Jan 17 2005

Linguistic Big Bang Creates Translation Headaches at European Union

Published by at January 17, 2005 7:20 pm under Interpretation,Translation

The enlargement of the European Union from 15 to 25 member-states with nine new languages has created a kind of linguistic big bang in Brussels, with new headaches for intepreters.

“Integrating nine new official languages at one go when the newcomers joined last May was an unprecedented situation for the Commission,” said a member of the EU’s executive organ here.

Previously the EU had 11 languages shared between 15 members. Now it has 20 shared by 25.

Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish have now been joined by Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Slovak and Slovene.

The European Commission says it is more or less satisfied with the current state of affairs after the 10 joined — the 10th being Cyprus which shares a language with Greece.

But there were limits to the available capacity, admitted Manuel Barata, of the Commission’s translation directorate.

One of the biggest headaches has been the Maltese language. All the candidates for jobs as intepreters failed in November 2003, so all EU meetings — the council of ministers, European Commissioners, press conferences — have to be covered by outside interpreters.

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