Getting organized to beat Babel in multilingual service encounters: The European Network for Public Service Interpreting and Translation (ENPSIT)


  • Pascal Rillof > Kruispunt Migratie-Integratie (Junction Migration-Integration) and > European Network for Public Service Interpreting and Translation
  • Lieven Buysse KU Leuven (University of Leuven)


public service interpreting, public service translation, super-diversity, multilingualism


People are on the move, coming in from beyond the borders of the European Union and circulating within it. Our major cities in particular are rapidly becoming “super-diverse” communities with many different (cultural) minorities. Many immigrant groups are, at least in the initial phase of their residence in a new community, often unable to communicate effectively in the official language. This poses important challenges for public service providers, who ought to be able to ensure equal access to their services to anyone who requires them. Yet, not all public service providers in Europe are prepared or equipped to operate in such a multilingual environment, and in many countries both comprehensive policies and structural funding are still lacking. As a result, public service interpreting and translation are available and made use of very unevenly. Following earlier initiatives to put public service interpreting and translation (PSIT) on the agendas of the European Commission and EU member states, such as the report drawn up by the European Language Council’s Special Interest Group on Translation and Interpreting for Public Services (SIGTIPS) in 2011, more recently the European Network for Public Service Interpreting and Translation (ENPSIT) was founded. Its main aims are to have the right to high-quality language assistance in service contexts officially recognized, and to see the development of (harmonized) public service interpreter and translator training, assessment and accreditation across the EU. This paper sketches (i) the societal framework within which PSIT provision is organized, (ii) how ENPSIT wishes to deploy strategies to influence European and national policy-making as well as foster excellent PSIT training and quality assurance, and (iii) how the fight for optimal communication in public services is not, nor should be, restricted to improving PSIT.