Chinese Whispers

This very interesting article is not about China but about the EU Parliament, and how it intends to manage its ever-increasing number of languages.

As the EU expands, so does the number of languages its governing organizations must support. Here are some article excerpts:

The European Parliament will echo with up to 20 different languages when the EU expands next year, and each will be instantly translated into the others. The result is a possible 380 combinations of languages — as elected representatives from Finland to Malta make laws that will affect the lives of some 450 million European Union citizens.

And how’s this for a amazing statistic:

On any given day, parliament needs between 300 and 500 interpreters, who are usually required to be able to work from at least three foreign languages into their mother tongue.

While it is relatively easy to find interpreters who speak three or four common European languages, it is rare that you find people who speak, say, French, German, and Finnish. As a result, a Finnish interpreter is required to translate both ways, known as ‘retour’, instead of in one direction (as is the common practice). In addition, the EU will use “bridge” interpreters to translate into a more common language that can then be translated again, which leads us to…

What the heck are Chinese whispers?

When you line up translators back to back, the odds of translations getting twisted around multiply. Mangled meanings are known as Chinese whispers – I have no idea why.

Learn Maltese and the world is yours.

Want a job abroad? Where you’ll be in constant demand and well compensated? Simply hone up on your Maltese or Latvian…

“Finding interpreters with the appropriate language skills has not been easy. Nevertheless, in 2004, Latvian and Maltese will have the right to be treated on the same footing as French, German or English. “We need people that are university educated, have a good general knowledge and the highest language standards. That kind of person can get a job anywhere.”

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