Legal Translation Services: Languages in the EU: Part 2 – Translating

As I said in my previous post, the EU boasts 23 official languages. According to its motto, ‘United in diversity’, it allows its 500 million citizens to speak and write in their own languages when addressing the European institutions. This in turn means that translation and interpreting services play a key role.

Lingua Translations - Legal Sector Translation

Just to give you a rough idea of the importance of language services in the EU, the UN only operates with 6 languages, namely Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. The EU has the largest translation and interpretation service in the world. Of course this is not done for free, but the annual cost is about 1% of the EU budget, or less than €2 for every citizen. The total cost has risen by a relatively small margin despite the arrival of 12 new countries since 2004. So, you get translators and interpreters into 23 languages for the cost of a cup of coffee!

But how does all this work?

There are some tricks to ensure a smooth turnaround of translations. For example, the European Parliament, which often use legal translation services to produce documents rapidly in all official languages, has developed a system centred on three ‘pivotal’ languages: English, French and German. So, a document presented in Latvian will not be translated directly into all 22 other languages. Instead it will first be translated into the three pivotal languages, so that translators can use one of them to retranslate the text into their main language. A good way to save time and money, isn’t it?

So, legal translation services, in addition other areas, in the EU embody the principle that languages are an essential part of our cultural identity, as stated in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights adopted by EU leaders in 2000.

But translation is only one part of the language services provided by the EU. I still have not written about interpreters, so… see you in the next post! Do any of our readers have experience of legal translation services within the EU? We would love to hear from you!