Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The English Not Producing Enough Interpreters

From BBC:

The European Commission has launched a recruitment drive for native English speakers, predicting a serious shortage of interpreters.

The demand for mother-tongue English translators is fuelled by the fact that it has replaced French as the "lingua franca" of the EU's civil service.

EU bodies risk losing about half of their English-language interpreters in the next 10 years, the commission says.

It says English-speaking countries are not producing enough linguists.

Many native-English linguists were recruited from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s after the UK and the Irish Republic joined the EU.

But the commission says that as they reach retirement age they are not being replaced at the same rate.

The commission says it is looking to recruit about 300 English "native speaker conference interpreters" within the next 10 years.

It acknowledges that it faces competition from UN bodies for top linguists.

"There is a tangible deficit in the number of English booth interpreters available... at peak times," it says.

EU institutions employ an army of interpreters to cope with the needs of the 27-nation bloc.

The European Parliament alone employs up to 1,000 interpreters for its full sessions. With 506 possible language combinations the interpreters often work via a third, or "relay", language, such as English.

The EU has put a video clip describing the role on the YouTube video-sharing website, to interest young English speakers in interpreting.

The commission says there is also a shortage of Romanian, Latvian and Maltese interpreters.

Commenting on the commission statement on Thursday, Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth deplored the decline in language skills in the UK.

"The lack of fresh graduates with adequate language skills is a great concern and reflects years of declining importance of foreign languages in our schools...

"Hundreds of future linguists are not being given the start in our schools that they need. Great talent is being allowed to slip through the educational net and the results will be felt in our economy," he said.


Sarah M Dillon said...

There was a great discussion on this over at The Greener Word this week, with weigh-ins from translators based in the US & UK too. I left a lengthy comment there, but basically my point was that according to an Irish Times report on the same issue, apparently there *is* a reasonable flow of suitably qualified (possibly Irish?) graduates sitting the Commission accreditation exams. The problem is they're simply not taking up the positions. There was an interesting discussion over at The Greener Word on why this might be, and the general consensus was that the Commission itself could do more to make the positions and application process more attractive to bright young multilingual graduates. (My personal experience supports this by the way!)

Incidentally, Irish graduates of all disciplines tend to buck the native English-speaker stereotype, as they are generally pretty nifty on the languages front. All university degree courses in Ireland offer the option of taking a European language as a 'minor', and lots of graduates opt to spend time studying in a non-English speaking university on top of this. (Plus, all students in formal education have to study at least one, but often two, additional language(s) to the age of 18). Interesting that that's never the story that gets out when they speak of native English-speakers and their (typically poor) language skills though, isn't it?! ;)

Brian Barker said...

Surely the long-term solution of the language problem, in the European Parliament, must be a non-national language!

This is why I would plea for the Esperanto solution.

If you have time please check the global language, Esperanto website on http://www.lernu.net