The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Helping Maltese citizens to become translators in EU institutions

Ian Borg Monday, 19 August 2013, 07:48 Last update: about 11 years ago

When speaking to foreign friends of mine about the Maltese language I am very often told how remarkable it is for a population of less than half a million people, to have managed to preserve their mother tongue.   Apart from the inhabitants of the Maltese Islands and several thousands of first and second generation emigrants scattered all over the world, and in spite of the many threats from several foreign languages, primarily English and Italian, we still speak to each other in the vernacular.

One of the most important elements of our national identity is precisely the Maltese language. Perhaps few are aware that apart from being the national language, Maltese, alongside Englishare both official languages as laid down in the Maltese Constitution.  This is the reason why, for example, the Government Gazette is published bi-lingual. Both languages are equally authentic.

In my view, a very important boost to the survival of the Maltese language came about following Malta’s membership to the European Union, because today our mother tongue has official status alongside 23 other recognized languages.  This development has given a new lease of life to the Maltese language apart from opening up new opportunities for Maltese translators and interpreters in EU institutions.

Unfortunately not enough Maltese candidates for these posts make the grade.  I came to know recently that due to the fact that not enough Maltese-speaking translators are available, the legal requirement that all EU legislation is simultaneously published in all official languages has been suspended.

One would expect that after having achieved this breakthrough, the Maltese Language would be used more frequently by Maltese MEPs during debates in the European Parliament.  However, this has not been the case as evidenced by figures recently made available by the European Parliament office in Malta.

According to the same figures, Maltese is the second-least spoken language in the European Parliament. The only one who really stood up for the Maltese language in the European Parliament was Prime Minister Joseph Muscat when, as an MEP, he protested  because there were no interpreters for the Maltese language during the session.

Other negative reports concerning the status of the Maltese language in EU institutions came to light in a book by Dr Peter Agius, the longest serving Maltese official within the EU institutions, about the translation of European Legislation which was launched in Malta in October, 2012.  According to Dr. Agius, Malta has to be vigilant over the quality of language being produced by scores of Maltese translators in Brussels and Luxembourg because pressure is building for the EU to reduce its language costs which, for Maltese alone, amount to €30 million a year.

Since Malta joined the EU in 2004, many Maltese citizens have taken up well paid jobs of translators and interpreters in EU institutions.  Looking up the website one comes across several testimonies of the experiences of Maltese nationals who are currently working in Brussels or Strasbourg. They speak enthusiastically about their work, about living away from home and about making new foreign friends from all over Europe.

My secretariat wants more Maltese citizens, especially young graduates, to share similar work experiences.  We are currently finalising plans to assist Maltese prospective candidates who have shown interest in taking up employment as translators in EU institutions and who have applied to sit for the relevant examination which will be held next September.

 Together with the EU Secretariat of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and with the support of the European Parliament office in Malta, my Secretariat has joined forces with the CDRT for the holding of training sessions.  We plan to hold mock exams to prepare the prospective candidates on what to expect during the examination and the approach they should take.  The objective is to ensure that enough candidates will be successful to take up the circa 40 post of Maltese translators in Brussels which are currently vacant. 

We have decided to get involved and assist these candidates in order to avoid a repeat of the very negative result following the last examination when, out of around 90 candidates, only five were successful.  If Maltese citizens do not take up these posts it will be one lost opportunity for those who aspire to work in the EU institutions.  I say this because becoming a translator could very well be the first steps towards a more colourful, successful and rewarding career in a European institution.


Dr Ian Borg is the Parliamentary Secretary for EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds

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