Translation Industry News | 26.04.2010

EC set to suffer shortage of English translators

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation employs over 1700 translators spread across 23 different language departments and covering all the official languages of the EU. These translation departments play a vital role in ensuring successful communication both internally and externally, between various governmental organisations as well as with any member of the public needing their help. The EC’s translation departments exist in order to allow any person in Europe to understand and participate in correspondence, legislation and ongoing European debates in whatever language they choose. As a result of this desire to provide any documentation or communication in each official language the EC are currently planning to take on more English translators, but how many people will actually make the grade in this challenging environment?

In a busy year the EC’s translation department can be responsible for translating some 2 million pages of copy. Approximately 75% of the documentation printed by the EC is written in English, and as a result the English translation department generally work with a whole variety of different documents. According to in-house translator, Rosie Morfey these documents can be anything from in-house random facts on French cheese specialities one week to greenhouse gas emissions the next .

In spite of this interesting work it is seemingly difficult to recruit new translators whose skills match those required by the EC translation departments. In general, there has been a significant reduction in the numbers of students electing to study foreign languages and pursue a career in translation. Combine this with the ill conceived attitude that knowing English is enough and the result is a severe shortage of highly qualified English translators at the EC’s disposal. Along with the need for translators to be highly proficient in their source and target language, their role demands much more. There is also the need for editors, speechwriters and web writers. It has been reported that in the next 5 years around 20% of the current English translators are due to retire; this leaves a large gap in the EC’s English translation department which needs to be filled. According to the EC being a translator in one of their departments will ensure you enjoy ‘well-paid, interesting, varied work’ hopefully this will encourage students to study languages and consider a career in translation.

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