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Translators need supervision
12/11/2004 7:42

China's translation industry has called for a more standardized service and efficient management to better handle a huge boom in the sector.

The industry has become a billion dollar market thanks to the country's growth and increased international communication.

China's translation industry yielded about 11 billion yuan (US$1.32 billion) in 2003, and that number is expected to grow to over 20 billion yuan by next year, according to the Translators Association of China.

Huang Youyi, deputy director-general with the China Foreign Languages Publishing and Distribution Administration, said the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 Shanghai World Expo are golden opportunities for faster growth in China's translation industry.

By 2008, one in every 10 sentences spoken in Beijing is expected to be in a foreign language, a much higher rate than the current situation, Huang said.

An increase in the number of foreign companies - there are now more than 3,000 in the country - has also contributed to the boom in the industry.

To thrive in this growing market, the translation industry has taken steps to better standardize its services.

In November last year, the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine issued an official Specification for Translation Service, which began in June, to provide objective criteria on translation qualifications and compulsory regulations.

A certified translator examination system, China Aptitude Test for Translators and Interpreters, was also introduced last year.

So far, about 30 percent of the 4,600 people who have sat the exam, have passed, Huang said.

"Translation is still a fledgling industry in China, compared with its European and American counterparts. Problems, including poor quality, non-standardized charges and lack of specialized labor division, have impaired the market's development," he said.

China needs a government department to supervise its translation industry, a common practice in some Western countries, he added.

China's translation industry has also been haunted by the lack of translation professionals.

Though the country has 60,000 professional translators and interpreters, and the number of people who actually practice translation is at least 500,000, it still cannot meet the surging demand.

There is a 90 percent shortage in the number of qualified Chinese-foreign-language translators, according to Huang.

With China's entry into the World Trade Organization, foreign translation firms may pose challenges to their Chinese counterparts.

Huang said the challenges can be met if foreign companies support standardization of the industry.