E.g., 04/05/2020
E.g., 04/05/2020

Silent Advocacy: Answering Andrus Ansip's Call

By: Robert Etches, CIO - TextMinded A/S

06 July 2016

Almost a month to the day after his blog post about multilingualism in the European Digital Single Market (DSM), Brexit has made Andrus Ansip’s (Vice-President of the European Commission) message even more relevant. British isolationism can only weaken the position of English as the lingua franca of European politics and commerce, and the need to utilize Europe’s multifarious social-cultural heritage rather than see it as a barrier has never been more important.

My main reason for drawing attention to the Ansip blog is because hardly anyone else has done so—minus one notable exception. We complain about a lack of awareness around multilingualism, and yet here is someone representing the world’s largest multilingual market and advocating the importance of linguistic diversity, and we, the industry, react with…silence.

As Mr. Ansip writes, the European Union has invested €200 million in language technology during the last seven years. Not to mention backing a wealth of other initiatives, such as the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

As I have pointed out on several occasions, not least in This Changes Everything at GALA Seville, our industry is about to embark upon an exciting journey that will change core areas of how we operate. We can no longer ignore major social, economic, and technological trends already impacting other industries: the collaborative commons, the sharing economy, bitcoins, the API economy…all of these will influence, are already influencing, how businesses, the public sector, and people at large are communicating.

Corporates especially have sat for years with the impossible challenge of making unchanging budgets match the exponential growth of information that needs to be shared with their customers, consumers, partners, staff…let’s just call them their communities. The answer so far has been negotiating lower word rates and better CAT rebates with their language partners. Super? Not! The result is that less than 0.01% of all digitized information is now available in more than one language. What’s our plan for opening up for the other 99.99%? I think we have just about as much idea as Mr. & Mrs. Brexit.

But it is refreshing to see that, while the corporate world is slowly waking up to the need to think new thoughts (the Translation Hub discussed at the recent SAP Forum in Germany being a case in point), EU politicians have seen the light and are leading the way.

A majority of GALA members have headquarters in Europe, and Europe is the natural home of multilingual communication. Europeans need to start vocally advocating for, and actively fashioning, this turn around. As such, it is fantastic to note that we have support in high places.

Mr. Ansip’s message is loud and clear:

"Overcoming language barriers is vital for building the DSM, which is by definition multilingual. It is now time to reduce and remove the language barriers that are holding back its advance, and turn them into competitive advantages." 

I am laying down a gauntlet for the Program Committee for GALA Amsterdam in March 2017: How about booking Commissioner Ansip to pop over from Brussels and hold a key note for us? Thirty minutes of advocacy and awareness. How can he say no?!

Robert Etches

Robert Etches is currently Head of Translation Innovation at Semantix, the leading language company in the Nordics. A part of the industry for 30 years, Robert has worked with every aspect of it, from freelance translation to top management and everything in between. Always active in the community, Robert was co-founder of the Word Management Group (1996), the TextMinded Group (2007), and the Nordic CAT Group (2011). He served four years (2013-2016) on the Board of GALA (two as Chairman), and is currently a board member at LT-Innovate. The power of sharing, innovation and a passion for language: these are what still get him out of bed in the morning!