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″Surviving″ during and after the COVID-19 pandemic is difficult, especially for specialists working in the language services industry. In times of crisis, access to language services is essential for both scientists and regional authorities and governments. At the same time, strict measures taken to stop the spread of the virus have affected this industry. The closure of public enterprises and institutions has a severe financial impact on the work of interpreters around the world. Conference interpreters are economically affected by the current global health emergency. Not only the organizations cancel events and projects, but they reorganize long-term activities to ensure that they comply with mobility restrictions.

As of March this year, around 1,200 independent interpreters in the EU institutions have lost their jobs. The coronavirus pandemic has drastically reduced the number of face-to-face meetings for which interpretation is made in several languages. This has led to a dramatic drop in the workload for interpreters who verbally translate speeches for politicians and public servants. Officials are required to speak in English because interpreters are no longer there.

Linguists also use an application called Interactio to provide simultaneous interpretation for online meetings, but interpreters need to see the person speaking, as there is a risk of losing context and the level of concentration is high.

Interpreters fear that if the meetings do not return to normal soon, all contracts will be canceled, and the EU will not be able to function properly in its 24 official languages.

The EU institutions employ 800 interpreters with permanent contracts and 3,200 independent interpreters, of whom 1,200 have regular contracts. Many independent interpreters work in all three main EU institutions. For example, the European Commission provides interpretation for about 40 to 50 meetings a day, on normal days.

If you want to find out how interpreters are assisting patients during the coronavirus pandemic, check out our article on this topic: Remote interpretation for coronavirus patients.

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