Open Letter to the EU

Today's blog post is by Dagy, and it's all about interpreting at the European Union.

Dear EU,

You know how much I care about you, but since this seems to be a very one-sided affair, I feel the need to take our relationship to the next level by making it public. We might need some couples therapy.


Our story goes back a few years, when the EU’s recruiting efforts for freelance interpreters, especially for the German and English booth, kicked into full gear. Given the major advertising campaign that included videos, websites, speeches at universities, organized study visits to Brussels and much more, it was safe to assume that you, the EU, desperately needed people to work for you. I immediately fell for you because you seemed very attractive. In hindsight, I feel that all of your efforts were quite misleading.

Back then, there was no reason for any of us to question the EU’s sincerity. As the Secretary General of the Austrian interpreters’ and translators’ association UNIVERSITAS Austria, I went to great lengths to encourage my fellow interpreters to apply. We even dedicated an issue of our member magazine to working at the EU. Looking back, I feel bad for raising false hopes. I guess I was still under your spell then.

After thorough preparation, I took the accreditation exam for the German booth for my working languages English, Spanish, and French more than six months ago. I passed them all on my first try and I couldn’t wait to tell the rest of the world about it (read my enthusiastic article here). While the representative of the European Commission’s interpreting service told me right after I passed that there would be no work for me unless I moved to Brussels (I live in Vienna), the representative of the European Parliament’s interpreting service said nothing along these lines. Since I had heard from several EU interpreters that chances for actually working at the Parliament once in a while weren’t bad, I started daydreaming about flying from Vienna to Brussels and working among high-profile colleagues. Not every other day, mind you, but once in a while. Here’s how many days of work I’ve gotten from the EU since I passed the accreditation test: zero. That’s right: not even one. After I went to all this trouble, got my hopes up high about starting a mutually beneficial relationship with you, dear EU, you have yet to call me once. (Since the EU is high-tech, the call would actually be a note on the online calendar where I always provide plenty of availability, just for the record.)

As months went by without hearing from you, I grew increasingly frustrated. But I was willing to make another sacrifice for the sake of our relationship: since I believe Brussels is a very livable city, I was actually considering moving there a year or two down the road. I was getting really excited about this option, until I read a forum discussion on SCICnet, which is the official platform for accredited EU interpreters. I read about freelance colleagues from the English booth who actually moved to Brussels expecting to get work, which sounds reasonable to me, since everybody insists that living somewhere else isn’t doing the trick. But guess what? They were still not getting enough work to make a living or even pay their rent. How is that possible?

Dear EU, what’s wrong with you? Why do you woo so many of us if you don’t actually want or need us? What happened? Didn’t you determine how many people you would actually need before you started your huge marketing campaign? Why bother going to all this trouble? I certainly didn't expect to have an exclusive, long-term relationship with you right after I passed the exam, but no dates in six months? 

I recently sent you (i.e. an executive at the European Parliament’s interpreting service) an e-mail to inquire about our future and got the following response: “Passing an accreditation test doesn’t necessarily translate into getting work.” Why not? Why bother? Since when is an accreditation a purpose in itself? Why are you still encouraging people to apply if you aren’t willing to let the few who have already passed get behind the microphone?

Please take the time to respond publicly. While this is not about me personally (I have plenty of work here in Vienna), I believe that aspiring interpreters have a right to know what to expect from you.  It’s time to put your cards on the table, even if you end up telling us that you are in way over your head. I’m a big girl, I can take the truth!

Lovingly yours,


Dagmar Jenner


30 comments:

Interpreter Diaries on June 25, 2013 at 2:51 PM said...

Big issue you've tackled here, Dagy - and in a very balanced manner, I must say. Well done.

Yours is not the only voice expressing concerns about the apparent disconnect between active (=aggressive) recruitment drives for new interpreters and the lack of work for many accredited interpreters, including those based in Brussels and in some cases with long track records and careers behind them (you probably know that the drop in contract days is not only affecting newcomers). I have a number of former students who have received the same official message as you in recent months: "Don't move to Brussels as there is no work for you here".

There's a lot of speculation about what's happening, what (if anything) has changed, and what can be done about it. I am certainly not the one to answer these questions, of course, but I do wonder these days what to tell me students and nobody is able to give me a satisfactory answer (and believe me, I've asked!).

Here, for the record, is what the official word is (from the DG SCIC website: (http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/scic/become-an-interpreter/interpret-for-dg-interpretation/index_en.htm)

"Back in 2006, the EU institutions were facing an acute shortage of English booth interpreters. Thanks to a successful recruitment campaign, that is no longer the case. New interpreters have joined the market in significant numbers over the past five years to replace those who have retired. In addition, we have seen a small drop in demand for interpretation in recent months, which has had a certain impact on the amount of work available.

This will not last. Many interpreters will leave the market over the next ten years and they will need to be replaced. We shall therefore continue to test promising candidates with the language combinations we need; and once registered as accredited interpreters they will thus be eligible for contracts when the need arises."

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on June 25, 2013 at 5:21 PM said...

@InterpreterDiaries: Thanks for your valuable insight and contribution, Michelle! This is a big issue indeed, and while we don't shy away from them, we did think hard about whether we wanted to go public with Dagy's story -- and alas, we did.

Thanks for the nice words on the blog post. It's quite interesting to see what the EU has to say about this (thanks for the quotes), but they still must point out to qualified applicants that there's essentially no work at all to be had. To withhold this sort of information seems an egregiously unethical act to us. After all, applicants don't put themselves through accreditation nightmare just for personal satisfaction. The EU would be well advised to stop their active recruiting and to be more transparent about work opportunities that are actually available. In general, there's much room for improvement with the entire process.

We look forward to perhaps hearing back from the EU on this important topic. You also bring up a very valid point: should we even mention the EU as a possible place of employment for students? Judy is teaching Intro to Interpretation at UC San Diego come fall, and she's now re-working her presentation on conference interpreting opportunities, which featured the EU quite prominently. We are just glad we have this information on lack of work based on personal experience and can share it with others.

Anonymous said...

Si avec un allemand A et un DP à Vienne tu n'as jamais été recrutée, il me semble précipité de déduire que de toute manière, tu ne l'aurais pas non plus été *si* tu avais déménagé à Bruxelles, à l'image des collègues anglophones.

Dagmar, si tu regardes le "Annual Activity Report Directorate A" sur ScicNet, page 26 et suivantes, tu peux te rendre compte qu'il y a des tendances différentes d'une cabine à l'autre. Ce qui vaut pour nos collègues EN ne s'applique pas nécessairement à la cabine DE.

Personnellement, le critère de DP proche me semble pertinent et rationnel dans une approche de dépenses publiques : Pourquoi recruter quelqu'un qui engendre deux fois plus de coûts, si on peut en recruter des semblablement compétents qui sont à Bruxelles ? Mais bon, on ne va pas refaire le débat interne de plus de cent contributions.

This being said... Je suis d'accord avec le fond de ton article, l'évocation du chant des Sirènes, d'une communication parfois pas assez claire à l'attention des étudiants en ce qui concerne les combinaisons linguistiques pertinentes (et celles qui ne sont pas du tout demandées). Mais soyons rigoureux lorsque nous brossons le tableau et que nous faisons l'état des lieux.

Salutations cordiales de Vilnius,
Un jeune collègue

Anonymous said...

Yes. Good piece. And obviously you're not alone. As Michele has said, there were plenty of interpreters whose relationship with the Eu has turned out to be even more one-sided. They have worked for them for years only to find that, in a drive to cut costs, their aggressive recruitment drive has succeeded in recruiting young and inexperienced interpreters, persuading them to move to Brussels, giving them a little work (perhaps not enough to live on but some, in those booths where there was still some work going)paying them less than they used to pay their older, more experienced interpreters and dumping the latter on the trash heap, particularly if they happened to have lives (families, commitments etc) which did not allow them the possibility of moving to Brussels. Some of them (luckily not me) had even come to rely financially on their EU income to support their families - foolish I know when you know how one-sided the relationship is! But nonetheless, imagine how they feel.

Anonymous said...

Fully agree with your letter. So demand is dropping, but the EU continues to test, despite not having enough work for young English booth colleagues who have only just started. Besides, what are newcomers supposed to do in Brussels for the decade until this wave of retirements? Nice one, SCIC and DG INTE...

Hope things improve for you,

A relative newcomer in the English booth in Brussels

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say I fully support everything in your letter - and I say that as a newcomer in the English booth. The EU is just a tease...

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on June 27, 2013 at 10:30 AM said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! We fully understand your desire to remain anonymous, as many colleagues actually work at the EU. Of course, it would be more powerful to leave names, but it is fully understandable that you must protect your source of income. This makes it a bit challenging, though, to respond. Let's start with the last comment from

@Anonymous (English booth newcomer): Thanks so much for your support. You are so right -- it's a bit of a tease indeed. However, sounds like you are lucky and actually get to work in the booth, huh? Ah, how I long to be in that EU booth....

@Anonymous (another newcomer to the English booth): We appreciate your comment and your lovely note. Excellent point: what does the EU want the newly minted ACI (accredited conference interpreters) to do while they wait for the holy grail? As the largest employer of conference interpreters in the world, we think the EU should do some better forecasting of their needs.

@Anonymous #3: You are so right. I am in the lucky position that I didn't drop everything to move to Brussels. That would have been a very poor decision indeed. It is such a shame that the highly talented people who can pass these exams cannot make a living off this. We are not saying the EU has to guarantee a living for everyone who passes the test -- obviously, they can't -- but no work at all? Or barely any work? This system isn't working and it should be fixed. We also understand that the EU has many bigger fish to fry, but language and communication remain at the core of the EU. Without interpreters, nothing will get done. Unless they settle on one language, which they won't.

Great food for thought here, everyone! Let's keep the conversation going. We appreciate everyone's thoughts and think it's time to discuss this issue openly.

Anonymous said...

Recent EMCI graduate here. Not more than 2 years ago I saw the DG SCIC's FB page announcing its English booth shortage to the world then in the middle of my course the page disappeared.

After having done the EMCI I can't help but think back to what a friend said to me once: "Are you sure your school is legit?" My instructors were very reluctant to talk about the reality of the job market (and whenever the question came up they would go on and on about how important it is to join AIIC).

So we have the EU supposedly desperate for interpreters and they're funding EMCI supposedly to help produce interpreters to make up for the shortages. But the truth is there isn't enough work for those who are already in Brussels. Somehow, in the EU 2+2 became 5.5 and now I'm sitting here wondering what in the world happens next to all of us recent graduates.

Anonymous said...

I have been working as a free-lance interpreter for the EU for fifteen years now and I have seen a slow but steady decline in the number of working days plus an often sudden and arbitrary change (for the worse) of access to recruitment. My theory is that having all those people on the free-lancers list that don't get work or hardly any is a strategy to weaken our negotiating position. Imagine organising an interpreter's strike with all those people desperate to get even one single day of work with the EU... Actually, at the last strike organised by the civil servants of the Council of Ministers, SCIC brought in a number of interpreters who weren't even on the SCIC free-lancers list to cover the meetings in which no interpretation could take place due to striking of SCIC interpreters. And did you know that all "newcomers" get paid only 310€ after taxes instead of 400€ per day for their first... 250 days of work???? So I think that it is clear that there is no problem with their communication strategy... it is all quite intentional: the more interpreters on their free-lance list, the easier it is for them to impose their conditions. Actually, rumour has it that the next step is an actual reduction of our daily salary. Until now AIIC has always bravely upheld our rights as well as they possibly could. Let's see how long they manage to leave that line uncrossed. Thanks for your testimony, Dagy.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on June 27, 2013 at 8:05 PM said...

Bonjour,

Merci de ton commentaire ! En fait, je n’avais pas publié la deuxième partie de la réponse officielle que j’ai eue du Parlement, qui disait que même des collègues vivant à Bruxelles avec les mêmes langues que moi ne reçoivent pas forcément du travail. Voilà, c’est officiel. Et c’est déprimant comme tout.

Je comprends très bien que tout le monde, l’Union européenne incluse, doive faire des économies et si j’étais à la place du « planning », je choisirais des interprètes qui habitent à Bruxelles. Ce qui me dérange est que les services de interprétation continuent de recruter des « ACI » sachant qu’il n’y même pas assez de travail pour celles et ceux qui ont déjà réussi le test. Si j’avais su que je terminerais sur une sorte de liste de réserve, j’aurais certainement fait autre chose que de passer une année et demie à me préparer, comme par exemple essayer de devenir une bonne joueuse aux échecs. Hélas, je suis aussi mauvaise aux échecs qu’il y a une année et demie. Par contre, j’ai une accréditation bien jolie, mais bonne à rien :(

Dagmar

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on June 28, 2013 at 6:38 AM said...

@Anonymous/recent EMCI graduate: Thanks for commenting. Yes, I also see a huge mismatch between the EU’s ongoing efforts to encourage people to take the test and the amount of work available. I think it’s time for the EU to pull the plug and stop testing. Now. In addition, it should be made clear to candidates what they’re getting into. If I’d know that I’d end up on some sort of reserve list, I’d have certainly used that year and a half I spent preparing to do something more worthwhile.

@Anonymous/long-time ACI: A friend of mine in the German booth has had that very same theory for years. She finds the decision of increasing working days to 200 before interpreters receive the higher daily rate appalling. (It would take me decades, given the rate at which I’m going here!). And yes, it might very well have been an attempt to replace experienced (=slightly more expensive) interpreters with cheaper ones. While that may be legal, it’s pretty awful from the perspective of professional solidarity and certainly not ethical. Of course, if it’s true, nobody will ever admit it.

Looking back, I feel really silly about actually seeing myself sitting in a booth at the EU, doing what I love. But I also feel deceived because I had no reason to believe there was no immediate relationship between a successful accreditation test and actual work. Some might say I’m naïve and this is a highly multifaceted issue, and I’m sure it is. Still: I have to admit I’m falling out of love with the EU.

Ian Andersen on June 28, 2013 at 8:48 AM said...

Dear friends,
Thank you for raising the different issues concerning our awareness campaigns and subsequent recruitment conditions for freelancers. All of these require detailed and considered responses and I would not wish to do this precipitately.
Of course it get complicated to comment on posts that are anonymous but I should like to point to one falsehood by "anonymous fifteen years EU interpreter": DG Interpretation does not hire unacredited interpreters. If there is a strike in the Council, requisitions take place in agreement with the staff organisations to cover urgent meetings.
I am just back today from a mission and will look forward to collect responses to the different issues next week. Of course readers of SCICnet forums will have seen most of the issues already replied to by David Baker, head of programming at the European Commission's DG Interpretation. I would also ask that the discussion be kept separate as far as recruitments for the EP and the EC are concerned. I can only speak for the situation at the EC DG Interpretation.

- looking forward to getting back to you with more detailed replies...

Best wishes,
Ian Andersen

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on June 28, 2013 at 2:59 PM said...

@Ian Andersen: Thank you so much for your comment. How lovely to hear from you on this important issue. We really appreciate you taking the time and look forward to your detailed response whenever you have a chance! Thanks. We do think it's a good idea to have this open and honest discussion so potential new interpreter know what to expect.

We wholeheartedly agree, as we've mentioned in another response, that it's a bit tough to have a conversation with anonymous posters, but we certainly understand where they are coming from and that they are afraid of potential repercussions. We, however, are happy to say who we are, as we think that this dialogue could be quite productive. Thanks again, Ian!

nerdskaya on June 30, 2013 at 9:14 AM said...

Thank you, Dagy! This was very brave of you and it's refreshing to see this painful subject being tackled by an interpreter so publicly. I believe the training and the recruitment policies should be overhauled, as they are not valid anymore. I'm thinking of writing a post for this myself and I will as soon as I have more information.
And to respond to one comment above: indeed, things are not the same for all the booths, but there are only a handful of booths where they still truly need people for the short and medium-term and where the standby rate is not alarmingly high.
I know that recruitment cannot be stopped, it would be unfair and unprofessional. However, it would be also unrealistic to expect young interpreters to maintain their skills on an already overflowing market and it would be cruel to continue to lure them with promises of working for the EU in the current situation.

Thank you again for the post and best of everything in the future!

Ian Andersen on June 30, 2013 at 1:12 PM said...

Dear Friends,
Over the weekend I have reflected on this posting by Dagy and on the comments. I have decided not to react to any anonymous commentary. If you are not (wo)man enough for an open debate I feel uneasy engaging in a discussion and respectfully decline. I find the implication - that the European Commission's DG Interpretation would somehow retaliate against named negative commentators - to be both grossly insulting and completely unfounded in fact. I will, however, get back to you all on every signed comment on DG Interpretation's awareness raising actions.

All the best,
Ian Andersen@DG Interpretation-SCIC

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on June 30, 2013 at 7:53 PM said...

@nerdskaya: Thanks for your lovely response, and for giving us your name, too! Another blog post on this important aspect might certainly keep the conversation going and is most welcome.

@Ian Andersen: Thanks for your second comment. We understand your reluctance to answer anonymous posters, but on the other hands, their opinions might not be without merit, even if they choose to remain anonymous -- trust us, we also prefer posters who use their names. And we were merely speculating about the reasons that people choose to remain anonymous, and (perhaps falsely) concluded what most people would conclude: that the posters are afraid of some sort of ill effect. Otherwise, there's really no reason not to use one's name (we have a long history on this blog and posters mainly do use their names). We did not mean to imply anything and merely speculated about the reasons behind all these anonymous responses. Perhaps there's another reason, but we can't think of one. In any case -- we certainly meant no offense by this brief comment and all and very much welcome this dialogue. Thanks again for reaching out. Let's keep this going!

isabella quattrocchi said...

DG INTE does not ask anyone ACI to move his/her professional domicile to Brussels. We work regularly in Brussels and Strasbourg, so we have no interest in advocating Brussels as the sole criterion for recruitment. We apply the three recruitment criteria, i.e. quality, language combination and professional domicile. In this particular case having a domicile in Vienna means that you are not very near Brussels but on the other hand it is not too inconvenient for Strasbourg. Concerning the language combination of this particular example (EN ES FR) we need to say that there is currently no shortage of that combination. At the moment counting the staff interpreters in DG INTE and the ACIs on the common list we have 115 people covering the combination. When this is placed in the context of downturn in demand (decrease of 18% from 2011 to 2012 for DE in DG INTE) there has been no reason to start recruiting anyone simply for the reason that they have become available.
Isabella Quattrocchi@european parliament

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on July 2, 2013 at 2:52 PM said...

@isabella quattrocchi: Thank you so much for joining this conversation. It's lovely to hear from another official EU representative. How fantastic! It really does sound like you have plenty of interpreters in this particular language combination. This, of course, begs the question: why continue going through this lengthy and expensive testing process if you do not need any interpreters?

Ian Andersen on July 3, 2013 at 9:40 AM said...

Dear friends,

Picking up on Dagy's post and the signed comments I would like to offer a few remarks on the actual situation with regard to the European Commission's demand for interpreters, including, of course, the other institutions for which DG Interpretation (SCIC) provides interpreters (see: ec.europa.eu/dgs/scic/about-dg-interpretation/index_en.htm) (sorry, the blog does not accept html codes)


Interpretation in the institutions SCIC serves is, and always has been, demand driven and there will always be fluctuations in demand. Demand is also very particular to each language and it is important not to draw general conclusions from trends in a particular language. Even for particular languages, the situation can change from one year to the next. SCIC regularly publishes information on its intranet concerning trends in activity in general and freelance (ACI) recruitment in particular to help our colleagues form an idea of the developments which might affect them.

That said, the big picture is that there is a wave of retirements of experienced staff and freelance from the established booths which means that there is a structural demand in the coming years for new talent to replace them, hence our forward thinking campaigns to attract new entrants. For some of the more recent enlargement languages there is also a structural need to increase numbers. On the other hand, the EU institutions are facing 5% budget cuts over the next several years which may also have an impact on demand.

Ian Andersen said...

Hello again, he above was just part one of my reply which could not be posted in one go. What happened to part two? :-)

Ian Andersen on July 4, 2013 at 1:19 AM said...

(reply part 2)
Turning to some specific languages referred to in the blog: for SCIC, ACI recruitment has been stable over the last years. EN + 1% in 2012, - 3% first half 2013; DE +2% in 2012, -3% first half 2013. There have however been significant falls in the EP over this period (as Isabella Q. points out) which have had an inevitable impact on the market in Brussels as many ACIs work for both institutions. To pick up on Dagy and Judy's point in the last comment on continued testing, in fact we do not continue to test in FR EN ES into DE as is clear from the published preferential profiles (see below).

Contrary to the EP, 90% of the interpretation SCIC provides takes place in Brussels. It is only right therefore that we give preference in recruitment terms to ACIs based in Brussels. German language ACIs based in Brussels with passive EN, FR, ES are regularly recruited by us and are much needed in our meetings. ACIs with this combination based outside Brussels however will only be recruited by us when we have peak periods of activity. As an accredited ACI based outside Brussels we may occasionally contact you to ask your availability for meeting requests we have closer to where you are based or you can use our "Volontariat" system to indicate yourself that you are available.

On tests, we review our test schedule each year and adjust it for each language in line with changing needs. We publish our preferential profiles on our website. See: http://europa.eu/interpretation/doc/lang_profiles_in_demand.pdf.

It's important to appreciate that when inviting a candidate to a test we do not know what professional domicile they will subsequently choose. In fact, an ACI is free to change their domicile during the course of their career. We therefore invite candidates with the professional and language profile which best matches our needs regardless of where they are currently based. Passing a test is therefore merely a necessary first step. It is not in itself a guarantee of being recruited regularly by SCIC.

If you are an interpreting student or interested in studying interpretation, or later on as a freelance interpreter, you are always welcome to contact the relevant Head of Interpretation Unit (there's one for each language) to ask for advice; you will find their contact details in the relevant language version of the following page on our website: ec.europa.eu/dgs/scic/become-an-interpreter/index_en.htm.

All the best,

Ian Andersen
European Commission interpreters (SCIC)

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/scic/index_en.htm
http://www.facebook.com/Interpreting.for.Europe.SCIC

Gaspar on July 4, 2013 at 8:37 AM said...

J'ai l'impression qu'on perd en équilibre et en objectivité dans le débat. La campagne Interpreting for Europe a fait son temps. Mais y avait-il des informations fondamentalement fausses ? Ou est-ce plutôt qu'il y a eu déformation successive des choses publiées par ce canal, ce qui a mené à des illusions qui ont poussé certains à se faire des espoirs vains ?

Pour reprendre l'allégorie de l'histoire d'amour... Le beau SCIC se contente de dire qu'il est célibataire et qu'il est prêt à aller prendre un verre avec une charmante femme si l'occasion se présente. Ce qu'il ne dit pas, et qu'il n'a à ma connaissance jamais dit, c'est qu'il n'a aucun critère de sélection et qu'il épousera la première venue.

Donc,pourquoi des demoiselles (ou demoiseaux) en sont venus à croire qu'ils avaient toutes leurs chances ? Pourquoi la volonté de prendre un verre a été interprétée comme une proposition de mariage à la portée de tous ? Peut-être parce que d'autres instances, que des étudiants naïfs ont pris pour référence leur ont soufflé de faux espoirs.

Sans jeter la pierre, comment se fait-il que les écoles, par le biais des enseignants qui sont aussi des praticiens freelance de l'interprétation de conférence omettent de dépeindre la situation réelle sur le marché ? Sans me fouler, je compte huit écoles qui forment avec le français A dans 3 pays européens (FR-BE-EN).

SCIC ou pas, le marché ne peut pas absorber autant de nouveaux diplômés. Pourtant, on continue à former. Et on s'émeut et s'étonne (ou feint l'étonnement, tant la conséquence est prévisible) que certains, par désespoir, acceptent tout et n'importe quoi pour survivre... Et que ça dégrade encore plus les conditions de boulot.

Le coeur du problème me semble être l'inflation de jeunes qui veulent étudier l'interprétation, rêvant de jouer les Nicole Kidman, sans qu'aucun garde-fou hormis quelques avertissements oraux (too late, too little) leurs soient donnés, tant par rapport aux réalités DES marchéS que des combinaisons aujourd'hui (encore) pertinentes.

Dans le même genre: "As the Secretary General of the Austrian interpreters’ and translators’ association UNIVERSITAS Austria, I went to great lengths to encourage my fellow interpreters to apply." Là encore, on est dans le phénomène de la désinformation, involontaire certes. Même si tu encourage(ais) uniquemen les gens à postuler, ceux qui t'écoute(ai)nt auront juste entendu "Allez y, il y a du travail".

(trop de caractères - suite dans un second message).

Gaspar on July 4, 2013 at 8:41 AM said...

(suite du précédent message)

J'ai eu la (mal?)chance d'accéder à la profession alors que déjà le bruit courait que les temps seraient durs. Peut-être aussi, n'ais-je pas été aussi désillusionné par la gifle qu'aura été l'état du marché parce que j'ai pris les devants. Or, rares sont les étudiants que je croise qui s'intéressent d'eux-même à ces problématiques. Pas étonnant alors que l'on soit surpris et déçu.

Bref, je n'ai pas l'impression que la situation actuelle soit simplement due au fait que le management du SCIC est inhumaine et ne poursuit qu'une politique machiavélique de rationnalisation des dépenses. Les explications en interne de David et Ian ont donné certains pistes sur le pourquoi du comment. En externe (étudiants/écoles), il y a manifestement des incompréhensions, certains messages passent mal ou ne veulent pas être entendus.

Je peux comprendre que la situation puisse être frustrante, j'ai moi-même du mal me retenir de rire jaune quand je vois mes revenus de la première année de travail. Mais cela ne devrait pas empêcher une présentation objective, au possible complète des facteurs qui ont contribué à la situation actuelle. Qui est très loin d'être simple, surtout lorsqu'on se donne la peine de recouper données chiffrées et expériences empiriques.

La situation étant ce qu'elle est, agissons :

1. Informons nos futurs collègues en bonne intelligence : Les langues demandées et combinaisons intéressantes sont connues et publiées par le SCIC tous les ans.

2. Dissuadons, sans passion excessive, ceux qui n'ont pas de combinaison viable.

3. Expliquons publiquement et mettons en relation les chiffres et tendances afin qu'une image claire soit accessible aux (futurs) étudiants ou collègues : P.ex., 10% de postes à remplacer en cabine française en un seul concours, ça peut sembler énorme. Si on précise que 10%, ça représente 5-6 postes, pour un concours qui a lieu que tous les 4-5 ans, ça change la donne...

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on July 5, 2013 at 10:29 AM said...

@Ian: Thank you so much for your thorough and thoughtful response. We appreciate it very much, and we certainly are grateful for your willingness to discuss this here, on our little forum. We will certainly get back to you with any future queries.

Ah, and the reason that your second comment did not show up immediately is because we moderate every comment and have to manually publish them, and Judy was asleep when the second one came in. They are all live now, though. Thanks!

Anna Kijak said...

Hi Dagy,

Apologies for responding so late to your very interesting post and the equally interesting thread it started. I hope my post won’t disappear in the cyber space because of that delay!

I’m writing as an ACI from one of the so-called new member states. I passed the test seven years ago and have had very little work from either SCIC or DG INTE since (the last time was more than a year ago). Part of the blame lies certainly with my language combination, but given the fact that colleagues with more languages are in a similar or even the same situation, I somehow don’t feel encouraged to add new languages…

My professional domicile (Poland) is a much bigger problem, in my opinion. And it’s not surprising, given the crisis, budgets cuts etc. ¬– ACIs who don’t live in Brussels or very near Brussels are simply more expensive than those who do. Full stop. Especially those ACIs who are in the higher paid category (I’m not). As far as I know, DG INTE still continues to hire those “expensive” (but tried and tested) freelancers, though this is happening less and less, but SCIC does not as a rule, except in very rare circumstances. Of course the situation varies from booth to booth, but that’s a general tendency from what I’ve experienced myself and have heard from many fellow freelancers.

I’m not saying that quality doesn’t matter at all. All freelancers have to pass a very difficult test and they are assessed by staff interpreters from time to time. Though I have to admit I’ve no idea whether this assessment has any bearing on employability – I was assessed twice in 2011, got good marks and still my professional competency (part of the employability coefficient) is listed as 0.0. More importantly, I think that in this case we’re not dealing with an “expensive but better” vs. “cheap but less good” alternative. Rather, it’s about choosing from among good enough interpreters (they all passed the test, so they are all regarded as good enough), some of whom are more expensive than others, because of their domicile and/or experience-related pay category. Some of the more expensive interpreters may also be better, but the question is: do EU institutions need better interpreters or less expensive (but still good) interpreters? Many interpreters think it’s the latter option that will always win, so they either move to Brussels or simply list Brussels as their professional domicile, but go there only when they are offered jobs, and cheap flights and accommodation are available. Sounds crazy? Indeed, but given the current recruitment policy, many interpreters who really want to work for EU institutions see no other way…

Don’t get me wrong – I do understand the problem of a reduced budget. It is logical for SCIC and DG INTE to choose only or mostly those ACIs who live not too far away. And to have a substantial pool of ACIs who have fewer than 250 days under their belt. Frankly, I don’t know how the recruitment policy could be changed to avoid the frustration among the ACIs, many of whom feel they have to compete on price, not on quality, to work for the Parliament or for the Commission. Making the policy clearer to all concerned could be a start – it would make it easier for everyone to decide whether it’s worth their while to prepare for the test, add new languages or move to Brussels.

I hope that you will eventually get to work for the EU, Dagy. It’s always interesting to see how the EU machine works from up close and personal. Not all the meetings are terribly exciting, of course, but there’s always the chance for a last minute change in your schedule and transfer from a meeting about taxes to one about animal health.

All the best,
Anna

Anna said...

Hi Dagy,

Apologies for responding so late to your very interesting post and the equally interesting thread it started. I hope my post won’t disappear in the cyber space because of that delay!

I’m writing as an ACI from one of the so-called new member states. I passed the test seven years ago and have had very little work from either SCIC or DG INTE since (the last time was more than a year ago). Part of the blame lies certainly with my language combination, but given the fact that colleagues with more languages are in a similar or even the same situation, I somehow don’t feel encouraged to add new languages…

My professional domicile (Poland) is a much bigger problem, in my opinion. And it’s not surprising, given the crisis, budgets cuts etc. ¬– ACIs who don’t live in Brussels or very near Brussels are simply more expensive than those who do. Full stop. Especially those ACIs who are in the higher paid category (I’m not). As far as I know, DG INTE still continues to hire those “expensive” (but tried and tested) freelancers, though this is happening less and less, but SCIC does not as a rule, except in very rare circumstances. Of course the situation varies from booth to booth, but that’s a general tendency from what I’ve experienced myself and have heard from many fellow freelancers.

I’m not saying that quality doesn’t matter at all. All freelancers have to pass a very difficult test and they are assessed by staff interpreters from time to time. Though I have to admit I’ve no idea whether this assessment has any bearing on employability – I was assessed twice in 2011, got good marks and still my professional competency (part of the employability coefficient) is listed as 0.0. More importantly, I think that in this case we’re not dealing with an “expensive but better” vs. “cheap but less good” alternative. Rather, it’s about choosing from among good enough interpreters (they all passed the test, so they are all regarded as good enough), some of whom are more expensive than others, because of their domicile and/or experience-related pay category. Some of the more expensive interpreters may also be better, but the question is: do EU institutions need better interpreters or less expensive (but still good) interpreters? Many interpreters think it’s the latter option that will always win, so they either move to Brussels or simply list Brussels as their professional domicile, but go there only when they are offered jobs, and cheap flights and accommodation are available. Sounds crazy? Indeed, but given the current recruitment policy, many interpreters who really want to work for EU institutions see no other way…

Don’t get me wrong – I do understand the problem of a reduced budget. It is logical for SCIC and DG INTE to choose only or mostly those ACIs who live not too far away. And to have a substantial pool of ACIs who have fewer than 250 days under their belt. Frankly, I don’t know how the recruitment policy could be changed to avoid the frustration among the ACIs, many of whom feel they have to compete on price, not on quality, to work for the Parliament or for the Commission. Making the policy clearer to all concerned could be a start – it would make it easier for everyone to decide whether it’s worth their while to prepare for the test, add new languages or move to Brussels.

I hope that you will eventually get to work for the EU, Dagy. It’s always interesting to see how the EU machine works from up close and personal. Not all the meetings are terribly exciting, of course, but there’s always the chance for a last minute change in your schedule and transfer from a meeting about taxes to one about animal health.

All the best,
Anna

1Globaltranslators on November 19, 2013 at 2:12 AM said...

Good article, it only confirms that there is just too much to the EU bureaucracy and so much of it just doesn´t work.

Diana Coada on June 19, 2014 at 4:30 AM said...

Dear Dagy,

I am very interested to know if there have been any changes in your situation. I have just finished my training myself and it would be great to hear some encouraging news given that it's been a year since you posted the open letter. See you in September in Manchester!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on June 23, 2014 at 3:11 PM said...

@Diana: Thanks for checking in, Diana! Dagy has been invited to Brussels a few times and has gone once so far (she was already booked the other days). However, it took more than a year and a few months to get the first invoice to Brussels. Let's chat more in Manchester -- looking forward to it!

Cristina said...

Hi everyone!
I know this is an old post, but I found it very useful and wanted to ask a couple of questions since I'm interested in the topic. I'm a conference interpreting student in my second year, my combination is Italian A, English C, German C and Finnish C and this year I've been granted a study bursary from SCIC. Being granted a bursary implies that "Candidates who have received a bursary and pass their final examinations must undertake to sit an inter-institutional accreditation test and, if successful, to give the EU Institutions first call upon their services for a period of three years". This doesn't mean that for three years the beneficiary will be able to make a living just out of the assignments they receive by the EU institutions does it?
And another question (it's pretty unrelated to this discussion, but whatever): to everyone who sat the accreditation test… are the speeches really similar to the ones that you can find on the speech repository under the label "test type"? I wonder because some of them look to me too easy for an EU test, and an acquaintance of mine who passed the test this year for the Italian booth said that they were actually more "technical" (not quite technical speeches, but not even as generic as the ones uploaded).
Dagy, and all the other who sat and passed the exam, what were your experience in this regard?
Thank you in advance :)

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