domingo, 5 de febrero de 2012

The greatnesses and miseries of the European Union (peace and translation of MSDS)

Not everybody is aware that on May, 9th is celebrated the Day of Europe. It is the anniversary of the "Schuman Declaration" made in Paris in 1950.

That day, against the background of the threat of a new World War, a few month after Berlin blockade by the USSR, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman read to the international press a declaration calling France, Germany and other European countries to pool together their coal and steel production as "the first concrete foundation of a European federation": the European Community of Coal and Steel (CECA).

The declaration, written principally by Jean Monnet, that later became first president of CECA, declares in its very first lines what is the main goal of the whole european project: avoid Europe falling in another war, as it had been happening every 30 or 40 years since the Middle Age.

He said: "La contribution qu'une Europe organisée et vivante peut apporter à la civilisation est indispensable au maintien des relations pacifiques" (The contribution which an organized and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations).

Along this 62 years, in the media or in the public opinion has been very easy to read or hear declarations about "the failure of Europe" or "the failure of the European Union". The alibi to such kind of declarations has changed along the years. It may be the Margaret Thatcher speech "No. No. No" in the House of Commons in 1990, the non-acceptance of the European Constitution by France in 2005 or nowadays the debt crisis of the Euro zone. But in front of such stuff, small stumbling in a long way, we can be proud to say that the menace of war in Europe never has been so far than in our days.

Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister, was born German. He was born in Luxembourg but his roots where located in Metz, his hometown, in the disputed territory of Lorraine.

He was born German, and made the first World War as German, because Lorraine become part of the German Reicht for 47 years, between the armistice of the Franco-Prussian War and the armistice of the Great War.

Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet and the rest of the oficially declared "founding fathers" of the European Union: Konrad Adenauer, Winston Churchill, Alcide de Gasperi, Paul-Henri Spaak, Walter Hallstein and Altiero Spinelli understood that over almost every thing, people came together by commerce.

And "commerce" may be understood as a very comprehensive matter because almost every aspect of human life is affected and, in the other hand, affects to trade competition, its equally and fairness.

One of the most challenging piece of legislation araised by the European Union to rule trade in recent times has been Reach Regulation, that came into force on June, 1st, 2008. The main aims of such regulation is to ensure high level of protection of nature and human health from the risk that can be posed by chemicals... and promote the free circulation of chemicals within the European Union, and enhancing the competitiviness and innovation of Chemical Industry, one of the main pilars of European trade, economy... and employment.

In this last vector, in employment, the importance of the big amount of SMEs in European Chemical Industry worth to be taken with a little bit more of tenderness. The Directive, very ambitious in aims and scope, seems has forgotten to think over them and ignores the diference between fixed cost and variable cost, and how the competitiviness of SMEs, in front of the big transnational companies, critically depends of a controled ratio of fixed cost per tonne.

But let me present you an example. The challenge that European small and medium sized enterprises are confronting nowadays. Something that is a very minor problem for a big company producing millions of tonnes per year but a serious issue for small bussiness.
Hello Luis.

Listen, do you have any reference of any company dedicated to translating safety data sheets (MSDS with the exposure scenarios) into French, German and Italian? We have them in English, from the consortium, and we've already made translation into Spanish but we have some customers in France, Germany and Italy.

How much would be the budget to translate 20 MSDS with 30 or 40 pages each? ( Please find attached a sample).

Greetings and happy new year.


Hello Javier,

Let me explain how we have organized this issue and the rates we have found for this service.
Since the start of the deep reviews of the MSDS and the onset of exposure scenarios, we have had constant demands for translation assignments ... but mainly translations from English to Spanish.

In the market, we found technical translation rates in wide range with diferent prices depending of languages,tariffed by words ... the problem is that the results of some of this translations have not been satisfied and reviews we've done of the work performed by professional translators have had to be some depth.

Furthermore, given the fact that translate scenarios is actually simpler than it seems. Whenever you are familiar with the document and you know how it is structured so that, despite being much longer in reality the effort to translate it is considerably less.

The rates we have seen in the market by professional translators, applied to the sample you sent me, 3818 words for MSDS and  9981 words for scenarios would leave these figures:

Lowest bid (€/word)
229.08 €
598.86 €
827.94 €
305.44 €
798.48 €
1103.92 €
343.62 €
898.29 €
1241.91 €
3173.77 €

3173.77 € x 20 MSDS = 63.475,40 €

After thinking a lot about it and make a couple of experiments, we decided that knowledge about REACH, CLP, and the MSDSs themselves are far more important than knowledge of language and that Borja and I, with our knowledge of English, French, German, Italian and Portuguese, are able to do the translation and then, included in our price, sent them to a professional translator to review the style and grammar. 

We are able to do a technically correct translation and more than enough to understanding but, especially in German, we prefer to review them and avoid failing in a declination or make a misspelling.

Since we only translate MSDS and scenarios, we decided not tariffed by words and apply a standard price because, in addition, the MSDS and the scenarios are very similar in all companies. 
In short, we charge 400 € per MSDS/ language and 250 € more for the scenario.

I'm very sorry but we haven't been able to find a sure enough but cheaper way to address this matter.

Kind regards

Jean Monnet had a story of that momentous May 9th, that explains clearly how the declaration itself was a bet on the future:

Robert Schuman, who was in a hurry to take the train to London, skillfully dodged specific questions about the future of his plan from the journalists in his way out of the palace of Quai d’Orsay, site of the Minister,  until one of them exclaimed: "So this is a leap into the unknown?". "That is" replied Schuman confidently "a leap into the unknown" 

When our SMEs start his journey into de REACH process they where only sure of one thing: it was a jump into the future, it was a leap into the unknown... we only can hope present European authorities have a vision as correct as Schuman and Monnet had in that time, and they are aware that competitiveness increases with the rise of supply, not with its reduction. 

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