English language interpreters become endangered species


The English language will soon be deposed as the dominant linguistic force within the European Commission's interpreting services, it was revealed today.

The Commission is set to lose one third of its English language interpreters by 2015 due to retirement and a shortage of new recruits means there will soon be more French, German and even Italian interpreters working within its institutions.

A large number of native-speaker English linguists were recruited to work at various posts within the Union from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s after Ireland’s and the United Kingdom’s accession to the then EC in 1973.

But as they reach retirement age, they are not being replaced at the same rate, the Commission said.

The situation has prompted an urgent recruitment drive on the part of the Commission to attract young English-speaking graduates to the interpreting profession.

The Commission said there is “a tangible deficit” in the number of English booth interpreters available to interpretation at peak times.

“Although the universities are beginning to produce a steady flow of good candidates for our accreditation tests, as yet the numbers coming on stream are not sufficient to meet present or projected demand, particularly in view of the age pyramid in the English interpreting unit,” it said.

Director of the European Commission Representation in Ireland Martin Territt said: "DG Translation, the Commission's service responsible for translating documentation, is facing a major generational change. It is expected to lose at least 20 per cent of its staff by 2015.”

"At the same time, demand for translation into English has increased 45 per cent over the last five years as 11 new official languages have been adopted by the EU.

"We need the best translators with English as a first language. Irish people are in a unique position to work in a stimulating and rewarding career in a core European Institution," he said.

The Commission believes the growth in the use of English as a means of communication worldwide has been accompanied by a corresponding belief that being able to speak English is enough for international contacts, both for one's work and for one's personal or social life.

Young people, especially in English-speaking countries, are increasingly seeing no advantage to themselves in learning another language, it said.

Over the next 10 years, the numbers of French, German, Italian and Dutch interpreters retiring are also substantial but the rate of decline is not as marked as those who translate into English.