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!