Published on EurActiv (

The following article was originally published on EURACTIV on 29 June 2010.

EU backs linguist recruitment drive

The European Commission has joined other international organisations in calling for language learning in schools to be properly funded and career opportunities for professionals like interpreters and translators to be better promoted.


The EU’s language industry is worth €8.4bn and is set to grow by 10% annually over the next few years after having recorded one of the highest growth rates of any industrial sector despite the economic crisis, according to a European Commission-backed study published in November 2009 (EurActiv 30/11/09).

The EU institutions employ translators and interpreters for all 23 of the bloc’s official languages, spending around €1bn on their language services every year (representing about 1% of the EU budget or €2.50 per citizen).

72% of EU documents are originally drafted in English, 12% in French and just 3% in German, while 88% of the users of the European Commission’s Europa website speak English, according to figures from the EU executive.

EU Multilingualism Androulla Vassiliou backed the so-called ‘Paris Declaration’, issued on 23 June, which saw the heads of language and conference services of 76 international organisations call for “the necessary budgetary resources” to be allocated to “effective succession planning” for upcoming staff retirements, as well as “pedagogical assistance activities” and examinations.

They were meeting at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris for the International Annual Meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation and Publications (IAMLADP), which took place from 21-23 June.

The Paris Declaration warned that a “global shortage of qualified linguists” meant that without a new generation of professionals trained with the necessary language skills, “international organisations will be unable to perform their vital tasks”.

Commissioner Vassiliou stressed the EU executive’s commitment to supporting efforts to encourage language learning in schools and universities as part of EU multilingualism policy.

“We need to get the message across to parents and young people that languages open doors and linguists have excellent career prospects,” Vassiliou said.

Indeed, fears that the EU will face a “serious shortage” of interpreters within five to 10 years have led its institutions to run joint awareness-raising campaigns this year to encourage young people to consider language careers in Brussels.

European Commission representatives were in France last November alongside colleagues from the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice to advertise careers as interpreters at the European Education Salon in Paris (EurActiv 20/11/09).

November’s effort follows earlier initiatives to boost interest in EU language careers among native English (EurActiv 18/02/09), Czech and Latvian speakers amid fears of a “succession crisis”.

The Paris Declaration, meanwhile, urged national authorities to “promote the teaching of languages throughout the education system in order to ensure that young people can take advantage of the vast range of employment openings in international organisations”.

Source: EurActiv Website