European Commission seeks English mother-tongue translators/Englische Übersetzer schwer zu finden

The Times reports that there is a disastrous lack of competent translators who are native speakers of English.

A lot of Marie Woolf’s article is based on unpublished materials, internal memos and so on. It seems a little bit souped up, although I am sure there is a shortage.

Monty Python could have made something of this:

Potential recruits are being given remedial coaching to bring their abilities up to standard, while a Eurocrat has been dispatched to scour Britain full-time for anyone who can speak foreign languages well, and to encourage schoolchildren to study them.

I wonder if this Eurocrat is in disguise, like a restaurant critic, and how he susses out these secret linguists.

One would like to know more about the following:

Internal commission memos show the standard of Britons who apply to be European Union translators is so dismal that Brussels is taking emergency steps to fill the linguistic gap, including posting recruitment ads on YouTube, the video-sharing website.

While other countries have pass rates regularly nearing 100% of those who take EU translation tests, as few as 20% of British applicants pass.

I did find a table dated May 2007 showing which international institutions seek what interpreters and translators. It’s a Word document – here is the html version. Here is the top level of IAMLADP.

LATER NOTE: Philippa at Blogging Translator points out that the EU is not likely to accept translators without experience, and many UK translators may apply straight after finishing a course (albeit this is true of those in other countries too).

EVEN LATER NOTE: Sarah Dillon also reported this article, as did Percy Balemans. See Sarah’s comment at Philippa’s blog, linked above. She grew up in Ireland and writes:

But then I’m probably biased: my formative language-learning years were set to an extremely pro-European backdrop and I know for sure that I wouldn’t be a translator today if I’d grown up in the UK.

LATER NOTE (October 4 2008): a member of the ITI Council posted on the ITI website that he spoke to the DG in question and it appeared that either the Times reporter did not understand the discussion or the DG was misquoted. The DG decided not to issue a correction to the article because they did not think it was necessary.

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