Conférence internationale permanente d'instituts universitaires de traducteurs et interprètes Excellence in T&I training and research


In the light of the exploding demand for competent translators and interpreters after World War II, the T&I institutes of the universities of Geneva, Heidelberg, Mainz/Germersheim, Paris-Sorbonne, Saarbrücken and Trieste initiated a T&I quality circle that delevoped into a worldwide association.

CIUTI, yesterday and today

After the Sec­ond World War, the nations of Europe embarked upon eco­nom­ic inte­gra­tion and signed the Treaty of Rome with the goal of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and recon­struc­tion. This required mov­ing past nation­al self-inter­est in order to achieve what no coun­try could achieve on its own.

Right from its incep­tion, the Com­mu­ni­ty regard­ed each nation­al lan­guage as an offi­cial and work­ing lan­guage. Mean­while, inter­na­tion­al trade was expand­ing around the world and so was the need for trans­la­tion and inter­pre­ta­tion ser­vices. It became imper­a­tive to train a large num­ber of trans­la­tors and interpreters.

In the 1950s, such lan­guage ser­vices were pro­vid­ed by lin­guists or philol­o­gists edu­cat­ed in the lib­er­al arts or social sci­ences or trained at one of the few spe­cialised trans­la­tion insti­tutes, which were invari­ably attached to a uni­ver­si­ty. Many of these lan­guage spe­cial­ists saw the func­tion of the trans­la­tor in par­tic­u­lar as grow­ing out of dis­sem­i­na­tion of lit­er­ary, philo­soph­i­cal and sci­en­tif­ic works.

Such was the back­drop when, in 1960, the heads of the “inter­pret­ing schools” at the uni­ver­si­ties of Gene­va, Hei­del­berg, Mainz/Germersheim and Paris-Sor­bonne met in Basel to dis­cuss the inher­ent chal­lenges of train­ing trans­la­tors and inter­preters. One of those chal­lenges was get­ting their own uni­ver­si­ties to recog­nise “Trans­la­tion and Inter­pre­ta­tion” as a dis­ci­pline in its own right rather than tuck it under anoth­er depart­ment such as lin­guis­tics. Such was that con­text set in motion all that has since been exten­sive­ly devel­oped in Trans­la­tion Stud­ies, the new field that estab­lished the sci­en­tif­ic foun­da­tions of trans­la­tion and inter­pre­ta­tion as a spe­cif­ic activity. 

To bol­ster such recog­ni­tion, CIUTI’s Guide­lines for New Mem­ber­ship empha­sised that mem­bers had to be uni­ver­si­ties. Only with­in insti­tu­tions of high­er edu­ca­tion would trans­la­tion and con­fer­ence inter­pret­ing cur­ric­u­la be rec­og­nized as diplo­ma-bear­ing post-sec­ondary degree pro­grammes. In the 1950s and 60s, this spir­it of col­lab­o­ra­tion faced real obsta­cles, espe­cial­ly when it came to the mobil­i­ty of pro­fes­sors and stu­dents. Anoth­er meet­ing took place in Gene­va in 1960, this time attend­ed by the direc­tors of the insti­tutes at the Uni­ver­si­ties of Mainz/Germersheim, Saarbrücken and Trieste.

It wasn’t until 1962, dur­ing the sec­ond meet­ing attend­ed by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vien­na, that the bylaws were draft­ed. They were reworked in Paris in 1963 and adopt­ed in Tri­este in 1964, thus estab­lish­ing the Con­férence Inter­na­tionale Per­ma­nente d’Instituts Uni­ver­si­taires pour la for­ma­tion de Tra­duc­teurs et Inter­prètes (CIUTI). Its aim was to pro­mote the train­ing of pro­fes­sion­al trans­la­tors and con­fer­ence inter­preters who, in accor­dance with the Guide­lines for New Mem­ber­ship, would be job-ready upon com­ple­tion of their studies.

In 1973, CIUTI already had 13 mem­bers, includ­ing insti­tutes in Bel­gium, Den­mark, and Eng­land, as well as an insti­tute in Wash­ing­ton, DC and anoth­er in Mon­tre­al. How­ev­er, CIUTI’s actu­al activ­i­ties were lim­it­ed to Europe. As more coun­tries joined the Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ty and more offi­cial lan­guages were being used in its insti­tu­tions, CIUTI came to main­tain ongo­ing offi­cial and non-offi­cial ties with these var­i­ous Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ty bodies. 

As an organ­i­sa­tion inter­act­ing with the Euro­pean Com­mu­ni­ty, CIUTI need­ed to acquire due legal sta­tus. On 24 Novem­ber 1994, CIUTI became recog­nised under Bel­gian law as an inter­na­tion­al organ­i­sa­tion under the name Con­férence Inter­na­tionale Per­ma­nente d’Instituts Uni­ver­si­taires de Tra­duc­teurs et Interprètes. 

Up to this point, CIUTI had essen­tial­ly been a Euro­pean organ­i­sa­tion. It has since expand­ed and endorsed the 1976 Unit­ed Nations Rec­om­men­da­tion on the Legal Pro­tec­tion of Trans­la­tors and Trans­la­tions and the Prac­ti­cal Means to improve the Sta­tus of Trans­la­tors. These rec­om­men­da­tions spec­i­fy the con­di­tions nec­es­sary to improve the sta­tus of trans­la­tors not only for the sake of the pro­fes­sion itself but in the inter­est of inter­na­tion­al under­stand­ing, the shar­ing cul­tur­al val­ues and, in par­tic­u­lar, in ser­vice to the sci­ences, tech­no­log­i­cal progress and eco­nom­ic development. 

CIUTI has also incor­po­rat­ed into its objec­tives the Char­ter of the Inter­na­tion­al Fed­er­a­tion of Trans­la­tors, which calls for the recog­ni­tion of trans­la­tion as a dis­tinct, inde­pen­dent pro­fes­sion in today’s world. 

In pur­suit of its goal to fos­ter glob­al col­lab­o­ra­tion, CIUTI is active­ly look­ing to grow its non-Euro­pean mem­ber­ship. CIUTI mem­bers are well aware of the chal­lenges that such col­lab­o­ra­tion entails in terms of inter­nal organ­i­sa­tion and when it comes to the con­tent, dura­tion and test­ing require­ments of its mem­bers’ train­ing programmes.

Today, CIUTI is address­ing cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences and how they impact trans­la­tion and inter­pre­ta­tion cur­ric­u­la around the world.

CIUTI posi­tions itself as a major actor in the glob­al domain of trans­la­tion and inter­pre­ta­tion train­ing, and has forged sol­id rela­tions with the pro­fes­sion­al world of T&I. Each year the Gen­er­al Assem­bly gives the floor to asso­ci­a­tions such as FIT or AIIC, and with large inter­na­tion­al organ­i­sa­tions that employ trans­la­tors and interpreters.

Between 2003 and 2017 the CIUTI Forum brought togeth­er, most­ly in Gene­va, those work­ing in the pro­fes­sion­al domains of trans­la­tion, inter­pret­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Since 2018 this plat­form for exchange and dis­cus­sion has tak­en the form of a con­fer­ence organ­ised back-to-back with the annu­al Gen­er­al Assembly.

In 2020 CIUTI draft­ed a state­ment that aims to cap­ture both the mis­sion and the chal­lenges of T&I train­ing insti­tu­tions in the 21st century.