Official interpreters in EU institutions are facing unusually high demand for expert translation services across approved EU Treaty languages. Currently, the parliament employs 330 staff interpreters and 1,800 freelancers for simultaneous translations. While another group composed of 700 translators focus solely on document translations, amounting to over 10,000 pages per month. In total, the workers are required to cope with over 24 languages. The budget allotted for such translation services is $65.2 million ($13 million for external translations).
Interpretation Services Bottlenecks and Obstacles
Due to the competitive workload of interpreters, requests for changes in the nature of the work has surfaced. Employees are asking Members of the Parliament (MEPs) to speak slower during meetings to give more time for interpreters to effectively do their job. “It’s extremely important that people do not speak too fast,” said Secretary General Klaus Welle. The understaffed conditions of the department have forced workers to increase their pace. This may not be an effective solution to the issue, as inaccurate translations could cause misunderstandings between MEPs. The risk of misinterpretation at this level is staggeringly high due the number of ongoing translations taking place during live hearings and sessions.
Overburdened interpreters often resort to other employment opportunities outside of the institution. Most individuals find the work too taxing without adequate manpower, especially during peak session periods. “The average amount of time in the interpreter’s booth is 10 hours… But we need more fairness between interpreters – the individual tally varies between six and 16 hours in the booth,” explained Welle.
To streamline the interpretation process, interpreters also requested for MEPs to speak in their native language. During meetings, it is typical for representatives to mix languages together, in order to get their points across to listeners from other countries. Most individuals resort to adding English phrases with their speech. Outside of the EU parliament, this practice can be found in countries that are heavily influenced by Western or European culture. For example, Singaporeans have developed their own local language called Singlish. The English-based creole language is a mix of Chinese Mandarin, Malay and broken English phrases.
When MEPs mix languages together the quality of the translation decreases considerably. During reporting, interpreters are usually on the receiving end of the blame for inaccuracy. Unfortunately for the workers, interpretation services in such establishments will continue to grow in complexity. The parliament is slowly adding more languages to the official EU Treaty list. Irish, Bulgarian and Romanian were recently added in 2007. The latest language to be added to the list was Croatian in 2013.
Translation Services to Pick Up the Slack
Earlier this year, the European Union awarded new contracts to 31 language service providers. The Directorate-General for Translation of the European Parliament on behalf of the European Court of Auditors, the Committee of Regions, and the European Economic and Social Committee facilitated the terms of the release. According to the guidelines of the contracts, the scope of the work does not include “the systematic and full translation of the verbatim reports of the proceedings of the plenary part-sessions of the European Parliament.”
With the demand for expert interpretation services not going away any time soon, an effective way for EU institutions to address the issue is through translation services. Such businesses are known to cover various translation formats, ranging from legal reports and financial contracts to technical datasheets and white papers, which could help ease the workload for fast-moving establishments.
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