EU addresses shortage of French interpreters

European Commission representatives are in France this week to encourage young people to consider a career in languages, amid fears that the EU executive will face a “serious shortage” of French-language interpreters within five to 10 years.

A new awareness-raising campaign, which echoes similar efforts by the Commission in the UK to address a “succession crisis” in its English interpretation team (EURACTIV 18/02/09), sees the EU executive, the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice join forces to advertise careers as interpreters at the European Education Salon in Paris (19-22 November). 

“Without an increase in the number of qualified graduates leaving interpreting schools and universities, the EU institutions risk losing almost half of their French-speaking conference interpreters over the next decade,” the European Commission warns, fearing “a potential crisis” in finding replacements for retiring French linguists. 

Students visiting the joint stand can obtain information about a career as an interpreter in the EU institutions, and try interpreting for real using the ‘Speech Repository’, an e-learning tool for interpreters which covers all 23 official EU languages. 

Outlining the thinking behind the initiative, the Commission said its interpretation directorate wants “to make sure that young people know that interpreting can be an interesting career choice for university graduates with a good knowledge of languages”. 

The stand, at the Parc des Expositions in Paris, is complemented by a video clip hosted on YouTube, entitled ‘Interpreting for Europe – into French’ and aimed at audiences in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. 

The clip can also be accessed via the websites of the EU and national institutions. 

A similar campaign will be launched before the end of the year to encourage young German speakers to consider an interpreting career at the EU institutions.

Meanwhile, the Commission also has a presence at Expolingua Berlin, a two-day language show taking place in the German capital this week (20-22 November). 

The event, held under the patronage of Multilingualism Commissioner Leonard Orban, will see representatives of the EU executive make similar efforts to raise enthusiasm for careers in languages.  

The EU institutions spend around €1bn on translation and interpreting every year, representing about 1% of the EU budget or €2.50 per citizen. 

72% of EU documents are originally drafted in English, 12% in French and just 3% in German, while 88% of the users of the European Commission's Europa website speak English, according to figures from the EU executive. 

The Commission has already carried out awareness-raising campaigns to address shortages of English, Czech and Latvian interpreters. 

  • 20-22 Nov.: Expolingua Berlin.
  • By end of year: French-language campaign to be replicated for native speakers of German. 

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