MyHEH: interview with Renée Van Hoof-Haferkamp

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Ms Renée Van Hoof-Haferkamp has played a huge role in founding the interpreting service at the European institutions. The interview with Ms Renée Van Hoof-Haferkamp is conducted by Valter Mavrič, Director-General of the Directorate-General for Translation at the European Parliament and is available on My House of European History platform. Visit the website and share your story!

The interview is part of “The View of the Future Shaped by the Past” series produced by the European Parliament’s Translation Service.

Being surrounded by many important figures of the last century, Renée step by step shaped her professional identity, and her own story fascinates. Renée counted four languages in her linguistic repertoire when she started working as an interpreter: German, French, Italian and Dutch. However, her memories go far beyond the linguistic side of her life and include the founding fathers of the European Union. 

Jean Monnet – the founding father of the European Union

Renée recalls how she started working under the direction of Jean Monnet, who was a true European. Jean Monnet actively cooperated with interpreters during the first union with Germany, and Renée was present during the official meetings. Her interpreter’s job, above all, consisted in understanding the objectives Mr Monnet had in mind. For instance, the interpreters visited collieries and steelworks – places vital for European integration, as the integration process started with coal and steel.

Renée Van Hoof-Haferkamp at the castle of Val Duchesse

Being a witness to the Common Market negotiations, where the European reality was shaped, Renée reminds that there were many difficulties on the way to establishing a proper interpreting service at the European institutions. Shortage of interpreters, poor equipment and hard to understand negotiations – 6 young interpreters of different backgrounds had to cope with these challenges at the castle of Val Duchesse and deliver high-quality interpreting. A typical day at Val Duchesse included supervision by someone who was always checking the consecutive interpreter’s speech.

Must-have skills of an interpreter

At the age of 22, Renée’s knowledge of several European languages opened for her the door to UNICEF. She proved that being at the right time at the right place can bring big success. She shared what qualities are needed to become a professional interpreter. Apart from excellent language skills, an interpreter must have broad general knowledge of different subjects: law, medicine, finance. Moreover, an interpreter must be very disciplined. 

Watch the video of the interview with Renée Van Hoof-Haferkamp (available in all 24 official EU languages)!

References

My House of European History. 2021. Renée Van Hoof-Haferkamp: a pioneer of interpretation in the European institutions. [ONLINE] Available at: https://my-european-history.ep.eu/myhouse/story/1476 [Accessed 2 August 2021].


Written by Olena Khomiakova, Schuman Communication Trainee Terminology Coordination Unit. Currently she is enrolled as a Master student in Learning and Communications in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg.