Annexure – I :

Promoting the Translation Industry
(Note from Jayati Ghosh)
The need for an efficient, rapid, high-quality translation industry in India is more than obvious, given the need to preserve and strengthen the richness and variety of Indian languages and the need to provide all of our linguistic groups access to a wide range of material in their own language as far as possible. It should be noted that all countries that put a premium on knowledge have systematically promoted translation services and tried to make as many types of material possible available in different languages. This is true in large developing countries such as China, which has a vibrant active translation industry which provides up-to-date translation in a wide range of areas. It is also true of very small developed countries where a very high proportion of people are fluent and educated in major foreign languages (such as The Netherlands and Finland in Europe) where the local languages remain strong because of the presence of extensive translations.

Translation is required
  » from English to Indian languages
  » from Indian languages to English
  » between Indian languages

The following materials need to be translated
  » textbooks at school level
  » textbooks at higher education level
  » other pedagogic material
  » specialised books in sciences, social sciences, humanities, arts
  » reference books (encyclopedias, etc)
  » literature
  » non-fiction books of current interest
  » instruction manuals
  » magazines, journals
  » web-based material

At the moment, there are some agencies dealing with these in different locations, as part of other activities – these include both public and private agencies. Thus National Book Trust provides translations (from English to major Indian languages and vice versa) of some major literary works, usually by famous or award-winning writers. Some private organisations (e.g. Katha publishers, Prajashakti newspaper group, etc.) have provided translations of well-known literature and some books of current interest. There is no public institution that systematically deals with all the aspects mentioned above, and with all the major languages in terms of direct intervention, promotion, or supervision.

The current problems with respect to translation are as follows:
1. There are large and critical gaps in terms of the availability of translated material in all the areas mentioned above
2. There are significant problems with respect to the quality and accessibility of translated material. The quality tends to be uneven and often poor. There is also a common tendency to translate literally or in excessively complicated language which reduces the accessibility of the translated work. The production quality of translated work also varies widely.
3. There are substantial time lags in translation, such that the most recent or current works are not generally available in translation for several years.
4. There is inadequate promotion and dissemination of translated material, such that many people who would avail of it are not aware that such material is available even when there are translations of good quality.
5. There is almost no co-ordination in carrying out translation, such that there is unnecessary duplication even while crucial gaps remain
6. The web-translation services for translation into and from English and regional languages are still at a very nascent phase. There are MT initiatives, such as C-DAC: Vyakarta, MANTRA, NCST Mumbai: MaTra, IITs (especially Kanpur) Anusaaraka, Anglabharati, etc. There are still problems with these, and the relatively successful cases are only for Indian languages with similar syntax. There is a general lack of online lexical resources and lack of co-ordination.

However, there are also certain advantages which would facilitate the rapid development of translation services in India:
1. There is a significant bilingual educated population which could be usefully deployed in such activities. So this can become an important source of educated employment generation
2. There are already a number of institutions providing language training, and these could be expanded relatively easily. The additional skills required for effective translation are not difficult to acquire, and could be incorporated into existing courses.
3. The copyright issues are typically much less when the translation involves a relatively limited market, and this means that lower cost editions of books etc. could be provided more easily
4. Volumes will tend to be large, and this will allow for cheaper production as well as greater private sector participation, once the basic structures are developed

The issues that need to be considered are:
  » What are the existing public institutions that deal with providing translation, and how effective are they?
  » What should be the nature of public sector involvement in such activity? Is there some critical infrastructure that needs to be provided publicly?
  » Is there a way of ensuring that important recent material of various kinds (such as recent literature, works of current interest, important journals) are automatically translated into major languages? Who would decide which ones?
  » Should such decisions be centralised or co-ordinated through state governments?
  » Is there a case for one public agency which would consider, take copyright for, promote, monitor and delegate various types of translation services?
  » How can more private activity in this area be promoted? Should fiscal or other incentives be provided for investment in these activities? Should partnerships be developed with publishing houses?
  » How can the quality of translation be assured, monitored, supervised? Is it necessary to devote special resources to training and creation of dedicated professionals in this area?
  » How can greater speed of delivery of translated material be encouraged?
  » What are the possibilities in MT and can there be greater synergy between MT and traditional forms of translation?

Desirable immediate step
National consultation on issues in promoting the translation industry, involving representatives from
  » Central and state government officials (from Department of Official Languages, Education, Culture, Science departments)
  » Schools, universities, technical institutes
  » Industry (for translation needs of workers at different levels)
  » Media
  » Publishing industry
  » Language schools.

We will need to identify the relevant people and organisations as soon as possible and formulate a concept note and draft agenda for circulation, on the basis of some discussion with experts in this area.