Job prospects in the Tower of Babel

The 11 official languages of the European Union already make for quite a mouthful, but when a fresh batch of members states joins next year - it will cost European taxpayers 1 billion euros a year just to translate all the speeches and official texts from Brussels. But it also means better job prospects for translators from the candidate countries....

Starting next May the linguistic kaleidoscope will add new colours to the EU's Tower of Babel, which will mean job prospects for Polish translators. Irena works as one in a legal office in Warsaw. She is one of the thousands of Poles who applied for positions in the EU. Now she is waiting for qualification exam, which she perceives as a big chance leading to the fulfilment of a dream - a job in Brussels.

"My application to take up a position in Brussels is only a kind of adventure, seeking what to do next. It's not a need or requirement. Well, it's an experience. It wouldn't be a possibility open right now and you never know what will come up next. It's just a kind of adventure."

Are you aware that a lot of people have applied for translator's positions in Brussels?

"Sure I'm aware. It's enough to see all the meetings, how many people turn up to the meetings and how many students have eyes wide open seeing the possibility to start working for Brussels. It's a dream, and I don't think it' s real realistic, but it is a possibility and chance and games so you can take a chance to participate in it."

Rumours have been circulating about a possible salary Brussels may offer - tempting especially in view of high unemployment in Poland. I asked Maria Rzewuska, deputy director of the Translation Department in the Office for the Committee of the European Integration whether this is something really worth fighting for.

"I think that people who have a nice important position here, who know the market, who feel well here and have their customers, they should seriously think whether it's very attractive for them to move - to leave everything behind and to try something else. On the one hand, yes. Of course, it's a kind of new career in an international environment. On the other hand, it may be discouraging. For young people it will be always a hope."

These views were reflected by Jakub Rudnicki, managing director of Europscript Polska - a branch of a Luxembourg-based translation company.

"I would use the terms of Prof. Belka who spoke about Iraq, more or less: Let's forget about Brussels' or Iraqi's Eldorado. It is not the Eldorado. It is for very few, very high qualified and the best, even best of the best. Let's not forget that the number of employees that Brussels can consume is quite limited. So don't think about Bonanza or Eldorado in Brussels."

In spite of that, thousands have already registered online for the recruitment competitions. But only a few hundred will be needed on the spot to fulfil a basic rule described once by Eneco Landaburu, chief of European Commission's enlargement office: "It is the democratic right of every member state to use its own language. This rule must be kept".