health and finance, but it has also started implementing a multi-engine MT (MEMT) strategy in 2023. This means that incoming texts are henceforth translated using a mix of engines from different MT providers through a common interface linked to a specifically tailored quality-scoring scheme. The advantage of this is that the outputs are of higher quality and more adapted to the different registers and domains of the source texts than when using a single MT system only. 

With the introduction of MT and different services based on MT, such as automatic translation, custom translation, or light post-editing, the Centre has introduced the quality-for-purpose approach.  In the subsequent session, the Centre’s Head of the Translation Department therefore presented this quality-for-purpose approach, and showed how the Centre’s linguists ensure quality in their current more complex work environment. This all highlighted the enormous potential of MT, but on its own it is not the magic solution for all. Identifying the purpose of the source text and the target audience plays an important role in determining which service is most suited for a client’s needs. This then has to be backed up by quality post-editing to make the machine translation fit for its intended purpose.

The focus of the second part of the meeting was on best practice exchange. The presentation by the European Labour Authority (ELA) provided plenty of food for thought for all those who work regularly with national competent authorities and wish to make best use of their translation budget. From the very beginning of its operations, ELA took the step of contacting the Centre to discuss a workflow to facilitate the handling of translation requests between them, their national authorities, and the Centre. The workflow, developed together and called the ELA Translation Facility, has been up and running for a bit more than two years now. This Facility enables Member State authorities to create translation requests on the Centre’s Client Portal for texts complying with predefined eligibility criteria. The ELA validates these requests and controls the budgetary consumption per Member State. 

The final presentation was given by two of the Centre’s workflow administrators, who are regularly dealing with clients’ incoming requests and feedback and are often exposed to questions from their side or come across particular issues when they look into the requests. In their presentation, they provided their expert input on how these requests could or should be addressed in the future to ensure that the workflow runs smoothly and guarantees optimal service quality.
Before closing the meeting, the Centre’s Head of External Relations and Communications briefly drew the participants’ attention to the Guidelines and template for EU Agencies’ multilingual policies elaborated in 2022 by a working group of the EU Agencies’ Heads of Communication and Information Network (HCIN). She encouraged everyone to have a look at the document and to discuss the ideas presented therein with their colleagues to see how language policies and approaches to multilingualism could be adapted and harmonised across the EU Agencies in the future.

The lively rounds of Q&A following each presentation proved once more the usefulness of this Translation Contact Network as a forum for sharing knowledge, experience and best practices among stakeholders.