Interpreting for the EU

Last week the European Commission' Interpreting Service was in Prague scouting for interpreting talent. With the Union's expected enlargement the number of official languages- which is currently 11- is expected to increase significantly and the Commission is already making preparations. Pavla Horakova has more....

In order to give the new member countries a voice in their own language in European institutions, there will be a great demand for new translators and interpreters. It is estimated that more than 80 Czech interpreters a day will be needed. The primary responsibility for training these highly skilled conference interpreters is up to the universities of the candidate countries. Once a year experts from the Joint Interpreting and Conference Service of the European Commission travel to candidate countries in search of potential freelance interpreters to join their team. I spoke to Tony Scott from the Interpreting and Conference Service who was chairman of the Prague examination board.

"Our service which provides interpreters for the meetings of the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, the Committee of the Regions, the Investment Bank and so on, has 500 staff interpreters and on top of that number employs between 200 and 300 freelance interpreters every day, so about 800 a day. It's been calculated that for the new languages of the candidate countries we will need at least 80 interpreters every day, so 80 for Czech for all the institutions together, that includes the Parliament, but we think that in reality the number will be greater than that and this is why we are busy looking for new people."

The scouting is usually undertaken in the form of a professional test. The commission places an advertisement in a local newspaper and invites competitors based on applications received.

All EU interpreters must have a University degree, though not necessarily in languages or interpreting - they should be extroverts and excellent communicators with strong nerves, says Tony Scott.

I also spoke with Lucie Mala and Katerina Vondrova, two candidates waiting nervously for their results at the latest Interpreting examination in Prague and they told me about their experience...

"My name is Lucie Mala, I'm 26 years old and I found out about this exam from a friend of mine, Florian, who is an EU interpreter. Well, I have butterflies in my stomach, I'm nervous, what can I say?"

"My name is Kate, and I wasn't nervous prior to the examination but I'm kind of doubting my abilities now because the jury wasn't looking very friendly but of course they need to be tough, because I'm sure they have a lot of applicants."

Forty people were invited to compete at last week's competition and less than ten were expected to pass. This number may seem low but Mr. Scott said that a 15-20% pass rate is considered quite good.

Successful candidates have taken their first step towards meeting European Union interpreting standards. Once the Czech Republic joins the EU, Czech interpreters will be required to comply with the member states' tougher demands, which means they will have to work with as many as four different languages.