Translation Process for CIA Documents

by Marie-Eve Bourgault

The Canadian Institute of Actuaries takes its Bilingualism Policy very seriously. At the Head Office, the golden rule is that every document must be published simultaneously in both languages. And so, once a document is approved by the CIA governing entity, it is subjected to a rigorous process of editing and translation in order to deliver a document of the highest quality.

When the staff receives a document, be it an article penned by a member or a long document that is the product of weeks, months or even years of research on the part of a task force, Josée Gonthier, the communications manager sees to it that the translation process runs smoothly. Most of the time, the document was written in English, in which case it moves under the watchful eye of Bonnie Robinson, the CIA’s English editor. She makes any necessary changes to spelling, punctuation, grammar, formatting, and so forth.

Next, the document is sent either to a translation firm or a freelance translator. There are exceptions, such as when the document was written by the Actuarial Foundation of Canada, in which case it must be translated in-house by Head Office staff. Many short texts, most of which are of a non-technical nature, are also translated internally, either by the communications manager or myself, the French editor. Texts of a more technical nature are sent to a firm for handling by specialized translators. Less technical texts are sent to a freelance translator. We can expect them to translate 2,000 words a day, so if a document is 10,000 words long, at least five business days are needed for them to do their job well.

Our receipt of the translated document does not, however, mark the end of the translation process. The communications manager and the French editor team up on a side-by-side bilingual review to ensure that all of the elements are there, that there has been no subtle shift in meaning, and that there are no spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors. For a technical document, the translated and revised text is then sent to a Francophone actuary specializing in the field in question, who performs a technical revision of the French text. In most cases, these actuaries perform this work on a voluntary basis. Typically, they have two to three weeks to complete their revision, but this can vary according to the length of the document, the urgency of its publication, and the actuary’s schedule.

When the actuary sends the revised document to the communications manager, she incorporates the changes, and then rereads this final version. If the original version was already approved, both versions are now ready to be posted at the same time on the CIA website. Otherwise, this will have to wait until all approvals have been finalized. Special permission to post the original version before the translation has been finalized may be granted by the CIA Executive Director or President if the document is very large or required quickly by the members. In that case, an executive summary of the document in English and French is still required, to be published concurrently with the original version of the document. Otherwise, both English and French versions are published simultaneously.

Translating and publishing standards of practice, educational notes and any other guidance material, bylaws and rules of professional conduct, are the responsibility of Josée Racette, the editor and project manager, professional practice. She translates and revises these documents, although the process remains the same.

As you can see, the translation process can require a lot of time and effort. A number of people have a hand in producing a bilingual document and publishing it simultaneously in both languages. It requires a great deal of coordination, attention to detail and teamwork, but the quality of the writing and compliance with the Bilingualism Policy are worth the trouble. Indeed, the CIA is known internationally for the quality of its written materials, both in English and in French.

Marie-Eve Bourgault, CIA Head Office.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires