When pigs fly: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20040610/lf_afp/eu_vote_language_040610054512 EU enlargement creates translation nightmare Thu Jun 10, 1:45 AM ET STRASBOURG (AFP) - Wanted: Maltese speaker capable of translating thousands of pages of legal documents from Hungarian in four days. Salary negotiable, but must be willing to share office with German go-between interpreting from Estonian into Greek. Such is the linguistic nightmare created by the enlargement of the European Union (news - web sites) from 15 member states to 25 countries whose citizens elect a new EU parliament this week. Even the United Nations (news - web sites) uses only six languages for official translations of its resolutions and for most meetings its diplomats rely on just two: English and French. But the EU parliament insists on spoken and written versions of its proceedings in the official languages of all its members. Since the May 1 enlargement, that means 20 languages, with a total of 380 permutations when each is translated into all of the others. To make matters worse, some new members have such small populations -- there are 1.4 million speakers of Estonian and only 400,000 Maltese -- that there are not enough qualified translators and interpreters to meet the EU's needs. Gerard Bokanowski, head of the parliament's translation service, said only two Maltese speakers had applied for jobs. "How can I get by with only two people, when there are thousands of pages to translate in each session?" he asked. The parliament holds 11 four-day sessions a year in the French city of Strasbourg. Its staff of translators has swollen from 600 to 800 since the enlargement, but Bokanowski said at least another 200 were needed. The head of the interpreting department, Olga Cosmidou, said she needed about 720 new staff, 80 working in each of the nine new languages. "We have taken on fewer than 100 so far," she said, and the task of testing candidates is so time-consuming, their numbers are unlikely to increase soon. Faced with the threat that its huge bureaucracy would grind to a halt, members of the EU parliament took the unprecedented step in April of changing their internal regulations to dispense with the obligation to translate all documents into all languages, at least as a temporary measure. Interpreters will probably have to work in pairs in "bridging languages", despite the risk of compounding errors. If nobody is available to interpret from Latvian directly into Portuguese, for instance, one interpreter puts the remarks into English, French or German as a first step and another provides the final version. Almost 10 million euros have been spent on new booths for interpreters and an audio transmission service in conference rooms and the debating chamber at the EU parliament in Strasbourg, and two new office blocks have been built at the parliament's secretariat in Luxembourg. But these sums pale into insignificance beside the 900 million euros which the EU spends each year to ensure that each Euro-MP can speak in his or her own language. "One percent of the community budget or two euros for each EU citizen, that is the price of democracy," Cosmidou said.