Euro English – English for all … except for native speakers


Following the publication of a Brief list of misused English terms in EU publications, and from my own personal (albeit short) experience working as a Trainee in TermCoord, it is clear that there a new language is used within the EU institutions: “Europe English”. English is the internal working language of the European Parliament. Working in such a close-knit bubble and speaking on a daily basis with non-native speakers (using Euro jargon) one can often forget that the English spoken and written here might not be the English used in the UK or Ireland.

This is not a matter of being ethnocentric; non-native speakers are not speaking ‘incorrect’ English. Correctness, unfortunately, does not always guarantee comprehensibility for native-speakers. Why is this important? Because ultimately, translators will have to translate into English that is accessible to citizens of the UK and Ireland. Here are a few samples of “Europe English” that you may find in EU papers.

Actor/s – According to the list, EU publications use this word to mean ‘people or organisations used in doing something’. This word is rarely used in this sense in the UK/ Ireland, where it is mostly only used to mean actual actors (e.g. in a play or a film).

The situation of general violence in Mogadishu was sufficiently intense to enable the ECtHR to conclude that any returnee would be at a real risk of ill-treatment contrary to Article 3 solely on account of his or her presence in the country, unless it could be demonstrated that he or she was sufficiently well connected to powerful actors in the city to enable him or her to obtain protection. (Handbook on European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration, (2013) p.69).

In case/ of – is used to indicate that you should prepare yourself for a situation e.g. In case of frost, the meeting will be cancelled. “In the event of” is used less but is actually more correct in most situations. “In case of” and “in the event of” are used synonymously, but the difference lies in its indicated ‘probability’. The former means ‘I’m expecting this to happen’; the latter means ‘in the unlikely chance that this happens’. The sentence below should be changed to “in the event of”, because presently it sounds like the author is expecting the text to be incomprehensible and therefore cause the reader doubts:

In case of doubt on the interpretation or the validity of an EU provision, national courts can – and must in certain cases – seek guidance from the CJEU using the preliminary reference procedure under Article 267 of the TFEU. (Handbook on European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration, (2013) pp.19-20).

Mission – According to EU usage, being on “mission” is when an employee is working away from their place of residence for the purpose of an assignment. This word in UK/ Irish usage means either a secret mission (think Mission Impossible, secret agents) or a trip which a missionary takes to spread the message of the Bible. Missions, as used in the sentence below, indicates that these interns are sent to spy or gather information from another institution:

In exceptional cases only, justified by the requirements of the internship project, the Director may grant authorisation for the intern to be sent on mission, on the condition that the mission is of a technical nature and not of a representative one. (CEPOL – Decision of the Director on Internships).

Agent (Temporary agents, contract agents) — The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following definition for an “agent”: a person who acts on behalf of another (e.g. an agent for an actor/ writer, a travel agent, a secret agent). An agent, as used in EU text, means anyone employed by the EU. A “contract agent” actually sounds like someone hired to kill someone else. When “agent” is used with “mission”, then the possibilities of misinterpretations are endless:

The EACI may also employ interim agents to meet specific temporary needs related to the functioning of the Agency. Candidates included in the database of the interim agency (Randstad) may be contacted for interim missions at the Agency. (EACI – Information for candidates).

These examples are from my own personal experience. For more examples, or alternative explanations to these listed words, please consult the above-mentioned text. Let’s not forget that English is not only used as a working language, but also as the official language of certain countries. An effort must be made to write idiomatically, or a percentage of EU citizens will find themselves confused, ignorant, and consequently dismissive.

Jiayi HUANG is a trainee at TermCoord from London, UK.


About TermCoord

The Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament in Schuman Building on Place de l'Europe, Luxembourg
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