Sunday

11th Apr 2021

Fast-talking MEPs 'drive interpreters crazy'

  • 'Speak slowly, speak in your mother tongue', Welle said. (Photo: European Parliament)

Members of the European Parliament should speak in their own language and take care not to speak too quickly, to prevent interpreters from going “crazy”, the parliament's secretary-general has said.

“It is important that people do not speak too fast,” Klaus Welle said at a meeting of the parliament's budgetary control committee on Thursday (4 February).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • The European Parliament has around 330 interpreters on staff. (Photo: European Parliament)

He pointed out that some speakers in plenary and committee sessions churn out up to 180 words per minute.

Welle met the interpreters last month to discuss their grievances, and made the request on their behalf.

“Speak slowly, speak in your mother tongue. Those are the main elements which lead to a deterioration in quality,” he noted. “It drives them crazy.”

Recruitment 'not a problem'

It is much easier for interpreters to translate if the speaker uses his or her mother tongue.

Welle made his request in his native tongue, German, not long after the chair of the meeting had to ask one of the participants to speak slower so that the interpreters could keep up with him.

That same morning in the parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg at least two MEPs and one commissioner did not stick to the advice and spoke English instead of Dutch, Estonian and Romanian, respectively.

Some MEPs use English because they find it easier to express themselves in a language that can be directly understood by many of their peers, rather than rely on a translation.

The European Parliament has roughly 330 interpreters on staff as well as a pool of freelancers to deploy.

MEPs have the right to speak in their own language, and the house has 24 official languages.

But not all languages are always available. The budgetary control committee meeting for example was translated into 16 languages. One Slovenian MEP complained that meetings of the transport committee are not translated in her language.

This is not due to a lack of available staff, said Welle.

“We don't have any problem with recruiting interpreters,” he noted, but added that there was a “major problem” with the facilities and the number of interpreter booths.

"We don't have a sufficient number of meeting rooms that correspond to the language profiles of the committees," he said.

He accepted that the issue could work to the disadvantage of lesser-spoken languages, which he promised to protect.

Unequal burden

He also pointed out that Turkish translators would soon be needed because of a possible peace deal in Cyprus. The agreement would reunite the Greek and Turkish speaking parts of the island, making Turkish another official language.

He noted that the interpretation service needed to be as efficient as possible “otherwise we won't be able to maintain the service”.

One issue is that the workload is not evenly distributed among interpreters, he said.

“Some people are overburdened and others are not doing enough,” noted Welle, saying that the number of hours in the interpretation booth can vary between six and 16 hours.

He also said there were some challenges in creating the right incentives for interpreters to learn additional languages.

“Someone who adds languages, finds himself working longer. Someone who doesn't make that effort is less usable and will work only six to eight hours.”

Feature

British EU officials in limbo if UK leaves

Directors likely to get golden handshakes. Managers and MEPs to be lame ducks. Pensions safe. But if UK exit talks turned ugly, British officials could suffer.

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

Future of Europe: Nearly half of citizens want reforms

European Parliament president David Sassoli called for the Conference on the Future of Europe "to start as soon as possible". Meanwhile, nearly half of EU citizens would like to see reforms to the bloc.

EU parliament snubs anti-corruption researchers

Transparency International carried out three separate studies on integrity, of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council (representing member states). The European Parliament refused to cooperate.

Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office

The new European Public Prosecutor's office will become operational in March. It is tasked to carry out criminal fraud investigations of the EU budget. But of the 140 required European delegated prosecutors, only nine have so far set up office.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us