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The texts

In 1994 SdT was responsible for the production of more than a million pages of translation. An analysis of about 300,000 of these pages shows that 73 will be distributed or used outside the Commission itself, that 41.7 result from a legal obligation to produce translations, 30.6 are political texts and 27.7 are to do with operational needs.

Before the accession of Finland and Sweden at the beginning of 1995, there were nine Community languages: Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Finnish and Swedish bring this number to eleven. The first regulation adopted by the Council of the European Economic Community in 1958 establishes the principle of equality of all the official languages of the Community. This principle remains in force.

As a consequence, too, the term "translation" as used in the rest of this study, only makes sense as long as a document is internal to the Commission. Once it leaves the Commission, there is no indication in any document, whether it is an official document or the somewhat less official type of material exemplified by brochures or information leaflets, of the language or languages of the original.

Communication inside the Commission tends to pass through three of the eleven languages, English, French and German. This is reflected in the demands made on the translation services, and thus in the number of translators into those languages (around 160 for German, 140 for each of English and French, as opposed to between 90 and 100 for each of the other languages).

The time available for a translation to be produced varies enormously according to the nature of the document. In some cases, a translation may be required within hours, in other cases it may not be required for some weeks. One of the participants, though, pointed out that there are two kinds of urgency. There are documents which by their nature are urgent, and documents which become urgent by being pushed down the queue by others with higher priority.

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Next: The organisational structure Up: Background Previous: Background