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The European Union (EU), with 27 member states, recognizes 23 official languages. Citizens living in the EU can correspond with the governing body in their native language and expect reply in that same language, as long as it is one of the 23. On a publication level, budget restrictions have left most important documents created by the European Commission translated to or from English, German and French. Translators and interpreters are provided for all members of the parliament in order to ensure fair and transparent participation in discussions and debates.

What is translated?

Many people, when thinking of translation, will generally consider broad categories that include literary translation (works of art such as novels, movie scripts for dubbing or subtitling), legal translation (laws, treaties, contracts), or administrative translation (birth certificates, diplomas, transcripts). These are the types of translation that the average person will be familiar with, either through leisure consumption, the need to understand legal material or the need for paperwork translated for personal use with local bureaucracy.

Understanding cultures

One of the most outstanding aspects of the EU has been its ability to open the borders that once stood between different cultures. The freedom enjoyed by European citizens to travel to other member states has created a greater need for translation. From the menu in a restaurant to guides for tourists, the ease of movement created by the Schengen Agreement has meant that host countries must be prepared for visitors who may not speak the locally spoken language.

In addition, arts and culture have enjoyed a wider arena, creating the need for translation of film, literature and scientific material. Commercial interests, supported and increased by the use of Internet, have brought a demand for accurate and trustworthy translation of marketing as well as instructional material.

Education has also benefited from the opening of the boarders, with students choosing to study abroad to improve their chances of landing work once their studies have finished. The translation of educational texts has become increasingly necessary in order to ensure a complete education for these young people.

Facing bureaucracy

Migration from one country to another in the EU is an ever-increasing phenomena. On arriving in a host country, the immigrant is often faced with bureaucratic paperwork that will include documents from their home country that must be translated into the language of the host country. From invoices to birth and marriage certificates, member states have the right to ask for accurate translation of these civil documents, often accompanied by an apostille. Arriving at any state-run office with the correct translation of a document is always an advantage when facing red tape.

Finding translators

Translation is an activity that straddles art and craft. It is simply not enough to know and understand the original and target languages to be translated. A translation that is clear, transparent and faithful to the original is the work of a professional translator. This person will face a number of obstacles, from poorly worded original text to dialectic localisms that do not have an exact equivalent in the target language. In the case of administrative or legal translation, there is often the requirement that the translation be certified by an official of a specific type.

In the case of legal documentation, medical material or administrative documents though, it is usually best to contact a translation agency that can offer official guarantees that the work done is accurate.