Translation on Parliament Hill

Picture of Ted HsuThis week I have been sitting on the Industry, Science and Technology committee as it edits a report on Canada’s Intellectual Property regime.

One thing I noticed is that most of the testimony and the original draft of the report were in English, which was then translated into French.

Mme. LeBlanc, the NDP’s Industry critic was the only francophone on the committee and assumed the role of checking the French translation as we went through the report paragraph by paragraph. Indeed there were a few inaccurate translations that she found, and it occurred to me that, had she not been there, these inaccurate translations would never have been corrected.

I decided to consult Stephane Dion, Liberal Official Languages critic, who reassured me that, in his experience, translation in Parliament was of very high quality.

So I think it’s normal to have a few errors in translation in these long technical documents we deal with here on Parliament Hill. Indeed I have encountered cases where legislation fixes an error in one but not the other official language.

I wonder if it is, in fact, more robust to have laws and other documents written in two languages, as a kind of redundant, fault-tolerant written record.

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