Fearing that the EU institutions will likely face an acute shortage of English interpreters by 2015, the Commission is seeking to boost language learning among young people "to make sure that EU multilingual meetings can continue to be fully serviced with interpreters" when many of the current staff retire.
The campaign, which follows on from similar schemes run by the EU executive's interpretation directorate in the Czech Republic and Latvia, includes a video to promote the interpreting profession in the UK.
In the hope of "making English a less rare language," the Commission will also make use of online platforms "to get in touch with possible future linguists for the EU language services". "We need to make sure that young Europeans know that language study can be important for a future career and that the institutions offer a variety of jobs for excellent linguists," argues the EU executive.
Education largely remains a national competence in the EU. Indeed, one official admitted to EurActiv that "the Commission can't decide national policies". But he did stress the need "to find a way to encourage people to learn other languages" despite the dominance of English, particularly if countries like the UK are to remain competitive.
The official cited promoting the European Masters in Interpreting and raising awareness of post-graduate conference interpreting training available in the UK as examples of concrete steps that the Commission could take.
Such training is available at Heriot-Watt, Bath, Newcastle, Leeds and Salford universities among others, he added.
"If we do nothing, the EU institutions will lose at least one third of their English language interpreters by 2015 due to retirement," the EU executive states, citing a global shortage of English mother tongue interpreters and the recruitment efforts of competitors like the UN and the World Bank among problems faced by the European institutions.
Another problem is lack of adequate replacements for retirees. "Thanks to continuous on-the-job training, retiring interpreters leave with more languages than can be provided by young colleagues coming in," the EU executive laments.
The Commission's UK campaign will be replicated for native speakers of French and German later this year.