Tomáš Svoboda, Łucja Biel and Vilelmini Sosoni (eds). (2023). Institutional Translator Training. Routledge Advances in Translation and Interpreting Studies. London/New York: Routledge. pp. 264. eBook ISBN: 9781003225249 (open access).

The Journal of Specialised Translation 41 (2024), 271-278

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

Included in the series “Routledge Advances in Translation and Interpreting Studies,” the book Institutional Translator Training, a collection of thorough and insightful essays, probes into the current landscape of translator training in organisations across the globe. The volume offers a detailed outline of the latest and most effective methods employed in institutional translator training, featuring an exploration of practical approaches with the active participation of different stakeholders.

The “Introduction” section of this book approaches different definitions of “institutional translation” and provides an overview of its background and key features. It also outlines the methodology used in recent studies of institutional translator training and profiles each chapter of the book, emphasizing the critical importance of this subject, particularly in the age of technology. This section is an excellent starting point for readers seeking an understanding of the context and significance of institutional translator training.

The book is divided into three parts. Part I, titled “Competences”, is comprised of chapters one to six. In this section, the EMT (European Master’s in Translation) Competence Framework (2017 edition) is introduced, focusing on the most important competences required for institutional translators and revisers, for instance in relation to technology, language and culture, subject-matter knowledge, and analytical and drafting skills.

Chapter 1 by Froeliger, Krause and Salmi provides an in-depth analysis of two recent surveys designed to identify the requisite skills for translators and revisers working within organisations. The first one, aimed to pinpoint the essential competences for institutional translation, placed a particular focus on personal and interpersonal abilities. The second survey, targeting translation students at different stages and aiming to analyse their perceived competences, revealed that students and recent graduates may not have acquired complete mastery of all the competences addressed in academic settings.

Chapter 2 authored by Lafeber presents the compelling findings of a comprehensive survey conducted in 2021 among approximately 1000 translators and revisers working in over 40 inter-governmental organisations, specifically member organisations of the International Annual Meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation, and Publications (IAMLADP). This research builds upon a previous study (Lafeber 2012). A comparison and contrast of the two surveys reveals three significant changes in the required skillset of institutional translators and revisers in the last 10 years. These include a heightened importance of contextual knowledge capacity, the ability to effectively utilise computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, and the mastery of target language skills to accurately capture “the intended effect of the source text” (40). This chapter provides useful recommendations for the training and recruitment of institutional translators, stressing the importance of specialised knowledge and research skills as top priorities for in-house training.

Chapter 3 by Prieto Ramos and Guzmán offers a valuable empirical analysis of the professional expectations placed on translators and revisers by prominent international institutions, such as the United Nations (UN), the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This study draws upon various vacancy notices to compare and contrast the duties, requirements, competences, academic backgrounds, and professional experiences sought by these institutions. The research demonstrates that most of these institutions value professional translation competence and substantive knowledge across different fields as essential for ensuring translation adequacy in diverse communicative settings.

Authored by Svoboda and Sosoni, Chapter 4 focuses on the critical role of translation technologies in institutional translator training. The authors conducted a survey to demonstrate the evolving role of technology in institutional translation practices. The survey results reveal how effective technology training can enhance the productivity and quality of their work. As Robert (2008: 112) states, technology usage capabilities in the institutional context are developed through “daily practice, coaching, and revision over the years” (75), underscoring the importance of this type of learning through coaching.

The fifth chapter examines how translators who work for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation (DGT) allocate their cognitive resources, what activities they engage in, and how they utilise digital resources during the translation process. The author, Tangsgaard Hvelplund, suggests that future studies on translation processes should consider factors like cognitive effort and cognitive load. This chapter highlights the importance of conducting data-driven research to gain insight into the cognitive mechanics of institutional translation and explores how institutions and universities can develop programs that appropriately equip translators with the necessary skills to excel in their profession.

Chapter 6 by Sosoni delves into the tendering procedures and quality guidelines implemented by EU institutions to establish the prerequisites for external translation service providers. Through interviews conducted in March 2022 with contractors providing translation services to these institutions, this study examines the challenges faced by contractors in translation provision and quality assurance, as well as their training requirements. The research findings reveal the necessity for specialised training both within an academic context and at an institutional level, underlining the importance of EU guidelines, style guides, and feedback in the form of evaluation reports provided by the institutions. However, the study also pinpoints that while EU institutions have provided training opportunities for contractors, there is a lack of “structured or systematic training” (127), which can ultimately hinder productivity.

The second part, “Practices of translator training at university level,” shifts the focus to practices of translator training. Comprised of chapters 7 to 9, this part particularly looks at training practices for beginners and professionals both in university programs and in “on the job” context.

In Chapter 7, Way and Jopek-Bosiacka offer a comprehensive overview of institutional translator training programs aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate students in universities worldwide. It demonstrates that universities tend to adopt a more general approach to translation training, integrating specific aspects of institutional translation into dedicated modules offered to undergraduate students or as part of postgraduate programs focusing on institutional translation. Notably, many universities have recently shown a preference for broader and generic nomenclature for translation modules, which is particularly prominent in universities affiliated with international organisations or located in countries that have recently joined the EU within the last 20 years.

Chapter 8 by Biel and Martín Ruano analyses the growing involvement of international organisations in supporting translator training programs at university level. It illustrates that what were formerly sporadic contacts between institutions and universities have since developed into more structured collaborations. These partnerships encompass a range of initiatives, including collaborative networks, internships and training opportunities for students, real-world translation projects, visiting schemes and seminars, train-the-trainer programs, and continuing professional development activities. Moreover, these collaborative efforts have significantly facilitated work-based learning, professionalisation of translator training, and the exchange of best practices worldwide. This chapter highlights the positive impact of international organisations in enhancing the quality of training programs and advancing the translation profession to meet the ever-evolving demands of the global market.

In Chapter 9, Baudo examines the institutional collaboration between the National University of Cordoba (UNC) in Argentina and the World  Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) from a pedagogical perspective focused on value creation. It highlights that this collaboration provides students with an opportunity to create value by applying their knowledge and skills to develop terminology records which can be effectively utilised. Moreover, the students themselves acquire valuable translation and teamwork skills through this value creation process. Therefore, this case presents the mutually beneficial nature of such collaborations in which students can both gain practical experience and contribute to the field of institutional translation.

The third part, chapters 10 to 15, showcases representative translator training practices that serve continuing professional development (CPD) in various translation institutions in the world.

In Chapter 10, Mossop outlines a Canadian case of CPD revision workshops. The term “workshop" in this context refers to “an event that deals with procedures and principles for checking translations” (181). This chapter provides a comprehensive overview of the competences expected of revisers, including the skills needed to review and correct translations, the ability to justify changes, manage multi-translator projects, and resolve conflicts. Additionally, this study delves into the implementation of these revision workshops, offering insights into logistical aspects, the topics addressed, the types of activities involved, the approach taken, and potential challenges that may arise in the context of CPD.

Chapter 11 presents a case study of CPD practice at the China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration (CFLPA) of the National Press Administration, a government-level translation institution responsible for translating Chinese political discourse into English. The chapter is based on an interview conducted by the author Tao Li with Kuijuan Liu, an experienced in-house translator at CFLPA. The interview covered various aspects of institutional translator training, including the competences necessary for translating political discourse, the requirements for recruiting external translation providers, and specific measures to enhance the skills of in-house translators. This research explores the diverse forms of CPD initiatives for political discourse translators in China, such as on-site and online seminars, tutorial platforms, study visits abroad, and measures to promote the standardisation of terminology, methods, document sharing and of the translation process as a whole.

Chapter 12 by Mavrič focuses on the translation-related CPD practices of the Directorate-General for Translation (DG TRAD) at the European Parliament (EP) within the framework of the EU's multilingualism policy. The chapter showcases DG TRAD's shift in CPD from merely training translators to developing expertise in specific areas (legal language, proofreading, clear language, etc.). It also highlights the importance of audio and video formats in translation work in response to emerging communication trends and their impact on the competencies and skills required of translators. Additionally, the chapter elaborates on the specific training programs offered to staff members at EU institutions, both designed by internal staff or external specialists. Generally, the chapter demonstrates the European Parliament's commitment to advancing the translation profession and meeting the dynamic demands of multilingual communication in today's world.

In Chapter 13, Ilja explores how the European Commission's DGT has embraced change in translation practices and implemented CPD programmes accordingly. This case study sheds light on the key areas DGT focuses on. These include fostering close collaboration with the language services of other EU institutions, actively engaging in international organisations, and implementing initiatives like the Visiting Translator Scheme (VTS). This chapter emphasises the importance of enhancing skills and confidence, acquiring expertise in specific subject fields such as law, finance, economics and science, and developing computational linguistic and data management abilities. It becomes evident from the study that DGT strives to align its activities with the evolving needs of the translation profession, ensuring its readiness for the future.

Chapter 14 by Vunder and Lacroix probes into a unique case of CPD at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), examining the training of lawyer linguists who play a critical role in translating legal documents and ensuring that EU law is uniformly interpreted and applied. New recruits undergo a thorough training process that involves learning about technologies, researching laws and termbases, learning quality management, and acquiring institution-specific knowledge. More experienced lawyer linguists receive targeted training to improve their language skills in the pivot languages, namely French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, and Polish, as well as updates on EU law and national law. The chapter concludes that CPD at CJEU has primarily centered around language and legal training and has been relatively stable over time.

Chapter 15 presents translator training and CPD practices at the UN Headquarters in New York. Lafeber highlights the principles, approaches, tools, mechanisms, and strategies implemented by the Documentation Division of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, which is responsible for providing timely and cost-effective translation services for documentation in all six official UN languages. Alongside newcomer training and the organisation of CPD activities, there is a strong emphasis on learning technologies and knowledge management tools. This study shows that the focus of CPD at the UN is undergoing a shift, moving from mastering UN style to acquiring thematic knowledge, which is essential for translators to effectively review partially automated outputs.

The contributions to this book draw upon the authors' academic studies or personal experiences in institutional translator training from various regions of the world, encompassing international and national institutions such as the European Commission, the European Parliament, CJEU, United Nations, WTO, ICC, and CFLPA, as well as reputable translation guidelines like the EMT Competence Framework (2017). The book offers a comprehensive global perspective on institutional translator training, both in academic contexts and institutions that provide translation services worldwide. The contributors offer diverse viewpoints on different relevant aspects, including the involvement of translation providers and contractors, the competences and capabilities of translators and revisers, quality assurance and translation provision requirements, institutions' expectations of prospective translators and revisers, and translator training and CPD practices in international organisations, universities, and other institutions.

The book provides a comprehensive overview of current training methods for institutional translators, with a focus on developments in translation technology and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors attach great importance to the human element in institutional translation, as well as to the enhancing of knowledge in specific subject areas, language skills, intercultural competence, and the ability to leverage technology for translation and revision purposes. Ultimately, the volume underscores the need for institutions to take a holistic approach to translator training, where theoretical and practical training components are incorporated so that training programs are aligned with the changing industry demands and technological advancements.

This volume is rich in various topics of institutional translator training. However, it is evident that certain topics could benefit from greater emphasis. For example, there is a need to explore interpreting and translation practices tailored to other specialised professions beyond the scope of law and politics, which are primarily covered in the book. Furthermore, it is worth acknowledging that the majority of case studies on institutional translator training and CPD are discussed within the context of institutions located in European countries. In future research, it is crucial to extend the focus and consideration to translation institutions in other regions and countries.

We strongly recommend this book to institutional translators, especially those responsible for organising staff training or training programs for translation service providers and contractors. The diverse practices of institutional translator training and CPD detailed in the book offer critical insights that can provide valuable reference for institutions at different levels, both in academic and non-academic settings, and for different profiles, including translation professionals, revisers, scholars, students, and contractors, among others. In conclusion, we firmly believe that this book will capture the attention of and provide insightful implications for all stakeholders and institutional translation practitioners in today's increasingly globalised community.


Huidan Liu

Shanghai Maritime University


Panpan Chen

Shanghai Maritime University