Life in the Centre de Traduction – A trainee’s story

December 11, 2017 4:46 pm

CdT banner

There is something that has been, that is and that will always be a part of the European Union: communication, therefore, languages. In particular, a group of languages – nowadays 24 languages, i.e. Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish. Then there is something else that is part of the EU: translators. Not for nothing Umberto Eco said that “translation is the language of Europe”. If not, how would it be possible for 28 countries to agree on projects dealing with law, finances, medicine or fisheries? Will is essential, but the reality is that there is a linguistic and cultural barrier which is overcome thanks to the work of translators and interpreters, as well as terminologists and linguists in general.

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There is a European agency that provides such a service: the Centre of Translation for the Bodies of the European Union, also known as the CdT (Centre de Traduction). I just completed a traineeship in the field of terminology in the Centre, so I would like to share some facts about this quite unknown, but important place. The Centre of Translation is located in Luxembourg and it was established in 1994 by the Council of the EU in order to “provide the necessary translation services for the operation of […] bodies” [1] that work in a variety of topics ranging from economics and legal affairs to health, without forgetting intellectual property and transport, and the now more than 60 agencies.

So the Centre of Translation offers a range of linguistic services performed by qualified translators. But the truth is that the CdT does not work only from/to the official EU languages, but also with non-EU languages, e.g. Arabic, Chinese or Russian, as well as Zulu or Xhosa. It does not depend on the number of speakers; the Centre of Translation is committed to making communication easier, as its motto states “More than 20 years committed with multilingualism”. Working with such a large number of languages means more than 500 language combinations and the necessity of cooperating with external translators whose work is revised in the Centre before being delivered to the client. There are around 4-8 in-house translators per official EU language and I was pleasantly surprised to see that they are mixed in the building, instead of being organised by languages; so you can find in the same office translators coming from Malta and from Bulgaria, and just beside them, others coming from Italy and Slovakia – this made me feel the spirit of Europe! Here you can see a complete chart with the structure of the Centre.

During my traineeship I focused on terminology work, being part of the Corpus and Terminology Management Team. So I helped with the revision and creation of glossaries and lists of terms not only in English and my mother tongue, but also in other EU and non-EU languages. Terminology work is done in the Centre in order to assure that translators will use terms in a consistent way and that those are the preferred words by the client in a particular context. For example, when creating the glossary on intellectual property it is necessary to take into account not only the client (EUIPO beside WIPO, that can therefore be a reference), but also the topic (designs beside marks). Glossaries can contain such a large quantity of terms that a terminologist has to devote full-time to it for months. The CdT usually receives a glossary containing data on definition and context, but sometimes it is just a list of words to be filled and consequently discussed with the client during several weeks until they find a final version to be used in order to complete a glossary for every EU language. In order to find those terms, the terminologist usually receives some documents from the client and consults EU terminology databases, such as IATE or ECHA-term. However, sometimes terminologists cannot find a term in their language and have to eventually propose a new one, which has to be approved by the client. In order to do so it is necessary to not only know the basic terminology rules, but to apply them in the context – client, topic, project… But work is not yet finished: I also had to proofread the format of the document by checking spaces between words, reference material format or tags; and all this once again by following general rules (i.e. IATE rules), or specific rules (depending on the language, client…). But what I liked the most is that I was lucky enough to be part of a group of terminologists who where absolutely open to sharing their experience and knowledge, only for the goal of communication and clarification. And again, this made me feel the spirit of Europe, something I was lucky to perceive during my previous traineeship in TermCoord.

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                                              The Translation Centre building.


In any case, I would like also to comment that all the staff proved to be very professional, from the linguists (terminologists, corpus specialists and translators), to the rest of the colleagues working in formatting, administration and security. Indeed they are all involved in the successful result of every language project, so that in 2003 the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) recognised the work of the Centre because it is “committed to Excellence in Europe”.

In summary, after my traineeship in the Centre of Translation for the Bodies of the European Union I can just say that I have learned from a great team of specialists among whom I also had the chance to meet friends from every corner of the European Union. So if you are interested in multiculturalism and languages, just apply for a traineeship in any of the European institutions, such as the Centre of Translation or the European Parliament.



– Beckwith, Tony (2017). “Interview with Thierry Fontenelle”. The ATA Chronicle. Online, available at: (Accessed: 3 December, 2017).

– [1] Council Regulation (EC) No 2965/94 of 28 November 1994 setting up a Translation Centre for the bodies of the European Union. Online, available at: (Accessed: 3 December, 2017).

– InterActive Terminology for Europe (IATE). Online, available at:;jsessionid=UaEeNg01ozK99q7PfJPkgGq3YHJ200fa6Or2kfNX33KM5ZQ0pMed!-1859837862?method=load (Accessed: 3 December, 2017).

– Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union. Online, available at: (Accessed: 3 December, 2017).


Written by Ana Bennasar

Former Terminology Trainee at TermCoord (April – September 2016), she recently completed a traineeship in the field of terminology in the Centre of Translation for the Bodies of the European Union (Luxembourg). Ana was born in Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain) and she holds a degree in Translation and Interpreting at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with Spanish, French, English, Portuguese, and Arabic as her main working languages. Since 2010, she has been collaborating as a translator for several international organizations and NGOs to improve her professional skills in the field of translation of texts about human rights, immigration and international cooperation. Ana is interested in finance and law, especially when related to regions such as Africa, the Middle East and Europe, and she also holds an MA in Institutional Translation and the ECQA certificate in terminology management. In addition, Ana is passionate about every linguistic and cultural feature of her birthplace, the Canary Islands. You can follow her on Twitter at @AnaMBennasar.

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