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Government Translation Spending: Boon and Bane
Posted by Renato S. Beninatto on December 11, 2007  in the following blogs: Translation and Localization
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In the last few days we received news of several government-related contracts for translation services.
  • DynCorp International Inc. won an Army contract worth as much as US$4.6 billion over five years for translation services in Iraq. DynCorp won the contract in December 2006, but incumbent L-3 challenged the award. A year later, L-3 lost the appeal and now DynCorp is doing the work and getting paid. This ruling will affect our Ranking of the Top 20 Translation Companies, where L-3 ranked #1 in revenue in 2006. From a translation market perspective, nothing will change except the name of who issues the invoice to the Army: The same 6,000 local translators in Iraq and 1,000 U.S. citizens with security clearances who are native speakers of the languages in Iraq will continue doing the work.

  • The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under the Multilingual Automatic Document Classification, Analysis and Translation (Madcat) program awarded US$5.67 million to BBN Technologies to automate the translation of foreign documents (read "foreign" as "Arabic"). The goal of the Madcat program is to create a prototype system that quickly provides relevant, distilled, actionable information to military commands and personnel by converting foreign language text images into English transcripts automatically (without the use of linguists and analysts) and with high accuracy. DARPA has a good track record in funding advanced technology and seems to be patient enough not to expect overnight successes. Let's see what comes out of this.

  • The European Commission funded the compilation of a glossary of terms and the establishment of a Terminology Centre for Post Graduate Students at the University of Malta. Malta-based Europa Research and Consultancy Services and Luxembourg-based Verbivis will create a glossary of Maltese terminology, which the Terminology Centre at the University of Malta will use to teach and train students. Translation units in Brussels and Luxembourg will also use the glossary.

  • The Communities Secretary in the U.K has announced new government guidelines urging councils to exercise common sense before deciding what needs to be translated. A study by the BBC found that the government was spending approximately US$200 million a year in translations, some of which unnecessary, like street signs in Polish or the translation of certain annual reports into more than 10 languages despite the fact that demand -- even in English -- is low. Some translation companies in the U.K. will not be happy with this news.
The bottom line: There's a lot of money in government contracts for translation when it comes to perceived threats from abroad, but fiscal discipline rears its ugly head with domestic translation efforts.


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Keywords: Government market studies, Language policy, Translation

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