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Only master's degrees are good enough for the European Commission
Thread poster: philgoddard
philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Sep 8, 2010

I recently received an offer of long-term freelance work from an agency which had a contract with the European Commission. They said don't bother applying unless you have a master's degree in translation.

I wrote back saying I had a first degree in languages and over twenty years' experience, and I thought it was a pity that they should impose such artificial restrictions. The agency was very apologetic. They said they'd complained to the Commission, pointing out that this would exclude many good translators, but the Commission was sticking to its guns.

Last year, at the ITI conference, a speaker from the Commission complained that there was a serious shortage of translators in one of my language combinations. Is it any wonder - especially since their recruitment procedures are so labyrinthine that they deter many translators, myself included?

[Edited at 2010-09-08 18:41 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:42
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Friends Sep 8, 2010

It's probably easier if you have friends in high places. I bet there's an inside track. Are you friendly with any MEPs ? It might be worth going for a meeting with the MEP who represents you, setting out your stall, and asking directly if they can help you to get work - or at least if they need any translations themselves.



[Edited at 2010-09-08 17:56 GMT]


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
That's not really the point I was making, Tom... Sep 8, 2010

I've got more than enough work from other sources, and I won't lose any sleep over this - I was just saying it seems stupid to complain that you can't get enough translators, but make it near-impossible for them to apply. But thanks for your comment.

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tinageta  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:42
English to Latvian
+ ...
I don't believe that Sep 8, 2010

Unless someone can show me a call for tender where it is clearly mentioned. I have not seen any such requirement so far.

For example, the call for tender currently open (legal and judicial documents) specifies:
Lists 1 to 36:
Translation and revision services, irrespective of language combination:
Either:
a post-secondary education in the legal field certified by a diploma* PLUS general translation experience for the language combination concerned equivalent to at least 250 pages;
or:
a post-secondary education in any field (translation or others) certified by a diploma* PLUS translation experience in the legal field for the language combination concerned equivalent to at least 250 pages.
http://ted.europa.eu/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:169974-2009:TEXT:EN:HTML

Another one:
To demonstrate their qualifications and professional experience, candidates must:
— ensure that each translator/reviser (internal or external, including those from members and subcontractors) involved in the project has a university degree or equivalent qualification in any discipline (in case of doubt about their qualifications, candidates should check the level of their degree with the competent national authorities).
http://ted.europa.eu/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:015680-2010:TEXT:EN:HTML

More information on calls for tender, including lists of contractors, can be found here: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/translation/workwithus/calls/index_en.htm


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xxxAdrian MM.
Local time: 17:42
French to English
+ ...
Filtering process Sep 8, 2010

It's just a filtering process to keep down and put a cap on the number of applicants - the same as in many other EU professions, such as accountancy. law and medicine.

If the language combination in which there is a perennial shortage is Dutch/'Belgian-Flemish', then it might be easier applying to institutions in Luxembourg like the EU Trans. Centre based there or private/public international law institutes and/or courts in Belgium and the Netherlands.

An IT/FR-EN legal translator at the ECJ over 30 years ago told me that, back then, it was possible for professionally qualified, native Eng. speakers as DU/EN translators with few hurdles to walk into the trans. dept. where most = 2 of the the team were retiring.



philgoddard wrote:

Last year, at the ITI conference, a speaker from the Commission complained that there was a serious shortage of translators in *one of my language combinations*. Is it any wonder - especially since their recruitment procedures are so labyrinthine that they deter many translators, myself included?

[Edited at 2010-09-08 18:41 GMT]


[Edited at 2010-09-08 19:55 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-09-08 19:56 GMT]


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Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 18:42
Member
English to Latvian
it's a very real tender Sep 8, 2010

tinageta, you better believe this. I have been already contacted by several agenncies asking me to send the required documentation for participation in this particular tender. It's an ongoing tender by DG Research, and judging from the quite desperate messages from these agencies, fulfilling the ridiculous requirement of holding Master degree in Translation is not going very well... (However, I cannot give you any link to this tender because I haven't succeeded in founding it on the Web - I don't know where people are getting this information from.)
I myself do not hold the required degree but somehow prove to be much better translator than many of Master degree holders in Translation...
Being a Master in Translation does not automatically make you a good/experienced translator. But who are we to dispute the almighty bureaucracy... It obviously knows the translation industry much better than we, translators, do.
Nevertheless, I can perfectly live without this tender -- I better work with clients who appreciate the things that really matter.

[Edited at 2010-09-08 20:47 GMT]


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
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TOPIC STARTER
. Sep 8, 2010

If, as Tom says, it's just a cap to limit the number of applicants, surely half the translation companies in Europe will be chasing the same tiny number of people with master's degrees.

I don't understand why the EU uses translation companies anyway. I'm sure they have their uses in managing large projects, but why not cut out the middleman and save the taxpayer money?

Years ago, I used to get phone calls from random people at the Commission offering me jobs - I never had to fill in any application forms or provide my grandmother's birth certificate. Those were the days...

Is anyone at the Commission reading this? What is the rationale behind the master's requirement?


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tinageta  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:42
English to Latvian
+ ...
I stand corrected Sep 8, 2010

Evija, I have no clue about the tenders announced by other DGs, I was referring only to the calls of DG Translation.
I searched a bit and I suspect it might be this one: http://ted.europa.eu/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:198233-2010:TEXT:EN:HTML&tabId=1 , which is a framework contract for all kind of infomation services, including translation, however, I could not find any mention of a Master's degree. But perhaps it is mentioned in "specifications"or something.

Edit: I've found the information, it is here: http://ec.europa.eu/research/dgs/tenders/documents_vault/rtd-2010_s130-198233/questions_answers_rtd-2010_s130-198233_en.pdf#view=fit&pagemode=none

8.2.4.5 page 19: Translators
The Master’s level requirement for formal qualifications across all 23 official EU languages is extremely difficult to address. Indeed it is more demanding than we have seen in previous Commission tender and higher than those required by DG Translation and EPSO (Translators posts). Can you please consider accepting three years of full-time experience as adequate qualification, if properly documented?
A5:
All the EU member states provide relevant training in translation at master's level. A three years of full-time experience will not be accepted as an adequate qualification.


I have to agree that this requierement seems to be not only extremely difficult to address but also extremely stupid...

[Edited at 2010-09-08 21:23 GMT]


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Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 18:42
Member
English to Latvian
cannot agree more Sep 8, 2010

tinageta wrote:

but also extremely stupid...


Exactly!

And I suspect that by insisting on such an unreasoned requirement, they will end up having these translations in a very questionable quality. I hope I am wrong, but let's be ralistic on this...

[Edited at 2010-09-08 21:30 GMT]


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tinageta  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:42
English to Latvian
+ ...
About being realistic Sep 8, 2010

It has been mentioned in the forums (and I have had at least one such case) that sometimes unscrupulous agencies win a tender by “demonstrating technical capacity”, i.e. using splendid CVs of experienced translators, and then farm out the work to cheaper colleagues who might or might not deliver lower quality translations.
Not all is lost then!DDDD


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:42
Spanish to English
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Merely an observation Sep 8, 2010

If you are a Brit with the exception of one Uni in England and another in Scotland we cannot train to be translators at undergraduate level. The EU institutions' may prefer their translators to have undergone fulltime training, as opposed to a very parttime distance learning course.

On the other hand, countries that offer a 4 or 5 year degree in translation will automatically satisfy this condition.

The EU institutions must be doing something right as the translations that they produce are flawless, as far as I have seen.


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Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 18:42
Member
English to Latvian
~ Sep 8, 2010

Tatty wrote:

The EU institutions must be doing something right as the translations that they produce are flawless, as far as I have seen.


Unfortunately, this is not the case in English to Latvian language pair. Also, there are other conditions to be taken into account, so I am afraid generalisation is not the best strategy here, and this is why DG Research seems to be struggling with getting hardly any application in English to Latvian language pair (see my post above where I mentioned the desperate messages from different translation agencies I get lately).


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:42
Spanish to English
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If I were you Sep 9, 2010

I would try and complete a Masters in Translation and apply to the EU for a job. Pay is fantastic. Brussels is a great place too.

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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's for Latvia to rise to the challenge Sep 9, 2010

It must be remembered that the EU must be seen to be acting fairly. What Latvia should do is pick up on this shortcoming and respond to it by providing potential translators with adequate training. This goes on in all countries, that is, courses are updated to better meet needs.

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FarkasAndras
Local time: 17:42
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Translations Sep 9, 2010

Tatty wrote:

The EU institutions must be doing something right as the translations that they produce are flawless, as far as I have seen.

More like "decent" in my opinion. There is a fair bit or awful syntax in there and quite a few small errors. E.g. the translations of EP transcripts into English are pretty mediocre IMO. Directives and regulations are better, but I've seen major mistranslations in regulations before.

The MA requirement seems a bit much... They could accept an MA in the language in question plus a translation degree of some sort (many people get an MA in philology, i.e. language, literature and culture, and then specialize on translation later) and they could accept proven experience at government agencies or similar qualifications.
But they don't and I don't think there is much point in complaining about it. They are entitled to setting the terms and requirements they see fit.


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