By Paula Fallas Sánchez - Member of the Student Government (GOES)
The European Union’s motto ‘United in diversity’ can be reflected in this quote found in their language policy: “Languages are an integral part of European identity and the most direct expression of culture” (Hériard, 2019, para.1). The EU has been crucial in the development and spread of interpretation as a profession. It is of great importance for future interpreters to understand the role of the EU in the profession, as well as the opportunities that working with the EU could bring.
The European Union is the biggest employer for interpreters in the world, seeing that it has around 1,000 staff interpreters and 3,000 freelance interpreters that are accredited by the European Union (Mikkelson & Jourdenais, 2018). In fact, Europe is the interpretation capital of the world, and much of it is credited to the European Union’s great need for interpreters due to the three main institutions of the EU having extended interpreting services (Mikkelson & Jourdenais, 2018).
Currently, because of its multilingual policy, the European Union has 24 official languages (European Parliament, n.d.). This makes it so that in every official meeting between the 28 members, there are 552 possible language combinations that need to be covered by a team of at least 72 interpreters (Mikkelson & Jourdenais, 2018). Since the number of possible language combinations is so large, the interpreters that work for the EU must have several passive languages (languages that they can understand perfectly, but are not their native language), though only one active language (the interpreter’s native language) is needed (Mikkelson & Jourdenais, 2018). For many interpreters, it is a desired goal to work for the European Union.
Seeing that the European Union official meetings may have more than 24 languages due to guests being invited from other countries, they are always in need of more interpreters to hire. Freelance interpreters may be hired, regardless of their nationality, to work for the EU as well as be accredited by the EU as long as they meet the requirements and pass the pre-selection test followed by the accreditation test (European Union, 2020). While the EU will accept languages apart from the 24 official ones from freelance interpreters, many students wish to learn more languages, but are unsure of which language would benefit their career the most. The EU provides all candidates with a list of languages, as well as which language combination have higher priorities (European Union, 2020). The recommendation the EU has for interpreters could make the difference for an interpreter’s professional life.
The language diversity that can be found in Europe, as well as the undoubted need for interpreters, makes Europe an integral part of the interpretation career. The EU’s appreciation for language diversity can be seen through their motto ‘United in diversity’. Therefore, it is imminent for future interpreters to understand the importance of the EU in the profession, as well as the opportunities that working with the EU or being accredited by them could bring. Let us be educated on the possibilities presented for our futures.