Translator For The EU

Despite Brexit, English remains a key working language at the EU

translator for eu

Working as translator for the EU is often seen as the ultimate career distinction because you need perfect command of your mother tongue as well as two other working languages.

There is also a demand for translators, as this press release recently released by the European Commission indicates:

“The European Commission faces a shortage of translators.

The situation is particularly worrying in the English language translation department because many officials who joined the Commission in the Seventies following accession of the United Kingdom and Ireland are now approaching retirement age.

The search for future recruits has revealed a lack of awareness of the job opportunities in European Institutions.”

Translators at the EU are retiring

Around 20% of English language translators in the English department of the Directorate-General for Translation were expected to leave by 2015, whilst the volume of material which needs translation into English – effectively the Union’s working language – has grown exponentially.

European regulations allow national authorities and citizens to submit documentation in any of the Union’s 24 official languages. No one can master so many languages and, as a result, English has developed into a “bridging” language – the language of choice in this multilingual environment.

As a result, the demand for English translations in the EU has risen significantly over the past few years.

Large volumes of German translation

And the good news for German translators at the EU is that, after French, more documents are translated from German into English than from any other language.

Indeed, while the European Commission works in German, English and French, the everyday working language at the EU is English.

In 2019 the Directorate-General for Translation spent €325 million translating over 2.2 million pages, 70% in house, and 30% outsourced to freelance translators.

Get recruited as a translator for the EU

For years, landing a job as a translator for the European Union has been regarded as the epitome of translation success. Entrance standards are high and perhaps this has discouraged some from applying.

However, the scope for employment is huge, with translators working at a wide range of official European institutions and agencies, including the the European Commission, European Parliament, Court of Justice, Central Bank, etc.

Translation at the EU is organised via the EU's Translation Centre.

Established in 1994, the Translation Centre with its 200 staff delivers an average of 700,000 translated pages a year to over 65 EU agencies, institutions, and other bodies across Europe, covering a total of around 750 different language combinations. It also offers interpreting, transcription, editing, language consultancy and terminology services.

Unsurprisingly, some of this work is outsourced to external providers, although translations are subsequently checked by the Centre's in-house linguists.

The Translation Centre also offers traineeships, especially for university students from EU member states.

The Translation Centre is also the publisher of the IATE (Inter-Active Terminology for Europe) project. The biggest terminology database in the world today, it brings together the terminological resources of all the EU's translation services.

I've included in my list of glossaries.

TIP! The European Master's in Translation is a key qualification for anyone considering working in translation for an EU body or agency.

Do you want to translate for the EU?

I you feel your German is sufficiently good and you feel up to the challenge, why not find out more about applying as an English language translator yourself.

The European Commission’s DG Translation is your starting point for information about translation within the EU, and the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) is the central body for personnel recruitment.

Good luck!


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Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna, Austria. I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?

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