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Why does the EU only want translators with THREE languages, not TWO?
Thread poster: Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer

Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:48
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Jul 23, 2014

I just got this email from ‘the EU’:
Don't just translate words.Translate ideas.

The European Institutions in Brussels and Luxembourg are looking for translators

World-class translators are central to everything we do. The language services of the European Institutions have a crucial role to play in strengthening communication and helping citizens understand the role of the EU in their everyday lives. Working to strict deadlines, they translate political, legal, financial, scientific and technical texts and provide wide-ranging linguistic advice.

Are you looking for intellectually challenging work with a high degree of sensitivity and responsibility? Are you trained as a translator or able to demonstrate excellent translation skills? Do you have a perfect command of German, Greek, Spanish, or Swedish, and a thorough knowledge of at least two other EU languages, including English, French and German?

Find out more at translators.eu-careers.eu

Closing date for applications August 5, 2014. 12.00 (midday Brussels time)
To be eligible to apply you must be an EU citizen.’

As usual, they are only looking for people with three languages. To be more precise, a ‘perfect command’ of one, and ‘thorough knowledge’ of two others. Why is that? Do they seriously mean that if you have either

(a) a perfect command of one language and thorough knowledge of another, or
(b) a perfect command of two languages

they will not consider you? Seems pretty stupid to me.

They will miss out on all the people (like myself) who specialise in ‘only’ one language pair (and, in my case, one direction), and possibly end up choosing people who speak (or say they speak) more languages, but not quite so well.

Michael

[Edited at 2014-07-23 12:46 GMT]


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Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:48
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
‘If you are not up to this standard, we would strongly advise you not to apply.’ Jul 23, 2014

Hmm, on the website they add this little piece:

Are you searching for a meaningful career where you can apply your skills in multiple languages?

We are looking for talented, motivated translators from across Europe to work for the EU Institutions in the following languages: German, Greek, Spanish or Swedish.

A multilingual organisation like the EU needs high quality translation and relies on professional linguists to keep it running smoothly. The role of the language services in the various EU institutions and bodies is to support and strengthen multilingual communication in Europe and to help Europeans understand EU policies.

You will be working in a challenging, multi-cultural environment, playing an essential role in the development of policy and legislation which has a positive effect on the lives of 505 million people.

Our selection procedures for translators are intended for candidates who have a perfect command, both written and spoken, of the language of the selection procedure (mother tongue or equivalent knowledge), backed by a thorough knowledge of at least two other EU languages, one of which is English, French or German. If you are not up to this standard, we would strongly advise you not to apply.

You should combine a university degree-level with a very self-motivated approach and the drive and determination to make a major contribution. Although professional experience is not required previous experience as a translator would be beneficial.

Deadline for applications: 05 August 2014, 12.00 (Brussels time)

(http://europa.eu/epso/apply/jobs/perm/2014/translators/index_en.htm )

Michael

[Edited at 2014-07-23 12:53 GMT]


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RichardP  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:48
Member (2014)
French to English
+ ...
Not sure that's true if... Jul 23, 2014

If you have 2 of English, French and German I don't think you need to have another language.

That was certainly the case when I looked into this 10 years ago. I may be wrong.


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Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:48
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
NL+EN+DE or NL+EN+FR to translate NL>EN? Jul 23, 2014

Hi Richard,

Yes, you might be right. I wonder though what that would mean for a person like myself, with Dutch and English, but whose German and French is virtually non-existent. I have a feeling they would want me to have a thorough knowledge of both Dutch and German if I were to be accepted to translate Dutch into English. I speak/read quite a bit of German (most Dutch people do), but saying that I have ‘a thorough knowledge’ of it would be stretching the truth.

I also vaguely remember something about needing to be able to translate both ways (which I most definitely do not do). Do you happen to know if this is true?

Michael

[Edited at 2014-07-23 15:03 GMT]


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RichardP  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:48
Member (2014)
French to English
+ ...
Don't know, but Jul 23, 2014

There's no harm in applying based on German anyway. The worst that can happen is that you fail the test.

It was a long time ago that I did the test, but i'm pretty sure it was only into English and it wasn't too difficult. Family circumstances made me abandon the idea as I couldn't move abroad.


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Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:48
Member
French to Spanish
+ ...
Sort of "numerus clausus"? Jul 23, 2014

Hello.

If it was not the EU, I would say that they don't want to have many people applying, so they seek high standards (even impossible to fulfill), to discourage a high percentage of translators. They may think that people would apply "just in case" if they allowed to have a good command of just a couple of languages. So they narrow the path.

Discouraging, indeed.



[Edited at 2014-07-23 15:27 GMT]


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 01:48
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Well, as far as I know, Jul 23, 2014

It’s a budgetary question. There are 24 EU official languages and some documents have to be translated in all EU languages. Just imagine if each translation division had just one translator per language…

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RichardP  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:48
Member (2014)
French to English
+ ...
EEC EC EU got bigger Jul 23, 2014

Teresa Borges wrote:

It’s a budgetary question. There are 24 EU official languages and some documents have to be translated in all EU languages. Just imagine if each translation division had just one translator per language…


Ah yes when I applied the EC only had 15 members. Those were the days.


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Liena Vijupe  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 03:48
Member (2014)
French to Latvian
+ ...
Not that it makes much more sense to me, but... Jul 23, 2014

I think both Susana and Teresa are right. Also, they often use pivot languages (which are usually English, French and German) for "smaller" languages, so they want those to be available first and have more chance to deal with all the amounts. When I was there (4 years ago) they actively promoted the combination of any official language + EN/FR/DE + a "rare" language just to make sure they have more of the possible combinations covered.
Why most of my work, although I had all 3 - English, French AND German - as source languages, was from English, I can't tell...

I have never heard though that they would allow to translate into more than one direction/language (with certain exceptions for interpreters, but even they have to pass a special test to do it both ways). If you are in the English department, you translate into English no matter how many other "native" languages you might have. From what I understand, in your case it, unfortunately, means they would rather want you to translate also from German or, better yet, from Polish or Hungarian...


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
More bother than it's worth Jul 23, 2014

A friend /colleague who mainly translates from German and Swedish tried to get into the EU translation thing but gave up after about a year of hassle and red tape. He can earn as much working from home anyway without jumping through so many hoops. It's their loss.

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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:48
Dutch to English
+ ...
After seeing some of the hoops Jul 23, 2014

you have to jump through, I also so decided 'thanks, but no thanks'. Numerical reasoning: from the following table, how much % has grain production in X decreased from 2008 to 2012? And that's an easy one. And you get similar ones for 'reasoning' as well. The kind of thing 10-year-olds get to do.
Ahem, forgive me, but I don't need to COUNT or REASON, I'm a TRANSLATOR. I need to make sure sour cherries don't turn into sweet cherries (which has actually happened). I know that's a little narrow-minded, but please, you want a good translator or what? And then bearing in mind no-one probably even bothers looking at these results.

I just don't think it's worth it, certainly as you have to move and will possibly lose the client base you've so long worked to build up. Personally I don't think the money is good enough considering you will have to start over building a client base. If you have to live in Brussels or Luxembourg, you can forget living adequately and saving a lot from 5,000 €. Certainly if your spouse doesn't earn as much. Definitely not in Lux.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:48
Russian to English
+ ...
It looks like they don't know much about translation. Jul 23, 2014

it is better to know two languages really well (for the purpose of working as a translator) than fifteen so so. Their slogan is really strange too--most professional translators know that translation is not about translating words, but rather conveying the meaning in the most accurate way, or translating ideas--in a way, if you think that meaning is conglomerate of ideas.

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 01:48
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Twelve members... Jul 23, 2014

RichardP wrote:

Teresa Borges wrote:

It’s a budgetary question. There are 24 EU official languages and some documents have to be translated in all EU languages. Just imagine if each translation division had just one translator per language…


Ah yes when I applied the EC only had 15 members. Those were the days.


when I started working as a translator in one of the EU institutions, can't remember how many 20 years later when I retired...


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:48
Member
French to English
+ ...
Three can be just the start - and then there are subject areas... Jul 23, 2014

On at least a couple of occasions, I've read articles in IOL/ITI magazines (can't remember which) about translators at European institutions who work from as many as four or five source languages. I believe language courses are run for in-house staff so that they can multiply their language pairs. I would think that as Teresa says, budgetary considerations must have something to do with it, and I suppose this also explains why they are keen for translators to work in multiple subject areas. I know someone who works for the Commission in Luxembourg and he told me that the first time he had a job interview there, he was asked what he would do if he was asked to translate a text in a field he wasn't comfortable with. At the time, he said he would refuse to work on it (believing this to be the professional thing to say), though I strongly suspect that wasn't the answer they were looking for! He wasn't successful on that occasion.

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 01:48
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Further explanation for those interested... Jul 24, 2014

Each EU institution has its own translation service organized in translation units (one per language) supported by a specialised unit responsible for the management and coordination of tasks, documentation, terminology and IT. All official languages enjoy equal status. The 24 official languages make a total of 552 possible combinations, since each language can be translated into 23 others. EU translators translate all types of documents from various source languages into their mother tongue. However, with the increase in the number of language combinations to 552, it is not always possible to translate directly from all source languages into all target languages, especially where lesser-used languages are concerned. To address this situation, since 2004 most EU institutions have been using a system of ‘relay’ languages: the text is first translated into English, French or German and then from that language into the other languages. Other frequently used EU languages, namely Spanish, Italian and Polish, could also become relay languages in due course.

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