How to become an official EU translator and interpreter?

Currently, the European Union has 24 official languages and 3 alphabets. After Poland’s accession to the EU, the Polish language became one of so‑called official languages which created new abroad career prospects for interpreters and translators. In order to be accepted to the elite group of translators and interpreters of the EU, candidates must not only have thorough knowledge of at least two foreign languages, but also demonstrate excellent knowledge of their native language. How can you become a member of this elite group of professionals?

First of all, you must be proficient in at least two foreign languages having the status of official languages of the European Union.

The ability to translate and interpret at least two languages is a bare minimum. Furthermore, one of these languages must be German or French. Apart from that, it should be kept in mind that a pivot language (that is, an intermediary language in interpreting) used in translations of the EU is frequently English. Therefore, it can be said that the more languages you are familiar with on sufficiently high level, the greater the chance of getting a job as a translator and interpreter in institutions of the EU.

It is worth mastering slightly less popular language to find a niche on the translation market.

Mastering even several popular languages of the European Union does not guarantee success because their popularity goes hand in hand with competing with many translators and interpreters who are proficient in the same language combination. Thus, it is good to know French, German, English or Italian; however, the ability to translate one of less popular languages of the European Union is even a better solution. In this way, a translator and interpreter can stand out among his/her fellow professionals.

Knowledge of languages is not everything! Factual knowledge is just as important.

A translator and interpreter should perfectly know what is going on in contemporary world of politics, economy and science. Even the best translators can properly translate only content which makes sense to them. It is hardly possible to translate information from barely known areas or areas which we are completely unfamiliar with. Therefore, solid foundation of general knowledge is a vital prerequisite of working as an EU translator and interpreter.

Knowledge of the EU as the key to work in the EU institutions.

If extensive knowledge of the contemporary world is the basis of work of every translator and interpreter, knowledge of history and functioning of EU institutions is a key to being employed as a translator and interpreter of the EU. Knowing various EU institutions and programs implemented by them, their cooperation schemes, and their future plans is a core requirement.

Gain practical knowledge of translations during internships in EU institutions.

If you are wondering whether working as a translator and interpreter in EU institutions is for you, there is only one way to find out. There is no better way to verify one’s expectations about your “dream job” than to do it in practice. Seeing with one’s own eyes how the EU institutions work can help make the right decision and for those who decide that they are cut out for the job, it will allow to gain first experience in demanding work of translators and interpreters.

Practice makes perfect.

Regardless of applying to internships in the EU, all young translators and interpreters should take the opportunities available on local labour market in order to expand their knowledge about translations and gain their first experience. Translation industry fairs, workshops, trainings and other events organised by local or national communities of translators and interpreters will surely help young adepts in breaking the ice and finding development possibilities on their way to the dream job.

Post-graduation studies – definitely a good idea!

It is not a secret that persons without specialist linguistic education frequently dabble in translations. Expertise in a given field supported by adequately advanced command of a foreign language is often sufficient to produce translations, especially from a foreign language into one’s native language. Therefore, it is worth investing one’s time and funds in deepening one’s linguistic knowledge. Persons interested in translating for the EU institutions will surely do with specialist trainings dedicated to terminology connected with politics, law and administration. It will be even better if instructors of such classes could be persons actively participating in works of the EU Directorate-General for Translation.

Old flames die hard… contrary to practical language skills.

If you have brought your fluency of speaking in a foreign language to a near‑perfection level, do not let this valuable skill get “rusted”. After graduating from a university or returning from an abroad internship you should perpetually work on precise, fluent and dexterous expression of thoughts in a foreign language. This ability requires continuous training, and there is nothing that can replace the ability to speak in a foreign language in the work of a translator and interpreter.

Jacek Kasprzyk, Sworn Translator of the English language in Wrocław