The Enormous Challenge of Translation in the European Commission

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All major political and economic organizations that bring together a group of nations for a common purpose always represent a great challenge for translation professionals. In the case of the European Union, the translation needs are so great that in order to meet them a separate Directorate-General (the primary unit of division within the European Commission, composed of departments such as Economic and Financial Affairs, Energy, Justice, or Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) was created. In addition to the Directorate-General for Translation (DGT), there is also a Directorate-General for Interpretation, specifically dedicated to the many conferences the Union celebrates each year.

According to its own data, in 2011 the DGT of the European Commission produced more than 2 million pages. This astounding number generally increases each year, as the Commission’s activities are constantly expanding. Moreover, the entry of new members with official languages ​​other than those already represented is also an important factor in this increase. At some time in the coming years, Turkey will formally enter the EU, for example, which will require a significant demand for translations into Turkish (in a process similar to what took place during the recent expansion of the EU in 2007, when Bulgaria and Romania entered as new members).

As the Directorate-General itself reports, the process of adoption of new languages ​​due to the entry of new members begins before the expansion is actually formalized: the incoming country must establish in advance a Unit of Translation and Coordination that handles, first, translating European legislation (which alone is about 100,000 pages) into the official national language. In addition, in order to work in collaboration with the integration of the new members, the DGT offers these national units support, such as technical assistance and training, market research, or local translation. The department even provides universities located in the new member countries advice on training translators so that when they finish their studies they meet the Commission’s requirements.

The work of the DGT is so immense that it requires an annual investment of approximately 300 million euros, or about 400 million dollars in today’s exchange rates. It is, without a doubt, a massive budget item, but one that is clearly necessary, given the functions of the institution, which are so vital to Europe’s political operation.

(Original en español: