Collaboration between technical documentation and translators can be a challenge. During the tekom/tcworld next week, there will be a free event to foster collaboration between universities, translation professionals, and technical communicators.

  • Thursday, 26 October 2017, 8:45 – 13:00
  • Room C7.2
  • Stuttgart Exhibition Center
  • Price: free of charge (registration below for people without a ticket to tekom/tcworld convention
  • Registration:

Markus Seebauer: Thanks for taking time for this interview despite your busy schedule. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Inkaliisa Vihonen: I come from the translation side. I have been to tekom/tcworld many times.

The idea is to look for similarities, possible projects, and synergies between technical communicators and translation professionals. We also have a booth at the fair where people can learn about of our activities.

Markus Seebauer: You work for the Directorate-General for Translation. Could you tell us a bit about your organisation?

Inkaliisa Vihonen: We have around 1,500 translators. We are a large service provider. Translation is one of the services we provide. Principles of the European Commission like equality and participation guide the Commission’s work.

Markus Seebauer: What’s the story behind the Translating Europe events and workshops?

Inkaliisa Vihonen: The Commission is trying to address certain structural problems. The training students receive is not always up-to-date. Some technical communicators have a translation background but this is not always the case.

For a translator it can also be useful to get some of the elements from a technical communicator. Even knowing about the basic workflow of technical documentation will help. There is a lot of similarities and both groups can benefit from increased visibility. Another aspect is employability. I have been told there is quite a lot of demand for people who have training in technical communication regardless if they are translators or not. At the event, we will bring together people from universities, some practitioners, people who own translation companies.

Markus Seebauer: What are typical challenges with the translation of technical documentation?

Inkaliisa Vihonen: Sometimes I have been on the side asking someone to translate something but  the translation was not suitable for the purpose. Maybe it is important to educate the client. It is probably not a good idea to use a different service provider all the time.

The translation is a bit detached from the other parts of this workflow or communication. The translation is done last so there always tends to be this element of urgency.

It is very visible when it goes bad. Things go very fast in the translation industry.

We are looking for professionals coming together to increase quality and professionalism.

Markus Seebauer: Things like machine translation, budget constrains in technical documentation departments, and general cost pressure might have some people question if they will still be needed and how their work will look like. Where do you see the future of both professions?

Inkaliisa Vihonen: There is an increased need for specialisation. 2 principles of the EU Commission, life-long learning and mobility, are crucial for both professions and mobility between those 2 sectors. For some reason, translation sometimes seems to have lower prestige for the outside world than technical communication but both professions are 2 sides of the same coin. This is probably a message for the students. Both are good career choices. They are professions which allow to be quite flexible in terms of time and location which people really appreciate.

Translations are often by law. We are well ahead in Europe in that regard compared to other parts of the world. So it makes sense that we have these kind of workshops in Europe.

I am really looking forward to see what kind of ideas people come up with. If it is something concrete, some form of collaboration, that would be ideal. tekom already has a project called TecCOMFrame to foster the education of technical communicators.

Markus Seebauer: We spoke a lot about what technical communicators and translators can learn from each other. What can we learn from the EU Commission Directorate-General for Translation?

Inkaliisa Vihonen: What we do very well is the multi-lingual workflow. We have 24 official languages. There are 500+ language pairs and these are really important texts so it is not only a problem in understanding but a problem in legal interpretation if a mistake occurs.

We have editing services, we do a lot of revising and editing, that is 1 of our strengths. There are so many things we can learn from the outside. The technical communication part is one thing we are not so familiar with. We don’t work like technical communicators do. How can you influence the drafting process? Our texts are, of course web-based. Some of them are quite technical e.g. related to customs, environmental legislation.

Our drafters are not language professionals. The fact that we do survive with so many language pairs and manage to relay the message is quite an achievement.

Markus Seebauer: Thank you very much for the interview. I look forward to the event next Thursday.