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Booming translation industry in China calls for standardization

China's translation industry aspires for more standardized translation service and more efficient translator management, as the country's fast economic growth and increased international communication have fueled a billion-US-dollar market for translation.

China's translation industry accounted for some 11 billion yuan (1.33 billion US dollars) in 2003, and that number is expected to grow to over 20 billion yuan (2.41 billion dollars) by 2005, according to the Translators Association of China (TAC).

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 oppotunities for faster growth in China's translation industry.

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

The translation industry has witnessed an upsurge in the number of companies, with more than 3,000 currently operating in China. The number may actually be closer to 10,000, as many small companies that are registered as consultant agencies actually conduct translation business.

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

In November 2003 the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine issued an official Specification for Translation Service, which took effect in June, to provide objective criteria on translation qualifications and compulsory contractual regulations in translation transactions.

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 examinees have passed the exam, Huang said.

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

China needs a governmental 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 interpretors, and the number of people who actually practice translation is at least 500,000, it still cannot meet the surging demand.

In view of China's fast economic growth and increasing influence in the world, there is a shortage of 90 percent of the number of qualified Chinese-foreign-language translators, according to Huang.

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

According to Huang, however, the challenge imposed by foreign companies is minor if their contribution in promoting the standardization and commercialization of China's translation market is taken into account.

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