Kosovo laws in Serbian language: Bad translations, overpaid translators

The quality of the translation of documents and laws from Albanian to Serbian is bad – through the number of mistakes and content. But at the same time it is very expensive – showed data from the research on the quality of the translation of the Kosovo laws to Serbian language carried out by NGO AKTIV.

“In some Ministries, the price per page exceeds 10 euros, and the costs for translators are over 20,000 euros, who translate less than 2,000 pages annually” – said Aleksandar Rapajic, one of the authors of the research.

One of the problems is that each Ministry has its own translators who work separately, Rapajic remarked.

The research proposes a EU model as a solution.

“One of the main proposals is to launch a Translation Office. It would help all of them to work together, exchange experiences and help one another. The categorization of the translator should be made in this Office, and a two-stage translation is envisaged – the first translator translates the document, while the second translator does the proof-reading,” Rapajic explained.

In such a case, privately run companies would do the so-called “first-stage” translation, while the second level would have to be completed by the proposed Translation Office. This would, as he explained, distinguish which companies offer good services.

One of the proposals is related to a “more active participation“ of the Office of the Language Commissioner of the Government of Kosovo, i.e. providing training to already engaged translators in the translation of official documents, as well as to evaluate and categorise translators hired by private companies.

The Language Commissioner, Slavisa Mladenovic believes that the quality of translation has been improved, but that it still remains unsatisfactory.

He also pointed out that the Kosovo Law on the Use of Languages stipulates that the Albanian and Serbian versions of the law are equal and that they must convey the same meaning.

Laws should be drafted in both languages at the same time, and not translated, said Mladenovic. In practice it appears, however, that:

“Due to the absence of non-Albanians in working groups for drafting laws, this is actually reduced to the translation of the text prepared by the working group.”

He also stated that the Government of Kosovo approved a decision to establish a working group to address the translation issue that would eventually result in launching a Central Translation Service.

Speaking about laws and poor quality translation, Mladenovic cited a concrete example – Srpska Lista has recently requested an amendment to the latest Code of Criminal Procedure precisely due to the excessive number of errors in the draft.

While stressing that one should not be frugal about translation, very few  translators “are doing the job properly” he said.

“Every cent paid for bad translations is a waste. There are only good translations and horrible translations, there is no middle ground, and therefore many who earn their living doing this job do not deserve a cent of that money. And they are not well paid, they are overpaid,” he said, adding that, „only Google translate is free“, and, ”ultimately the most expensive.”

“There is no cheap translation, the one who is dedicated to doing the job properly, has to be paid fairly,” he added.

Opposed to Mladenovic and Rapajic, who agreed that there are overpaid translators in relation to the quality of their work, is Andjelka Cup, the editor-in-chief of the Gracanicaonline portal, states that “the translators are not well paid.”

“In my opinion, I think they are doing the lion’s share of work, there are so few of them, and there is so much material that they simply do not have the time,” she said.

As far as the Kosovo institutions and the use of Serbian language is concerned, she praised the Office of the President of Kosovo.

“I would especially like to commend the Office of the President of Kosovo because during the mandate of Atifete Jahjaga from who we had  never received a statement in Serbian language, now they are regular. There are errors, but this is fairly acceptable,” she remarked.

She also talked on “the distortion of Serbian language” for which, she considers, those whose native language is Serbian are to blame.

“This particularly applies to the civil sector and NGOs. My skin crawls, my hair stands on end when I get the news release with half of the text in English,“ she said.

She also pointed out the problem of non-reporting violations of the law on the use of languages to the Office of the Commissioner.

“They cannot respond if there are no reports. I would take the opportunity to invite you to exercise this right. We would help them, and of course we would help ourselves,” Cup said.

Serbian and Albanian are official languages in Kosovo. However, besides poor translation, the problem is that the Serbian translation is often missing – at counters, events organized by institutions in Kosovo. The Association of Journalists of Serbia in Kosovo often points out the problem in public.

The latest case was recorded last week when a translation in the Kosovo Assembly was interrupted after the Serbian members left the session. The administration of the Kosovo Assembly stated earlier that they were obliged to provide translation only to members.

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