Nunavut government strives to improve Inuktitut translations

Nunavut's Department of Culture and Heritage says it is committed to having better 'quality control' for its translations, even as demand for translated documents continues to increase.

For the first time, Department of Culture and Heritage has a full staff of translators

'I see a lot of errors in the business plan,' Tununiq MLA Joe Enook said in Inuktitut. 'Sometimes what I read here is very wrong.' (Nunavut Legislative Assembly)

The Government of Nunavut is committed to improving the quality of its translated materials, even as the demand for translation services continues to grow, representatives of the Department of Culture and Heritage told MLAs Tuesday. 

The department's translation bureau has the arduous task of co-ordinating the translation of government documents into all of Nunavut's official languages: English, French and the Inuit language (both Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun). 

Until now, it's been performing those tasks without a full staff. 

"This is the first year that all our positions are fully staffed," said Stephane Cloutier, acting deputy minister of Culture and Heritage.

"All the translation positions are fully staffed. Hopefully this will improve how we deliver services to departments and public agencies."

The demand for translation services continues to grow, said Cloutier. In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the department's staff and freelancers translated roughly 4.3-million English words into French, Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun. 

Last year, that number increased to about 5.2-million words.

MLAs tout importance of preserving Inuktitut

As the Department of Culture and Heritage arguably leads the government in its task of preserving and enhancing Inuit culture, members of the Committee of the Whole took the opportunity to underline the importance of the safeguarding the language. 

"We do not want the Inuit language to be forgotten," Netsilik MLA Emiliano Qirngnuq said in Inuktitut. 

Even as the demand for government translations continues to increase, Stephane Cloutier, the acting deputy minister for culture and heritage, says the department is committed to improving the quality of editing and proofreading. (Nunavut Legislative Assembly)

"I want everyone to remember that Inuktitut is the original language of the Arctic." 

Tununiq MLA Joe Enook expressed frustration at what he called poor translations, waving his thick copy of the 2016-2019 Business Plan for the Government of Nunavut. 

"Year after year, I have mentioned this material is not proofread," he said in Inuktitut.

"We all know it. We all see the incorrect spelling and word choice. Sometimes, it makes no sense." 

'Quality control' will be improved

Cloutier acknowledged this problem, saying his department has translated the dense material every year since 1999 and in the last few years has had "shorter timelines" to produce an Inuktitut version. 

"I will make sure quality control is exercised," acting minister Johnny Mike told Enook.

The department said it is working on ways to ensure translations are accurate and consistent across the territory. Among the simplest of changes is the hiring of staff who will be able to lay out a clearer process for proofreading.

"Until recently we did not have positions dedicated to editing and reviewing," said Cloutier. 

"Now, in the last few months we have filled those positions. We have one for Inuinnaqtun in Kugluktuk, as well as one here in Iqaluit for Inuktitut."

The Department of Culture and Heritage says Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit, the Inuit language authority, is working on a test which would assess the bilingual capabilities of staff. 

"I don't know if it's for next year or the following year, but they have in their plans as priorities to also do assessment of translators and interpreters to ensure they are using the highest quality of Inuktitut." said Cloutier.

The Committee of the Whole is set to wrap up its department-by-department review of the government's 2016-2017 main estimates this week. 

On Monday, MLAs deferred approval for the Department of Environment, until after the committee finishes evaluating the remaining departments.