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Brussels, 6 March 2009

Commission and more than 70 EU Universities prepare a new generation of interpreters

On 6 March 2009, the Directorate General for Interpretation of the European Commission (DG SCIC) is organising the 13th edition of its annual Conference with Universities active in the field of conference interpreter training. The purpose of the Conference, which will be attended by the Commissioner for Multilingualism Leonard Orban, is to provide a platform where DG SCIC and the Universities can supply information and exchange ideas on trends and developments, future needs and training in interpretation.

The theme of this year's Conference, where more than 70 universities are represented, is The Next Generation. Presentations focus on how to ensure continuity of multilingual communication in the EU Institutions and how to avoid a generation gap now that a considerable number of interpreters of certain languages are approaching retirement.

As finding high-quality conference interpreters that suit the needs of the European Institutions is a constant challenge, in particular for some languages, it is always essential to plan ahead in order to have a sufficient supply of professionals.

Presentations will concentrate on the first outcomes of a brainstorming exercise carried out in DG SCIC and discussed with the interpretation services of the other EU Institutions. The exercise focussed on issues such as awareness raising on the career of conference interpreter, on information for candidate interpreters to tests and competitions, and on the Institutions' recruitment procedures.

Participants will be informed about the outcome of a recent study on the optimum ratio between staff and free-lance interpreters and will also be updated on trends in demand for interpretation.

Professor Ivana Čenková of Charles University in Prague will report on the training experience for Czech interpreters based on the model of the European Masters in Conference Interpreting (EMCI), which has been developed with the help of the EU Institutions' interpretation services.

At the Conference, Professor Emeritus Erik Hertog of Lessius University in Antwerp will present the findings of a group of independent experts, the Reflection Forum on Multilingualism and Interpreter Training, which consisted of legal professionals as well as academic and professional experts in legal interpreting from several Member States. Under the auspices of DG SCIC, the group looked into the needs for training of legal interpreters, and formulated recommendations on strategies to improve such training.

The Reflection Forum presented its report officially to Commissioner Orban the day before the Conference, on 5 March 2009. The full Report of the Reflection Forum can be found at this address:

The Report includes recommendations on a core curriculum, which should have certain building blocks, and on training and other aspects related to the profession of legal interpreter. As far as training is concerned, the Report suggests:

  • Member States should provide appropriate training in legal interpreting, both for new and practising legal interpreters. The curriculum should be taught by a multi-discipline group of tutors, consisting of language and culture specialists, legal interpreting practitioners and legal professionals.
  • A professional code of conduct, should be part of training, while guidelines to good practice should be drawn up to ensure quality service.
  • Training should also be provided to the legal services and to legal professions on how to work across languages and cultures and with interpreting.
  • The exchange of good practices and the establishment of training and professional networks should be encouraged among EU countries to improve standards of legal interpreting.

Given its longstanding expertise in conference interpreter training, DG SCIC will continue to follow up the Forum's recommendations as far as the training aspect of legal interpreting is concerned.

Furthermore, there will be the traditional award ceremony of the Leopoldo Costa Prize to the winner of the essay contest for DG SCIC bursary students. This year's theme for the contest is a quote by Nelson Mandela: "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head, if you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart."

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