Overview of SCIC’s Irish Outreach activities over the past year
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News items are taken from a number of different sources and do not necessarily reflect the position of DG Interpretation or the European Commission.
Over the past few years, SCIC has provided significant outreach to Ireland. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the service needs to ensure it can provide coverage of the Irish language before the end of the derogation on 31 December 2021. Secondly, since the UK’s departure from the European Union, Ireland is the largest English-speaking member state. As such, it is where we are most likely to find a pool of English native-speaker talent to meet future staffing needs. SCIC is not the only Commission service to face these challenges, and from the very beginning we have worked in very close cooperation with DG Translation, running joint outreach events featuring careers talks for both translation and interpretation. These events have also coincided with a push by the Irish government to promote careers in the EU institutions – the Irish government launched its new EU jobs strategy, ‘A Career for EU’, in May 2021. Thus, we have been able to count on invaluable assistance from the Irish Departments of Education and Foreign Affairs, as well as from the Irish Permanent Representation to the European Union.
The first challenge is a long-term one – to ensure that secondary school students are aware of interpreting as a profession. To this end, SCIC has been a regular participant at #ThinkLanguages, an annual event aimed at promoting and fostering an appreciation for language learning among 15 to 16-year-old secondary school students in Ireland. The workshops and activities give them a taster of the prospects and careers which languages could open up for them. In December 2019, SCIC interpreters Morag Neath and Aisling Ní Chatháin were present together with colleagues from the European Parliament and the Court of Justice to host exciting interactive workshops and practical demonstrations. This was an excellent opportunity to talk about interpreting to a vast audience of young people, and hopefully to light a spark in these young minds. The 2020 event was, out of necessity, held virtually, but SCIC continued to be an active participant, and for the 2021 edition SCIC is again working together with the interpreting services of the European Parliament and Court of Justice to produce pedagogical materials related to interpreting. These will be used in schools across Ireland and will be an excellent way of raising awareness about the profession.
Another target of outreach efforts was Irish universities. The focus here was on students studying languages, teachers in language faculties, and career advisers. Efforts kicked off early in 2020 with a trip by Kevin McCarthy, who gave well-attended talks at a large number of Irish universities. Aisling Ní Chatháin joined Kevin for the 2021 edition of this whistle-stop tour, which was held virtually. The online format of these talks meant we could reach a very wide audience and those attending participated actively during the Q+A sessions. Between the positive feedback we received from organisers and students and the astute questions asked by the latter during the talks we are hopeful we managed to open their eyes to the joys of a career as an interpreter.
For several years now, SCIC has taken part in an annual event organised in Ireland by DGT for those interested in working with Irish in the EU. In 2020, the event was held online and we made sure to shine a spotlight on interpreting, alongside presentations by translators, proofreaders, lawyer-linguists and more. Online workshops were also organised to allow participants to get a feel for interpreting. This annual event is the main Irish-language outreach event of the year and SCIC interpreters’ presence in previous years has already led to at least one student pursuing a Masters in Conference Interpreting, which just goes to show that every little helps.
As mentioned in the introduction, in May 2021 the Irish government launched the ‘A Career for EU’ campaign. This aims to increase the number of Irish people working in the EU institutions: it was the perfect opportunity for SCIC to forge links with the relevant Irish authorities. Several webinars and information sessions have been organised by the Irish Permanent Representation in this context, including an event on language-related careers, in which Morag Neath, Aisling Ní Chatháin and Kevin McCarthy participated. Broadly publicised and broadcast via the Perm Rep’s networks and social media channels, this session attracted significant numbers of interested participants.
As you can see, SCIC has participated in many different outreach activities to boost awareness of interpreting as a career, particularly amongst those with Irish, where numbers are still low. As with any outreach activity, the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit, so we hope that we shall reap the benefits over the next few years as we welcome new interpreters into the fold.