Strengthen Exchanges and Cooperation of the Asia-Pacific Translation Community towards Better Development and Greater Prosperity

The 10th Asia-Pacific Translation and Interpreting Forum (APTIF) opened in Beijing on June 25, gathering experts and professionals to shed light on the role of translation and interpreting in communication.

Gao Anming, chair of the APTIF Joint Committee, executive vice president and secretary general of TAC, vice president and editor-in-chief of CICG, and council member of the FIT, delivers a keynote speech at the forum in Beijing, June 25, 2022.

The following is the full text of the speech.

Strengthen Exchanges and Cooperation of

the Asia-Pacific Translation Community

towards Better Development and Greater Prosperity

Gao Anming

Chair of APTIF Joint Committee

Executive Vice President and Secretary General of Translators Association of China (TAC)

Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of China International Communications Group (CICG)

Council Member of the Federation of International Translators (FIT)

(25 June 2022, Beijing)

Respected Madame Alison Rodriguez, president of the International Federation of Translators,

Respected Mr. Du Zhanyuan,  president of the Translators Association of China,

Respected Mr. Yang Dan, president of Beijing Foreign Studies University,

Respected Mr. Bart Defrancq, president of the International Permanent Conference of University Institutes of Translators and Interpreters

Distinguished guests,

Dear colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Friends,

Good morning!

It gives me great pleasure to join friends old and new in the 10th Asia-Pacific Translation and Interpreting Forum (APTIF10). On behalf of APTIF Joint Committee, let me begin by extending a warm welcome to all distinguished guests attending the forum, both online and offline, and congratulations on the opening of the forum.

Since its establishment in 1995, APTIF has taken it as its central mission to facilitate exchanges among translation associations and individuals within the Asia-Pacific region. The forum is committed to promoting connectivity and mutual learning among the Asia-Pacific and the international community. Under concerted efforts of all sides, the past three decades have seen successful conclusion of 9 APTIF sessions,which grew steadily with diversified themes, extensive communication, wider participation and rewarding outcomes, establishing itself as the most important platform for translation exchanges in the region. On this special occasion, my sincere appreciation goes to all member associations and those who have always been supportive of advancing translation and interpreting profession in the Asia-Pacific region.

The founding of the APTIF Joint Committee in 2016 marked a breakthrough in the history of the forum, charting a new course for international communication. In 2019, I was honored to be elected as the chair of the Joint Committee. During my term over the past three years, translation associations, educational institutions, and practitioners conducted extensive communication with each other on the platform. Every participant contributed to and at the same time, benefited from this grand get-together, bearing witness to the development of the forum. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 hit hard the T&I industry globally. The Joint Committee took quick responses, held a webinar with the theme of Pooling the Strength of the Asia-Pacific Translation and Interpreting Community to Combat COVID-19 and issued an initiative to call on all parties in and beyond the region to unite as one through difficult times.

In December 2021, the Joint Committee held an on-line conference at which the first issue of APTIF Bulletin was released, serving as a new tool to facilitate mutual understanding and regional exchanges in the T&I profession. Now 6 issues of the Bulletin have been released, disseminating industry news from participating institutions and sharing experiences within the region. The publication is highly recognized by our members and attracts global attention as well, including FIT.

The APTIF dream started in Beijing 27 years ago. Today we gather here with our aspiration unchanged—common development for Asia-Pacific. I look forward to working together with you ALL for more achievements and breakthroughs out of this forum and more sessions to come.

The topic of my speech today is “Strengthen Exchanges and Cooperation of the Asia-Pacific Translation Community Towards Better Development and Greater Prosperity.”

As an important member in Asia-Pacific and the largest developing country in the world, China boasts a huge and booming market for translation activities. I will discuss the characteristics of China’s language service industry displayed in recent years, which may provide some food for thought for other members in the region, while drawing on THEIR experiences and practices as well. I will conclude by how we envisage the next-generation translation and how it can empower the Asia-Pacific translation community towards better development and greater prosperity.

I’d like to give you a brief introduction of my association, TAC. Established in 1982, the Translators Association of China plays a pivotal role in the country’s translation and language service industry, and is also one of the founding associations of APTIF. After 40 years of development, TAC now has some 7,000 members, and speaks for 980,000 professional translators and interpreters in the country. As its membership keeps expanding, TAC has been promoting more exchanges among its branches and striving to improve services for our members and the industry. TAC, together with efforts of our members, has been working hard and contributing greatly to making our profession more specialized, well-organized, and systematic.

In the meantime, in a globalized world, we are fully aware that TAC’s development would be impossible without deeper integration with the international community. TAC joined FIT in 1987, and is now one of its largest members. We initiated APTIF in 1995 and co-hosted the 18th FIT World Congress in Shanghai in 2008. All these are part of our continued efforts to engage in international cooperation and exchanges.

As the only national association for translation and interpreting in China, TAC keeps a close eye on dynamics of global translation industry. In the context of globalization and information age, countries are more interconnected than ever in terms of economy, culture, science and technology and many other fields. Translation is growing into an important part of national core competitiveness and cultural soft power and becoming a bridge for promoting cultural communication, economic and trade exchanges, knowledge sharing, and social progress. Translation and language services around the world are developing rapidly and vigorously in concert with peace and development of our times.

At the moment, China’s translation and language service industry is showing many distinctive features. Remarkable progress has also been made in terms of growth, talent pool, technological innovation, management and international cooperation. I will share with you in some more details.

First, China’s language service industry has grown exponentially.

The past four decades since China’s introduction of the reform and opening-up policy, especially the last decade during which the country’s development has entered a new era, have been a critical period for China to interact more deeply with and open wider to the world. It has also been a time for China’s translation and language service industry to adapt to national development and advance both in depth and scope as the country integrates more profoundly with the rest of the world.

Through a continuous nationwide survey first launched in 2012, TAC has been conducting systematic research and analysis of the current situation, characteristics, problems and trends of the industry. The survey results have shown a continuous expansion and steady growth of output in the translation and language service industry over the past decade. Here are some figures . As shown in the chart, ……

The number of enterprises engaged in language service-related business in China in 2021420,000
And the number of enterprises with language service as their main business in 2021Nearly 10,000
The total output value of language service enterprises in 2021RMB55.5 billion (USD8.67 billion
And the annual average growth rate of total output value in 202111.10% 
Total output value in 2021 as a proportion of global language service forecast16.80% 
People engaged in providing translation and language service in 2021 5.38 million
Growth rate of language professionals in the past decade40% 

Among the disciplines, language education and training, information and communication technology, and intellectual property rights-related services rank as the top three in terms of business turnover. Chinese-to-international languages translation and vise versa are still the mainstay and has become more balanced, which is 37 percent for each, while translation between international languages other than Chinese has grown to about a quarter of the total volume.

Second, China’s language service industry is cultivating a diverse talent force to promote cross-sector and integrated development.

During the last four decades, China’s translation and language service industry has leveraged the world’s largest higher educational system to enjoy rapid development rarely seen in the world. According to the latest survey data, most translators in China are under the age of 45 and hold at least a bachelor’s degree, while master’s degrees are becoming increasingly common and higher degrees are not at all rare. The team of translators is clearly tiered. Close exchanges and integrated development of disciplines has enhanced market demand to the point where employers constantly expect more from practitioners, raising the bar for everyone. Multi-disciplinary talent with not only foreign language proficiency but also expertise in other fields, such as international relations, journalism & communication, economics or management science, become considerably more competitive with their employers. This table shows the number of professionals and part-time practitioners in 2021. You can see that there were 980,000 professional translators last year, up 53 percent from 10 years ago.

The next three charts show enrollments of postgraduate programs in translation and interpreting, the number of higher-education institutions offering postgraduate programs in T&I, and the number of languages with postgraduate programs in T&I. You can see that they are all going up steadily.

My third point, the development of language technology drives the application of digital and intelligent innovation in the industry.

The vigorous development of AI, big data, cloud computing and other information technologies has brought more opportunities than challenges for the industry. People with business foresight and tech savvy entrepreneurs are eager to harness new technologies and apply “Internet Plus” thinking to the language service industry and hence opened a vast ocean for language technologies to help build both a more globalized and localized future.

You may have heard of stories of Jack Ma (Ma Yun), the well-known founder of Alibaba Group, one of the largest e-commerce companies in China, and Liu Qingfeng, who co-founded iFLYTEK Co., one of the big techs in China specializing in AI. Both have made key contributions in machine translation and natural voice recognition.

From these cases, we can see that the high-tech firms strive not only for breakthroughs in world-leading research and innovation, but also to meet actual market demand. Their language technologies have not only made translation more efficient, cost-effective and dynamic, but also benefited users in China and around the world.

Fourth, China is promoting standardization to better regulate the industry.

A survey found that more than 70% of language service users believe that standardization and sound regulation are good for sustained operations of language service providers and will guarantee quality.

In recent years, supported by our members and industry players, TAC has introduced initiatives to promote standardization and self-regulation in the industry. We have conducted joint research on standardization with domestic and foreign specialized agencies, and organized compilation of 5 national standards and 23 institutional standards and industry norms. We also have organized certification of language service enterprises across the industry, and promoted international mutual recognition of language service standards. In this way, a quantifiable standardization system has gradually taken shape.

We consider translation infrastructure building tremendously important to the profession. We have collaborated with both domestic and overseas foreign language colleges and universities and language technology enterprises to develop and establish data platforms such as multilingual foreign translation corpus and terminology databases to provide guide to standardized translation of terminology in various industries. We have improved resources available and basic conditions for translation work by leveraging our powers as an industry organization to improve the profession by regulating, guiding and supporting practitioners.

Fifth, China is promoting platform-based, institutionalized openness and cooperation in international exchanges.

With the deepening of globalization, China has seen its exchanges and trade with other parts of the world multiply by leaps and bounds. During the process, the country’s translation sector has become increasingly open to and integrated into the global community, enabling language services to prosper. It is fair to say that without competent translation and language services, China would not have achieved its development miracles. And mutual learning among different cultures would not be as effective as it is today.

TAC has taken much efforts and practical measures in recent years to advance exchanges between China’s translation community and its global partners. I’m pleased to say that our efforts are well paid off. Many of you may have heard the news from the recently concluded FIT Statutory Congress. Nominated by TAC, Mr. Frans De Laet, who is our overseas expert, honorary advisor of FIT and its former secretary general, and who was professor here at BFSU from 2010-2013, stood out from many candidates and was awarded one of FIT’s most prestigious honors—the Pierre-François Caillé Memorial Medal. In the meantime, TAC’s leaders have been serving on the council of FIT for many years now and involved in decision-making of global translation affairs, offering solutions and wisdom from China and the wider Asia-Pacific region to international community.

Dear colleagues, friends,

China’s translation industry grows stronger alongside our Asia-Pacific family where we communicate, interact and bond as one. APTIF brought T&I professionals to Beijing, Seoul, Hong Kong, Bogor, Macao, Penang and Xi’an. We at APTIF, though being in different time zones and thousands of miles away from each other, managed to meet online or offline for this grand showcase of knowledge-sharing, close cooperation, and mutual assistance.

As an old Chinese saying goes, a wise learner knows how to overcome his own shortcomings by drawing on advantages of others. Asia-Pacific is the most dynamic region in the world and holds huge potential for future development. TRUE countries in the region differ a lot in their national conditions, ethnic groups, cultures, and languages, but they coexist and interact with each other along the way, producing rich fruits accordingly. China is ready to share with all countries in the region our experiences in advancing T&I industry for common development.

Among all exceptional cases in our region, I especially want to mention the T&I educational system in the Republic of Korea, which offers us much food for thought. I was there in 2019 to attend the 9th APTIF meeting, and was very much impressed. A close partner of our Joint Committee, the Graduate School of Interpreting and Translation (GSIT) of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies is a world-class educational institution for translators and interpreters. The school is also the first in Asia to join CIUTI as a regular member. I’m sure it has a lot to offer in terms of their experience in educational philosophy, talent training, curriculum arrangement, faculty, and international exchanges. Of course, I could have shared with you more cases if time permits. I do hope that the potential of APTIF could be fully unleashed to meet our needs in communicating with others, sharing academic results and ideas, and accessing practices and experiences.

Dear colleagues and friends,

I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you a study by Beijing Foreign Studies University, the organizer of this forum. Last month, BFSU released the 2021 Global Translation Index, analyzing translation capabilities of 193 countries and regions. It is noted that among the top 50 on the list, there are 12 from the Asia-Pacific region, accounting for 24% of the total number, which illustrates the importance of our region in global translation landscape and the exceptional achievements we have made in terms of translation management, language service and development potential. But it is another fact that requires our extra attention. Only 4 out of 20 top seats on the list were from Asia-Pacific (beside China, the other three are Japan, Korea and Australia), where as 16 were taken by Europe and North America. There’s much more to be done to expand our influences and empower our translation community.

Yet, we are presented with various opportunities brought by new business forms and more emerging technologies in various sectors. In the new era, we embrace the next-generation translation which, I believe, will empower Asia-Pacific region and push the development of translation industry to new heights.

It is our belief that next-generation translation will make the language service industry more equal, diversified and inclusive.

President Xi Jinping has stressed on many occasions that exchange in spoken and written languages is an important component of cultural exchanges, and that translation of classics by Chinese and foreign translators has effectively promoted exchange and mutual learning among different cultures.

The world-famous translation theorist George Steiner observed: “Every language is a world. Without translation, we would inhabit parishes bordering on silence.”

Today, about 40% of the world’s more than 6,700 remaining languages are on the verge of extinction, with one disappearing from the planet every two weeks. It is the common responsibility of the international translation community to protect rare and endangered languages and cultural heritage, protect the right to preserve the spoken and written languages of the vulnerable groups, including those with visual and hearing impairments, and promote common development in the world.

We believe that the next-generation translation community, empowered by modern technology, will develop broader vision and stronger capacity to ensure the values of equality, diversity, and inclusiveness in the translation community, and robustly promote exchanges, mutual learning, and integrated development of diverse cultures.

Next-generation translation will be empowered by and in due course propel more intelligent, efficient, greener technological innovation that will more inclusively benefit ALL in the language service industry.

From index cards to computer keyboards and speech recognition, advancements in technology have empowered translation and interpreting activities, injecting much vitality into the industry, by bringing people separated by mountains and seas to meet face-to-face in person or virtually on the cloud.

Of course, when machine translation becomes more mature and is widely adopted, ordinary translation jobs that do not require explicit accuracy will likely be replaced by AI assisted computer translation. In fact, this is already happening on an increasing scale. Nevertheless, modern technology may also serve to drive down the cost of switching among languages, therefore creating more demand that would not happen without easier access.

We believe that the next-generation translation technologies will more fully emancipate and therefore boost productivity, and allow language professionals to focus more on creative translation activities that better promote human wellbeing. We should actively seek to promote the power of intelligent, efficient, green translation and interpreting services and enhance shared benefits from interaction in technology development, standards formulation and industrial development.

Next-generation translation will attract more people to the sector for the noble cause of promoting equality, cultural inclusiveness and shared values.

Inclusiveness is a basic indicator of the progress of human civilization, and with it the value of translation activities increases. The world needs more language professionals who are globally minded, thoughtful, competent, responsible and enterprising, to create a vibrant scene in the industry.

With demand driving supply, we believe that next-generation translation and interpreting services will attract more people to the sector, who will sharpen their capabilities through interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary communication, strengthen cross-cultural communication skills alongside deepening international cooperation, break down cultural barriers, and engage in international cooperation more readily and more confidently. They will be able to promote exchanges and mutual learning among cultures with a broader mind, contribute wisdom and promote mutual respect, openness and inclusiveness.

Last but not least, next-generation translation will help build a more scientific, rational, specialized and standardized support system.

It is my belief that in the future, translation and interpreting services will take on more forms, language technology will continue to evolve, the language service market will expand, and language services will cover virtually all economic and social spheres. We will continue to uphold the principles of joint consultation and cooperation for shared benefits, rely on APTIF and other platforms, strengthen communication and coordination among translation organizations in various countries to align standards, coordinate mechanisms and share outcomes to create more growth points for international cooperation in language services, and build a diverse, interactive international translation community that works towards common development.

We hope next-generation translation organizations will act more proactively to unite diverse stakeholders, protect the rights and interests of translators and interpreters, improve the language service support system, and drive high-quality development of the global language service industry.

Dear colleagues and friends,

As an international academic forum, APTIF has come a long way and we are now at its 10th session. Over the past 27 years, the forum has enabled mutual learning and exchanges between our region and the world, contributing considerably to the sustainable development of translation industry of participating countries and regions. APTIF also played a big role in spreading the voice of Asia-Pacific to the international community, building the image of Asia-Pacific and strengthening the global influence of our region. A strong and unified Asia-Pacific will in turn enable regional members to prosper.

It is my sincere wish that all stakeholders in the region pool their strength and wisdom so that the benefits of APTIF could reach every individual in the T&I profession in Asia-Pacific.

TAC is always ready for closer communication with translation associations in the region and beyond. Let us work together towards a shared future for Asia-Pacific and brighter future for global translation community!

Thank you.

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