András Szalay-Berzeviczy, Head of the Professional Alliance for the Hungarian Register of Sworn Translators and Interpreters András Szalay-Berzeviczy, Head of the Professional Alliance for the Hungarian Register of Sworn Translators and Interpreters
Jul 30

PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS BACK HUNGARIAN TRANSLATION INDUSTRY TO PUSH FOR REFORM

Certified translation and court interpreting has been regulated in a rather obsolete, isolated and overcentralised way in Hungary for over three decades now, writes writes András Szalay-Berzeviczy, Head of the Professional Alliance for the Hungarian Register of Sworn Translators and Interpreters. There is no registry of sworn translators and therefore one can only  turn to the Hungarian Office for Translation and Attestation Ltd (Országos Fordító és Fordításhitelesítő Iroda Zrt. or OFFI)  if one needs a certified translation of his birth certificate or school degree. Certified translation in Hungary is costly, bureaucratic and rather time-consuming as one single state office can not keep up with the growing language demands in a country that is member of the European Union, the NATO and is also heavily affected by today’s migration crises and its multilingual challanges. 

OFFI was founded in 1949, a year when the iron curtain was built to devide East and West Europe. Full state control of people speaking foreign languages and thus communicating with foreigners was justifiable from the point of view of the totalitarian communistic party that just took over the leadership in Hungary. Centralisation of attested translation, and provision of interpretation for courts, prosecutor’s offices and investigative authorities took place in most of the Eastern Bloc countries under similar state offices. The political changes however that swept across Eastern Europe have soon imposed reform and decentralisation in all post-communist countries except for Hungary, where one still needs to cue up for the official, stamped translation of his document in the waiting hall of a state bureau with a queue slip in his hands.

The Association of Professional Language Service Providers (Proford), the trade advocacy body of professional language service providers (LSP) in Hungary, along with freelancer organisations, Association of Hungarian Translators and Interpreters (MFTE) and Association of Freelancer Translators and Interpreters (SZOFT) set up a working group three years ago to study the effective national regulations, conduct pan-european market researches and work out an EU-conform, counterproposal for the outdated and overcentralised Hungarian language regulations. 

Fortunately, Hungarian legislation shows clear signs to end state monopoly on attested translations and court interpreting. The newly modified Code of Civil Procedurestates that “if translation is necessary, simple translation may be applied, unless provided otherwise by law, a binding legal act of the European Union, or an international convention. If any doubt arises concerning the accuracy or completeness of the translated text, certified translation shall be applied.” In other words, the law prescribes simple translations in the course of civil procedures making certified translation on this document types redundant. The Hungarian legislator has cut the red tape in the similar way under the Public Procurement Act and the act on the execution of court enforcement, recently. This may explain why our initiative got support from a wide range of public institutes that we consulted in the last year from the Immigration and Assylum Office and the Public Prosecutor’s Office to the Hungarian Public Procurement Authority. Recent legislation trends also send us the positive message that the Hungarian legislator has understood the EU legislation trend: less need for certified translations to cut the red tape and a more mobile, cross-border service-providing scheme of attested translations to make translations cheaper and faster for the EU citizens, corporates and public institutes and the push for setting up the register of independent translators and interpreters.

The working group has released its 250-page white paper at www.forditoinevjegyzek.hu and is about to submit the concept to the Hungarian Ministry of Justice in July, 2018 with the aim of triggering the reform. The proposal serves the interest of all buyers of certified translation services be it corporations, private persons and government buyers. Its central idea is to establish the digital registry of sworn translators and interpreters relying on the best practices of Western European states and thus making certified translations faster, safer, cheaper and better in quality.