EU Cuts Translation Budget

This week, the European Union (EU) confirmed that their translation budget will be cut dramatically as of next month’s plenary. With EU lawmakers yesterday approving a report for more effective procedures, they will no longer be required to translate all of their documents into the official languages. Yet, looking at the proposal a little more closely, this effort to cut budgets does beg the question whether it will work in reality or if it will expensively backfire?

Historically, all documents created by the EU were translated into the 23 different official languages, keeping the 1,650 strong team of linguists busy. In fact, it takes an estimated four months to go from the creation of the first document to the completed translation of that document in all languages. The European Commission currently uses three working languages — English, French and German – and draft policy papers and draft legislation are produced in one or more of these languages. Only once the documents reach their final stages will the translation into the remaining 20 official languages begin.

However, going forward, the approval of a report into the use of EU budgeting by Bulgarian liberal MEP, Stanimir Ilchev, will mean that EU legislative will only record proceedings in their original language. A desire to streamline that stems from the wish to reduce the substantial translation budget – it’s estimated that over 110 million Euro will be saved – and echo other multi-country bodies. NATO, for example, has 28 member countries, yet only two working languages and the UN has 193 members and just six working languages.  

But the streamlining of translated documents into just six languages has been met with criticism, in particular from the ‘defenders of multilingualism’ who believe that the Parliament has always been a ‘Noah’s Ark’ of languages. The fear now is that there will be a strong move to the use of English as the predominant language of translation for documents. Or that this intention to reduce won’t be so easy to bring into action and will end up costing the same, if not more, in translation bills, principally given that Parliament will still be required to translate a document if there is a request from a member state to do so.

Whatever the outcome of this budget decision, it will be an interesting proposal to follow and discover whether making savings in the translation department is a viable option or not. 


About the author: Christof Schneider

Christof Schneider joined Lingo24, Inc. in 2004 to support clients and the team with his workflow and technical expertise. He has a degree in Philosophy and Translation, and has worked as a translator and consultant, as well as teaching Technology and Localization skills at Auckland University. He has been deeply involved in the integration of technology into Lingo24, Inc.’s workflows and helped with the development of Coach, the translation technology platform. Follow Christof Schneider on:

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