BRUSSELS Feb 25 A new translation engine that
can cut faster through the rarefied vocabulary of Brussels
technocrats in 23 European languages will be rolled out by the
European Commission in July in an effort to cut costs.
The in-house system, known as MT@EC, will be more familiar
with EU jargon than online translation services such as Google
Translate and will be faster and more efficient than the
Commission's existing systems, EU officials said.
The European Union may have to lay off 10 percent of its
2,500 translators in the next five years under a new long-term
budget agreed by member states this month.
With the avalanche of documentation produced by the European
Union's complex bureacracy showing no sign of abating, the
Commission's translators could be snowed under unless it can
find new ways to speed up their work.
The new engine operates using statistical algorithms and is
less costly to maintain than existing EU translation systems as
it requires fewer specialised staff, project manager Spyridon
"We have one of the biggest collections of human
translations," Pilos said. "We want to use this material to
teach the machine to translate in terms of the style and
terminology we want."
The service is also designed to be more secure than free
translation engines open to the public.
Around a quarter of text in EU documents that need
translating tends to be previously translated material, said
Commission spokesman Dennis Abbott.
Commission translators preparing to decipher a document will
see some text highlighted in green and yellow, indicating it has
been recognised from memory.
Phrases that are not recognised would still be translated
manually, or with the help of the machine translation, which
provides a rough version to be edited by a human.
"I could do the work that I do without (machine
translation), but I just like working with it," said Commission
translator Ann Barnett, who translates French, Italian and Greek
into English. "I like having something that I can pull apart and
put together again."
Development of a rule-based machine translation system
started in the 1970s, and Abbott said the Commission started
using machine translation intensively in the 1990s. EU
institutions and national governments used this system until
2010, when it became outdated and was phased out.
The project is budgeted at 4.3 million euros ($5.68
million)over three years, but Pilos said the cost benefits of
MT@EC were difficult to estimate for now.
Commission translators have been using an early version of
the system since July 2011. A more polished service will be
available for all Commission staff members in July, and it will
be used eventually by other EU institutions and member states.
($1 = 0.7567 euros)
(Brussels Newsroom; Editing by Rex Merrifield and Tom Pfeiffer)