A new EU directive adopted by the European Parliament aims to ensure fairer trials for their non-native speaking “accused” in EU member states – by providing language services such as translation and interpreting.
Eventually it will mean that all EU member states will be required to provide access to an interpreter and translated materials for any non-national who is accused of a crime – if they can’t understand the local language.
It must be said that this news isn’t really “news” to us in the UK. The obligation to ensure all non-English speakers can fully understand the crime they are accused of committing is enshrined in four separate statutes, and has been in place for years.
However this law does come at an obvious cost and, as we know only too well, language services that are courtesy of the public purse can be subject to considerable scruitiny.
That said, I wonder if the UK Government’s recent move to deny entry to the UK to anyone who marries a British citizen, but can’t speak English, is cost-related. The argument that such a move is quite hypocritical of us as a nation is a very interesting one (to me). But that’s not the point here.
Anyway, as our European neighbours gear up for large-scale commitments to language services, how can they best manage that transition, minimising the challenges of cost and potential disgruntlement?
Firstly, I would anticipate that the scale of the cost, and how well the services work, will directly correlate to the intensity of any criticism that may follow. The main issues then are to minimise cost, while maximising value. Sounds easy, right?
Well, no. However, there are a few things that can be done in the three years before all member states must put this directive into working practice. They are:
1) Make use of Translation Memory. Now.
Translation Memory (TM) is basically a database of everything you have ever had translated, which, when used properly can be hugely beneficial in saving time and money.
It works by aligning your new source text with previous translations that have been carried out.(demonstrated below). The linguist performing your translation – using your TM – approves the various matches, so you don’t have pay for another full translation, just the matches at a reduced rate. This makes the whole process quicker and cheaper each time you have any translations carried out.
In addition, because you’re using the same set of phrases and terms, TM improves consistency and therefore the final quality of your translations. Furthermore, TM remains your intellectual property, so if you ever switch supplier you can still get the benefits.
By starting to build up, TM’s, glossaries, key phrases and terminology – now – the respective member states (and subsequent departments) could minimise their translation spend as soon as the translation directive is enforced. This, would be in addition to being ahead of the curve, as the industry incporporates more and more technology into the service delivery chain.
2) Don’t be held to ransom on cost.
What could seem, let’s face it, from me as a blatant “ooh, me, me, me” – I should point out that ALS prides quality over cost, yet works to charge the absolute minimum possible rates for all our services (something to which many of our customers agree). …I had to say that before I continue.
The thing to remember is that, despite the many myths that surround our industry (and many of those are actively perpetrated by some operators), language services don’t need to be expensive – as if your choices are either “cheap” or “expensive”. If your supplier is using translation technology correctly, then their prices shouldn’t be towards either extreme.
Also, many customers don’t realise they actually have the right to expect their provider to work with them to find solutions that are cost effective. For both parties.
3) Minimise the paper chain.
Historically, our industry – as we’ve said before – has been very slow to adapt to new, smarter ways to work – particularly within the public sector. This has been the by-product of having larger, more “comfortable” language service suppliers being able to count on the majority of the work from big accounts – without needing to be innovative with things like online portals, or incorporating technology into new, cost-effective services and processes.
But times have changed (we believe, thanks to companies like us).
This has resulted in many companies with large-scale translation needs, unknowingly overspending on translation services for years – only to realise, a little too late, what they could have saved, had their translation processes been a little more open to scrutiny. Before making the switch to a more competitive supplier, of course.
Having access to things like online service request portals, post-edited machine translation and instant telephone interpreting can all speed up the delivery process and help to reduce costs.
Also, other “novel” things like consolidated invoicing and transparent online management reporting can show, clearly, where savings can be made.
4) Compare suppliers. Often.
Some suppliers are set up to compete on cost, but money isn’t everything after all, and so if you end up having a court case thrown out due to a bad (cheap) legal translation, that cost – however cheap – is wasted.
Likewise, others might be “focused on quality” and will charge eye-watering rates, but either way, there is no sense in choosing a supplier based on traditional criteria and leaving yourself stuck with the repercussions later on.
By comparing suppliers on the value of their services – not just the cost – and by analysing who has been innovative in reducing waste in the delivery chain and improving ease of access to their services, EU member states can really reap the benefits of language services.
So, that’s my penny’s worth. How will the new EU translation directive affect your country?
Do you think that, since Europeans are generally “more betterer” at foreign languages than we Brits are (ahem), there will be a great need to outsource services to the same scale the UK does?