Another Canadian Standard for Translation

The Fall term has just wrapped up here at York University, which means the second Reacting to the Past game in my undergraduate translation theory class is now over. (For the results of the first game, take a look at my earlier post). This time, we focused on CAN/CGSB-131.10-2008, the Canadian Standard for Translation, and tried to recreate the context in which the standard was developed. Students were assigned roles based on the organizations involved in drafting CGSB-131.10-2008, including translation service providers, universities, industry associations, and companies that purchase translation services and/or have their own in-house translation departments.

In the published version of the standard, these organizations were grouped into three categories: general interest (universities, professional translator associations and translation technology companies), producers (small, medium and large translation companies), and users (government agencies, corporations, and professional associations like the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants). Our game included most of these organizations, but I did have to try to choose a representative sample, since 30 voting members were involved in the drafting process, while only 21 students were enrolled in my course.

The published standard also covered six areas: human resources, technical resources, quality management system, client-Translation Service Provider (TSP) relationship, TSP management procedures, and the translation process. For the purposes of the game, I decided to focus on just four of these areas so that we could debate a different one each week and then spend one final week revising the standard. This game involved a lot of collaboration, as the students had to work within their groups (users, producers or general interest) to agree on a proposal for each issue, which they then presented to the other groups. The groups were then able to ask questions of and negotiate with one another in order to arrive at a draft version of each issue that at least two groups could agree on. Given the varied interests I had assigned each group, the negotiation process was sometimes quite long and in some cases (as one student pointed out), rather frustrating. But that, I imagine, is what many of those involved in drafting the actual standard also experienced.

In week 1, we debated the Human Resources component of the standard. Talks actually broke down on this issue, because the question of whether translators should be certified by a professional translator association was too contentious. We had to leave that particular point for the final week of debate instead. The Users and Producers managed to reach an agreement that meant our standard recommended-but did not require–professional development for translators (since the smaller TSPs were concerned about the potential cost and time investment of mandatory professional development). In addition, our standard specifically acknowledged that a translation service provider (TSP) could be a single person, since the smaller TSPs worried the standard might otherwise exclude individual freelancers.

Week 2 focused on the translation process, and because the producers had won the previous round, they managed to allocate enough votes to this issue that they would have to be involved in any winning proposal if it were to have enough votes to succeed. This meant they were able to push through their proposal that revision need not be completed by a second person, unless clients requested it (so that individual freelance translators wouldn’t be disadvantaged by the standard). They also finally agreed that translators should be informed of any changes to their work, although they were careful to note that this was just a recommendation, rather than an obligation, as some of the students representing large TSPs were concerned that if they were informed of all changes every client might make to the finished translations, they would have to deal with too much extra administrative work.

In our third week, we debated the quality management portion of the standard. This time, the general interest group and the users were quick to come to an agreement that excluded the producers’ views, as they felt that the producers had been too hard to negotiate with in previous weeks. This meant the producers were not able to prevent the standard from including a clause that required TSPs to have an automated quality management system, nor were they able to get the other groups to agree to a clause that required the QM system to be “relative to the size and structure of the TSP”, as the users argued that this kind of wording was not really creating any sort of standard at all.

In Week 4, we addressed the issue of technical resources, and here debate mainly centred around whether computer-assisted translation tools should be mandatory or recommended, but the producers eventually agreed that these tools should be required. By this point, students had been required to submit their first written assignment associated with the game: a blog post presenting their organization’s views on the standard. When presenting their arguments to the class, several students referred to their blog posts, which was one way I had been hoping the written work would be integrated into the game.

Finally, on our last week of class, we looked at the draft standard as a whole document and addressed the issue of whether translators should be certified. The compromise most students agreed to was that translators had to be certified by a Canadian professional association, unless the language combination was not available. I then gave the students some feedback on our draft based on the comments organizations and translators had made when the actual standard was produced, provided these points were also relevant to our version. Students were then able to vote on the draft on an individual basis (up until this point, everyone had been obliged to vote with their groups), but they still had to represent the organization they had been assigned. On our first round of voting, only a minority supported the draft. Some objected to the certification requirement, while others objected to the fact that translations did not have to be revised by a second person. After we changed the standard to require that all translations be revised by a second person, everyone but the producers agreed to support the draft, and it became our new Canadian standard. If you’d like to take a look at it, here’s a link to the Google Document.

In general, I was happy with the way this game worked. Compared to the previous game, this one required much less work on my part, since the students played just one role throughout the game and their role descriptions did not change over the course of the game. This meant I didn’t have to send out 20 emails every week with revised role descriptions and victory objectives, as I did with the William Tyndale game. I was also able to keep track of the points, since these were awarded to groups rather than individual students. Interestingly, the group that had the greatest success was the General Interest group composed of universities, professional associations and other organizations. In fact, the the professional associations (OTTIAQ, the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council, and Society of Translators and Interpreters of British Columbia) were the only ones to achieve all their victory objectives. I’m currently surveying the students who completed the course to see what they thought of the two games, so I’ll post some of their feedback once I’ve finished collecting and analyzing the responses.