Graduate Blog

European Translation Experience – Not Only For Translators

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Various institutions of the European Union (EU) use traineeship programmes to revitalise their administrative work processes, to educate and recruit their future employees and finally, to practise what they preach and expand opportunities for young people to access work experience after their studies.

The European Parliament offers three types of paid traineeships: the general option; journalism and translation. You can still apply for the general and journalism traineeships which begin in March by 15 October. Applications for translation traineeships starting in April will be accepted from 15 September. As a current translation trainee, I would like to share some tips about traineeships at the European Parliament.

 Why?

 1. it’s an EU experience. Having this experience and references from EU officials can help you in your future career. This is particularly useful for graduates from countries where high levels of youth unemployment create near-impossible competition.

2. it’s paid. Unlike many international organisations, the EU pays its interns enough to survive in the cities where it has seats.

3. it’s like a second Erasmus, but with more mature people. The multilingual environment of the EU institutions will help you practise and learn languages, meet new friends and travel around.

 When?

Starting Date of Traineeship     Application Period

1st January                                  15th June -15th August

1st April                                        15th September – 15th November

1st July                                         15th December – 15th February

1st October                                   15th March – 15th May

Who?

 1. You need a university degree. All paid traineeships are offered to graduates of universities or equivalent institutions.

2. …But not necessarily in translation. The European Parliament welcomes candidates of any academic background and experience (from current master’s students to experienced book or film translators who want to gain new skills in document translation). People who have studied Political Science, Law or European Studies fit in perfectly.

3. You don’t have to be the crème de la crème at your university. Competition varies by language: there are typically hundreds of Italian and Spanish, but only a few Danish and Swedish applicants per place. Due to limited awareness in many countries, translation traineeships are less competitive than administrative traineeships at most EU institutions.

4. You need to speak two languages. The European Parliaments policy requires its translators to translate only into their mother tongue/ official language of the candidate’s country of origin. It must be stressed that there are successful examples of bilingual translators from ethnic minorities speaking another language, who work inthe official language of their home country, but it is also possible to translate into an ethnic minority language if it is an EU official language (e.g. a Hungarian-speaking Slovak citizen can translate into Hungarian or Slovak).

In addition to the native-level knowledge of one of the 23 EU official languages, translation trainees are expected to know two other EU languages, and one of them has to be English, French or German. In fact, most texts that need to be translated are drafted in English, and those with Spanish or Italian as their third language hardly get to translate from these.

Limited confidence in your knowledge of a third language should not put you off – if your native language is not English, most likely you will be translating from English 99% of the time. Native English-speakers are often given terminology and similar tasks.

 How?

 1. Check the deadlines and collect information. Useful information can be obtained at the website of the European Parliament (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/aboutparliament/en/007cecd1cc/Traineeships.html).

2. Prepare yourself for living in Luxembourg. Unlike many other EU trainees, translation trainees are assigned to Luxembourg. To put it politely, this is definitely not Europe’s youth-friendliest city, although you will like it if your main criteria for a nice city are ‘clean’ and ‘civilised’.

You might be surprised by the number of cultural events taking place there, but accommodation and food are ridiculously expensive and many ex-pats find the lack of diversity and insufficient opportunities for communicating with the locals, rather frustrating.

The good news is that many other European cities are easily accessible from Luxembourg by train, and domestic travel is perhaps the only really cheap thing around. In fact, several trainees decide to stay in Luxembourg each year – many international companies keep their offices in this EU tax haven, and along with numerous banks, consultancies and law firms, they are ready to absorb Europe’s young multilingual talent, often offering very attractive salaries.

 What next?

Having the experience of working for the EU institutions can translate into a real competitive advantage when looking for jobs in the future. Even if you find that document translation is not exactly your passion, various ‘soft’ skills and languages that you can learn there will definitely be useful.

About the Author

Daiva Daiva

Daiva Repeckaite is an early-career education policy researcher, a former journalist and blogger with extensive experience of studying and working abroad. She obtained an MA degree in Sociology and Anthropology from Central European University (Hungary) and has undertaken non-degree studies in Sweden, Japan, Israel and South Korea, as well as a translation traineeship at the European Parliament. Daiva is interested in social justice aspects of higher education and mobility of students and volunteers. She speaks Lithuanian, English, German, Russian, Swedish, Japanese and Hebrew.

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