Open letter to public servants and private purchasers on the defects in multilingual service contracts

Often obsolete and contentious submissions

We have here some examples illustrating the professional level which bring up as a subject of debate even the degree of contractual illegality which is often present in the specifications of calls to tender for multilingual services. Especially those coming from public and semi-public institutions.
Eurologos offices occasionally take part in these public submissions, always with the rigour and in the spirit of competitiveness belonging to our international group.
However, the heads of our offices do not hide their well founded professional scepticism vis-à-vis the numerous calls for tender from institutions, even prestigious ones. And their slightly hesitant attitude is not preconceived. They always hope that these public submissions will be irreproachable, translatologically justified and legally unassailable.
Both in the demands of the “evaluation” system and in how the project is awarded.
However, it must be admitted that, even in this new millennium, the majority of multilingual service submissions still contain at least three contentious conditions.

1. The casual practice with CVs: illegal and pointless

First of all, the most widespread and strange defect is that of requesting the curricula vitae of the translators who are expected to produce the future translations into their languages.
This demand is completely illegal and pointless.

a. It is illegal, as the contract is made between the tendering company and its translators (no matter whether they are employees, and thus subordinates, or freelancers, and thus independent workers). The condition that the identified translators be available cannot be part of a legal contract made between a (public) institution and a company represented practically and legally, in its entirety, by its managing director or manager…

b. This demand is what is more pointless as employees and freelance translators may leave the company or not work for them at any time according to their own and free choice. As slavery was abolished more than two centuries ago, this demand only highlights the pernicious consequences for tenderees who often find themselves impaired or deprived of their legitimate power of complete control over the management of their own company. For example, they could also find themselves in the situation of legitimately needing to fire the translator presented in the submitted tender…

It is pleonastic to continue talking here about the surreal aspects provoked by this absurd practice with CVs, such as that where the translator – due to their position of contractual or pseudo-contractual force – finds themself, even against their own wishes, in the position of objectively blackmailing either their superiors or the project backers!

2. Modern and competitive multi-paternity of texts: the obsolete myth of the isolated translator

The twisted practice of identifying translators (already in the submissions and as evaluation criteria in choosing which company will win the contract) disorganises, weakens and utterly dissolves the central and unavoidable concept of modern and competitive translation: that of the multi-paternity of texts. Pragmatic translations as they are known (commercial, advertising or technical, and thus not literary or poetic) are no longer produced, since the ’70s - ’80s, by an isolated translator, but rather by a linguistic and graphical chain made up of translator-reviser-terminologist-multilingual coordinator-localiser-graphic designer and project manager. Sometimes, in the case of software or website localisation, IT specialists and webmasters are also involved in this chain where the requested translator CVs make the forced and minimising preoccupations of civil servants belonging to the tendering public body appear objectively laughable (without mentioning the disrepute that will fall on the institution concerned).

3. Terminological and phraseological specialisation thanks to supporting software

It is not uncommon for the request for CVs to be accompanied by a request for sophisticated certification of particular qualifications in the specialisation(s) in the submission. Here, the perverse aim of the bureaucrats (or Eurocrats) could reach new heights in falsification and, unfortunately, of tragically confessed “translatological ignorance” despite what we could still call their practical “good intentions” (of which the “path to hell – as we know – is paved”). Indeed, after decades of public submissions, the public servants concerned have not only failed to see the radical changes which have taken place in the global language companies (multinationalisation of production companies, localisation translation, organisational division of functions and tasks, determination of different standards of checking and text quality, etc.), but also seem not to know that the terminological precision factor has been entrusted due to the progress, of more than twenty years, made possible by translation memory software. Rather than continuing to dream of the impossible existence, which is easily and widely done, of tens of thousands of translators (native language speakers and of every linguistic combination), each one expected to be an expert in a separate technological field and what is more a master of communication techniques, these clearly ignorant organisers appear to support the fatal falsifications in responses to their submissions. They are thus designed with an abundance of translatological ignorance, in technical obsolescence compared to modern linguistic engineering and with the famous perversion provoked by the self-protective laziness of capitalist civil servants.

The forgery that arises in submission offers

These three examples of deformities, when compared with the best standards in the global language industry, already give an idea of the possible systematic forgeries and a sample of the defects which often arise from tenderees.
The various Eurologos offices nearly always have to undergo ethical and professional contortions before deciding, all the same, to reply to these public calls for tenders. In order to win some of these contracts, we are required, yes even we, to distort our offers.
For example, absurdly we must sometimes hide the fact we belong to an international network which boasts of producing “languages where the languages are spoken” (a condition which we consider essential and preliminary to ensuring linguistic and geostylistic quality!). We are even often tempted to under-estimate, in the presentation, the terminological and phraseological preparation work done with our computerised translation support software. And sometimes we must also hide the chain of quality control procedures: for public institutions, naturally, it is up to the supposed single, isolated translator – “identified” by their CV with their supposed omniscience, always inevitably available and an expert in ever-evolving technologies – to “guarantee” the infamous supposed competitive linguistic quality.
While engineers themselves in every modern sector of activities constantly update their knowledge of specialised techniques and terminology, incompetent bureaucrats think they have already solved this problem of specialised translation and multilingual neologisms with the impossible miracle of "expert translators": naturally cheap, without the need for prior terminological research and without having any knowledge of the elementary notion of "false economy"! As if our technological universe, more and more hyperspecialised in countless different branches, resembles that of the very little polyhedral, yet definitely unified and simple, of the Renaissance.

Is ISO certification a guarantee of quality?

What do you think of "certifications" specific to translation, that are currently being contemplated, or which have already been approved, for example, the DIN standard in Germany?