Annexure – II:

Proposal for National Translation Mission
Submitted to NKC by Jayati Ghosh
(Based on discussions at the NKC Translation workshop, 11 February 2006, and subsequent interaction with participants and others)

There is urgent need for expansion of quantity and improvement of quality of translations of different types (human, machine-aided, instant, etc.) and in different domains (literary, scientific, technical, business, etc.) that would provide greater access to knowledge across the country. The best way to kick-start this process and promote and disseminate good quality translation in the country may be to set up a National Translation Mission. This would urgently take up the task of identifying gaps, promoting good quality translation, training, disseminating information about translation and translators, and co-ordinating ongoing work by public and private organisations. The idea is not to duplicate or over-ride the work of various other public sector or private organisations, but to help them to re-examine their priorities, improve quality, and widen awareness.

As an activity, translation has been going on between different pairs of languages in the Indian subcontinent for a long time. Translation, as a passion, has seen many great minds in action in different speech communities in India and elsewhere. As a profession, translation is challenging and becoming more lucrative, particularly in recent decades. As a field of research, Translation Studies seem to have emerged as a field with numerous ideas emanating from linguistics, philosophy, literary studies, semiotics, lexicology, anthropology, computer science, and a host of other fields. But considering its spread across a large number of languages, cultures and nations, the field still seems to be lacking in efforts at coordinating its activities.

As a multilingual and multicultural country, and as one of the oldest knowledge bases, India has been in the forefront of translation for many centuries. With many languages and cultures, this country also provides a rich testing ground for all major theoretical initiatives in both literary and machine translation. It is expected that the proposed National Translation Mission (NTM) will fulfil a long-felt need that would satisfy different segments: teachers, learners, language technologists, business groups, newspaper establishments and other media groups, creative writers, readers, those engaged in comparative studies and translation theoreticians.

The NTM will have the following objectives:
1. To act as a store-house of information on translation involving Indian languages, and to make information regarding all aspects of translation available – by creating, maintaining and constantly updating information on translations published, training programmes scheduled, translation tools and instruments available and new initiatives, and facilities such as a 'National Register for Translators'.
2. To work as a clearing house for all translation activities, both theoretical and practical, in as many Indian languages as possible
3. To provide link to other agencies and organisations and individuals involved in translation and translation-related activities involving Indian languages
4. To project Indian languages and literatures in this region and abroad through high-quality translation;
5. To create and maintain various tools for translation, and to especially prepare bilingual and multilingual bi-directional general as well as special-purpose translational dictionaries, word-finders, and thesauri; and
6. To enter into or promote printed as well as virtual publication of works on Translation Studies jointly or independently for the benefit of all institutions and individuals interested in the field
7. To provide a forum for dialogue by creating a bulletin board for people to post questions and answers
8. To provide guidance in the methodology of translation and undertake activities to enrich teaching and training activities in translation studies.

Key activities of the proposed National Translation Mission
Translator education:
This reflects the fact that while translation requires bilingualism as a necessary condition, it is a specialised function that cannot be assumed and some features of which must be learnt. In addition, different types of translation work require different skills – for example, translation of scientific or technical works requires very different skills and orientation from literary translation. Also, interpretation skills are relatively undeveloped and also need specialised training, with reference to the relevant media (e.g. radio or TV) and context.

The activities of the NTM in this area would include:
  » Running short-term training programmes
  » Creating course packages for translators that could become part of language teachingprogrammes across the country.
  » Fellowship programmes that would also allow exchange of scholars between institutions. Here, a special emphasis could be laid on translation between Indian languages, rather than only to/from English.
  » Encouraging research projects, including student research, specifically for making available good translations of identified texts as examples and generating resources that could also serve pedagogic aims.

Information dissemination.
Since translation is currently not a very prominent or highly rewarded activity, there is also inadequate knowledge about the translation capabilities that exist in the country, even among potential users. For example, there are many good translators in particular regional languages, who are unknown to publishers or those who would otherwise use their services. The Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, trains around 400 teachers fluent in one Indian language in another Indian language every year in 20 Indian languages in its Regional Language Centers in seven cities. This is increasingly recognised as a necessary but scarce skill, but these trained people (around 11,000 currently) are not widely known to potential users. In many languages, translations have already been created and printed by small publishers in a range of areas, but this output is not known to a wider group.

Therefore important activities of the NTM in this area would be:
  » Creating a data repository of translators in different areas and with different skills and qualifications. This repository would be available online and also through contacting the NTM with specific requirements.
  » Creating a data repository and annotated catalogue of existing translations of different works, classified by area, with new lists to be sent regularly to educational institutions, library networks, etc.

Promotion and dissemination of good quality translation material.
It may be argued that if there were need for much more translated material of various sorts, the market would already be delivering it. However, the lack of knowledge about possibilities actually prevents demand from emerging. As is the case with so much other knowledge, you do not know what you are missing until you are exposed to it. Further, those involved with translation of literary material (such as the National Book Trust and the Granth Academies) testify to the enormous demand for books translated into local languages once they are produced.

It is important to note that such translation however should not be a one-way street from English to Indian languages; rather, there is a wealth of material available in Indian languages which also require greater dissemination both in English and in other Indian languages. In particular, the tradition of viewing translation as a parallel avenue of creativity should be encouraged. There is need for a horizontal paradigm which does not create a vertical distinction between donor and receiving languages, and promotes the multilingualism and cultural diversity of India. There is already a proliferation of some translation in certain areas (such as the works of Dr. Ambedkar which are being translated into many different languages) which reflects a wider social churning as well as the requirements and aspirations of newly literate groups.

In science and technical translation, unlike for literary translation, there is need for greater standardisation of terms and concepts so as to ensure both better comprehension and ease of moving across languages. Further, translation today is an under-rewarded activity both in terms of social recognition and monetary remuneration, and these needs to be changed. It is also important to note that translation is an individual activity but also a social enterprise, in which success which may require the involvement of a range of different people at different stages and team work.

In this context the following specific activities of the NTM could be considered:
  » Active promotion of good quality translations though book launches, festivals, fellowships and prizes.
  » Encouraging collaborative translation work, as well as long-term multi-translator projects, and organising workshops for translators to interact and exchange views and experiences.
  » Buy-back arrangements with publishers and linking with library networks to ensure an initial market for good quality translation.
  » Providing an interface between producers of translated material and publishers or purchasers, including both public and private organisations.
  » Subsidising the initial translation of some current affairs journals and other useful and interesting material (such as the New Scientist, Economic and Political Weekly, and so on) for widespread dissemination into regional languages.
  » Suggesting incorporation of translated material into syllabi of schools, colleges and universities, and in particular in literature studies at all levels bring in translated works from other Indian languages.
  » Suggesting language resource centres in all schools and colleges and special book corners (dealing with translated materials) in schools.
  » Promoting and disseminating less visible ongoing activities which emphasise bilingual skills (such as the compulsory translation section in the Karnataka police officers examination).
  » Considering means to ensure greater access of translated material to smaller towns and villages, using other public and civil society organisations (such as the National Literacy Mission and the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti).

Promotion of machine translation.
New technologies provide exciting new opportunities for rapid and large volume translation at relatively low cost, although there are issues of both technology development and human resources in this context. The NTM could help create and use technology and facilitate technological progress in machine translation by adopting the following measures:
  » Ensuring the creation of the necessary infrastructure, especially digital tools like Thesauri, Bilingual Dictionaries, software for Translation Memory, etc., which have immediate application for more efficient and effective translation.
  » Lexical resources like e-dictionaries, wordnets>, language analysis and synthesis tools, concordancers, frequency analsysers etc. are the essential components of a machine translation system. These cannot be created and maintained by a single institute, but need multi-institute collaboration over a long time. NTM could provide a platform for team work, through continued interaction through meetings and online discussions.
  » Source texts and translations should be made available in clean digital form as far as possible, with NTM working out the necessary copyright issues. NTM should ensure that this wealth of digital material is maintained in a standard from with standardised XML tags and DTDs.
  » The international trend these days is to develop good quality parallel corpora with annotations and alignments. Such annotated corpora are treated with machine learning techniques to obtain machine translation systems. The sheer volume of this data and the magnitude of the effort require substantial initial investments which are not ideally made by individual organisations; however, the NTM could facilitate such efforts and provide some support.
  » Promote an interlingua based approach along the lines of the "Universal Networking Language" (UNL) initiated by the United Nations in 1996 involving 15 countries. (IIT Bombay has already developed various tools, techniques and resources for English and Indian language MT, which could be generalised.)