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Opening address to the annual gathering of the International Annual Meeting on Computer-Assisted Translation and Terminology (JIAMCATT)
Geneva, Switzerland
11 April 2007

Opening Remarks by ITU Deputy Secretary-General Mr Houlin Zhao 


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to ITU and to open the annual gathering of the International Annual Meeting on Computer-Assisted Translation and Terminology, which is also well known by its acronym, JIAMCATT. I am informed that this meeting has existed since 1985. So, for more than 20 years you have been exchanging ideas and experiences in this important field in the interests of improving working methods, and hence the quality of our translations and the productivity of the people who produce them. Now, after five years of meetings in other cities at the invitation of other international organizations, you are back in Geneva. I hope this environment will be conducive to the fruitfulness of your work, which is of benefit both to translators and to those they serve.

Your eight-letter acronym, JIAMCATT, reminds me of the well-known board game, Scrabble. I can recognize in it the word CAT, which does not refer to the “small domesticated carnivorous mammal with soft fur, a short snout, and retractile claws”, as defined in my dictionary, but to computer-assisted translation or computer-assisted terminology, depending of the meaning of the letter T. This is the core subject of your discussions. Indeed, using another word from the letters of your acronym, I would say that this is your AIM.

Since 2005, all ITU work has to be carried out in the six official languages of the Union on an equal footing. However, some of the organization’s work, for example, working groups, study groups, regional conferences might not require the use of all six languages. The initial drafting of ITU technical recommendations is usually carried out in one language only. Like many other international organizations, ITU is expected to produce high-quality documents and products in its official languages while often relying on reduced resources.

As the Chief of our Conferences and Publications Department likes to say, “multilingualism is at the very heart of the United Nations family of international organizations. It gives an organization such as ours the means to be effective, useful and relevant by enabling people from all over the world to communicate and reach agreement on the wide variety of issues dealt with in ITU”.

Telecommunications, communication and translation share many important characteristics. Every time someone, somewhere, picks up a telephone and dials a number or answers a call on a mobile phone, sends a fax or receives an e-mail, listens to the radio, watches a favourite television programme or helps a small child master the latest radio-controlled toy, takes a plane or a ship, takes money from Bank’s machine at their home town or abroad, he or she benefits from the work of the International Telecommunication Union. All of these things are possible thanks to telecommunication technologies as well as language translation. While human translation and interpretation still play an important role in our modern life, the computer-assisted translation tools are developed very rapidly. ITU and many international organizations have introduced these tools, although the tools are far from our satisfaction.

I am aware of how difficult it is to get computers to process human language. I remember, in 1986, when I started to work in ITU, our assistants used typewriters and the professional staff like me heavily rely on our assistants to type documents. We started to use word processors in late 1980s. If I remember correctly, I noted the machine-translation among English and French in early 1990s, with some negative comments by my colleagues in translation services. However, we have to make progress to use machines to help us.

There are more than 6000 natural human languages in the world according to UNESCO statistics and all languages are of equal importance. During the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, I had an interview with BBC. We discussed about multilingual internet. I informed them that to realize this ambitious goal, we need a tool to translate the human languages into one of the main human languages so that everyone can communicate. Special attention should be paid to the indigenous peoples, as well as to the preservation of their heritage and their culture legacy. I am pleased to see the good work done by you. I would encourage you to continue.

Dear Colleagues,

I do not want to take more time away from your discussions. You are experts of translation and interpretation of human languages. You would provide more intelligence to improve our professional work, to improve any tool which would assist us for our work. I sincerely wish you a very successful meeting. Thank you very much for your attention.

 

 

 

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