Brussels and the translator shortage

Published on 8 August 2012 at 13:03

“A language service that is stuttering along”, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung, writing on the European Union institutions in Brussels that fear “a situation reminiscent of Babel”. The European Union capital, where 2,500 multilingual translators convert all papers, projects, recommendations and decisions into the 23 official languages of the Union - 2.2 million pages in 2011 - is facing a shortage of translators, notably into English.

Since the compulsory teaching of foreign languages was abandoned in the UK [in 2002], interest in foreign languages on the island has weakened.

While the interest in “major languages” has remained steady on the continent, the translation of “smaller” languages is posing a problem.

Finding translators from Dutch, Irish (Gaelic) or Maltese into, say, Czech represents a huge challenge, often an insurmountable one.

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In Germany there are many young translators to replace those who are retiring, notes the Munich paper, but there is one specific German problem: a shortage of translators mastering their own grammar at a professional level. To this can be added wage competition from the private sector, which contributes to the pessimism of European Union institutions running short of resources.

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