Interpreting politics – the importance of language

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There’s no doubt that political jargon is often hard to decipher, so imagine dedicating a career to it –that’s what you’d be doing if you were part of the extensive team helping with the colossal task of translation and interpreting services at the European Parliament, where a total of 506 potential language combinations are covered.


Drawing unsurprising comparisons with the Tower of Babel, this is an institution which epitomises the essential nature of such linguistic services which remain key to the functioning of a multilingual and multicultural Europe.


What’s more, the language industry – translation and interpretation, language teaching, language technologies etc. – is one of the fastest growing areas of the economy which stands as one of the only to have seen minimal impact from the global financial downturn. So, this leads us on to a vital yet recurring question – why does language learning always seem to take a back seat in the UK’s agenda?


The ability to speak more than one language grants individuals a wealth of personal and professional opportunities, including the chance to embark upon a rewarding career working at the heart of European politics.


However, following the end of the examination results period, the cursed tradition of previous years has prevailed meaning that fewer younger people are opting to take modern foreign languages. The number of pupils choosing to study German and French at GCSE level is down by 13%, a decline which has unfortunately been glaringly consistent across the majority of other language combinations since Labour’s decision back in 2002 to make secondary school languages an optional subject from age 14.


In the case of many high-achieving education systems, the teaching of a second language will be introduced at an early age (e.g. at the age of six in New Zealand and Singapore, and at age 9 in Finland), encouraging students to gain not only solid foundations in a new lingo, but also a better grasp of their mother tongue. This would certainly work in favour of native English-speakers, who are noted to be consistently under-represented in European Union Institutions.


Despite a potential shift due to the introduction of the English Baccalaureate which requires GCSEs in language among other subjects, foreign languages are often considered to be a harder option, leading to fewer people taking them up at university level. While many other nations have been committed to improving their language learning, we may run the risk of becoming the deeply insular ‘little Britain’ which is unable to efficiently compete in the global market, despite multiculturalism playing a more significant role in society now than ever in our history.


The future of the translation market following years of decline in the interest of foreign language study will perhaps be a concern given a likely increase in translation work versus a forecasted lack of professionally qualified translators.


However, here at Atlas Translations we are proud to have hundreds of professionally qualified translators who are highly specialised and experienced in a wide range of fields. Not only will our suppliers be educated to a high level academically, but the majority will also have spent crucial time in the country, an immersion which will prove to be invaluable during the translation process whereby cultural nuance always constitutes an extremely important element. For a free, no-obligation quote for any of our translation or interpreting services, please feel free to contact us at the office on +44 (0) 1727 812725 or send us an email with your requirements to


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  1. Christopher Evans

    I gave up interpreting some years ago to concentrate on translating, but three observations from my interpreting experience stand out.
    One is that if you don’t speak (or if your team doesn’t include someone who speaks) the ‘other side’s’ language you give control of the negotiations to them. In effect they can discuss what you say without you knowing anything about their concerns in private. If do have an iinterpreter you know what they’re saying and either have an insight into their concerns or can ensure that their internal discussions are made outside your meetings with them. Both those situations can be advantageous, each in its own way.
    Another is that interpreters who come originally from the other side, however loyal they may be to you, are liable to be pressed to help your opposite numbers. I have this from a lawyer from a foreign country who told me she was always subject to this pressure whenever she went to that country on business.
    The third is that a bad interpreter is worse than no interpreter. If possible the team should include both a professional interpreter and someone fluent enough in the foreign language to monitor and where necessary alert the interpreter to potential mis-understandings.

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