If what people speak in the Hellenic Republic is like Greek to you, spare a thought for the European Parliament's unsung heroes. While most people already struggle to order a beer on holiday abroad, the translators at the Parliament routinely use anything from three to eight languages a day. They make sure that Dutch doesn't turn into double Dutch and that nothing gets lost in translation. As today is Mother Language Day, we take a look at the professionals who are never at a loss for words.
The amount of work translators face is simply daunting. The Parliament uses all of the EU's 23 official languages on a daily basis. As it is the EU's only directly-elected body, it is important that everyone is able to follow parliamentary proceedings in their own language. This is why all documents have to be available in a range of languages, including questions, resolutions and amendments. This is why 700 translators together with 260 assistants are needed in order to translate the more than 100,000 pages each month.
"I was surprised by the number of translators," admitted Elisabeth Artner, a trainee from Austria. "I knew that there had to be a lot but the actual number exceeded my expectations. But now when I see the amount of documents to be translated I understand perfectly why there have to be so many."
The translators work both on general texts and on topics they have specialised in. Most texts are not too difficult for trained linguists, but there are always some tricky words. This is why translators from all EU institutions work together on finding the right terminology and why different tools are available. There is for example IATE, a database for all EU related terminology containing nine million terms.
"I was pretty surprised with the amount of IT tools used," said Nuno Sousa Lopes, a trainee from Portugal. It is good to know that there will always be another reliable search mechanism if you are having trouble finding the right word or expression."
In almost all cases translators translate into their mother tongue. They are expected to know at least two other official EU languages, but some of them can speak up to eight.