EU launches Master’s in Translation network

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The EU this week (8-9 December) launched a European Master’s in Translation (EMT) network to provide high-quality education for translation students in view of nurturing a competent workforce for its institutions.

The launch comes amid fears that the European Union will experience serious shortages of languages staff in the coming years as it faces up to a global shortfall, improved recruitment efforts of competitors like the UN and World Bank, and a lack of adequate replacements for retirees. 

The EMT network, which gathers universities providing translator training programmes across Europe, is holding its constitutive meeting in Brussels “to plan which competences a professional translator of the future may need”. 

Hailing the launch of the network, Multilingualism Commissioner Leonard Orban said “translation is a job with a future”. 

“It is a job in constant evolution involving subtitling, localising, editing and web-editing,” Orban said, explaining that it includes competences that are not purely translation-related, citing “project management, negotiation with clients, time and budget management, [and] invoicing” as examples. 

34 universities are taking part in the network for an initial four-year period, with more to be added after a second call for participants at the end of 2010. 

The EMT will serve as a “quality label for translation programmes at Master’s level” and help “broaden the professional horizons” of translation students, while at the same time “nurturing a competent workforce” for public institutions, according to the European Commission. 

The new programme will seek to produce translators competent in all aspects of translation service provision, including marketing, customer relations, time and budget management and invoicing, as well as training in new technologies and specialist fields. 

Commissioner Orban expressed hope that the EMT would have the “side effect” of “stimulating a debate on what it takes to be a first-class professional translator,” help to orient research in the field and eventually improve the quality of translator training. 

The present 23 official EU languages constitute 506 translation and interpreting combinations, a figure which would increase significantly if Croatia, Serbia and Turkey join the bloc. 

Fears that the EU will face a “serious shortage” of interpreters within five to 10 years have led its institutions to run joint awareness-raising campaigns this year to encourage young people to consider language careers in Brussels. 

Indeed, Commission representatives were in France last month alongside colleagues from the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice to advertise careers as interpreters at the European Education Salon in Paris (EURACTIV 20/11/09). 

November’s effort follows earlier initiatives to boost interest in EU language careers among native English (EURACTIV 18/02/09), Czech and Latvian speakers amid fears of a “succession crisis”. 

This week’s meetings will see the establishment of working groups to discuss the future of the translator’s profession, translation tools and technology, and translation education. 

The EU's language industry is worth €8.4bn and is set to grow by 10% annually over the next few years after having recorded one of the highest growth rates of any industrial sector despite the economic crisis, according to a European Commission-backed study published in November 2009 (EURACTIV 30/11/09). 

The EU institutions employ translators and interpreters for all 23 of the bloc's official languages, spending around €1bn on their language services 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. 

  • 8-9 Dec.: Constitutive meeting of European Master’s in Translation (EMT) network. 
  • End 2010: Second call for participants in EMT network. 

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