[Guest Post] The European Youth Event 2018

[Guest Post] The European Youth Event 2018

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Introducing Lisa Cavanagh, a conference interpreter based in Galway, Ireland. In this guest post, she takes us on a trip to Strasbourg, where she attended the 2018 European Youth Event as a volunteer interpreter.


Anybody who happened to be visiting Strasbourg on the 1st and 2nd of June would have noticed there was a particular buzz about the city. The European Youth Event (EYE) welcomed 8,000 young Europeans to the city to participate in a jam-packed two-day program of debates, discussions, round tables, workshops and activities. 8,000 enthusiastic, proactive, and engaged young people will definitely create a buzz! I was lucky enough to get the chance to participate this year as a multilingualism volunteer interpreter, in conjunction with DG LINC.

For anybody who is not familiar with the EYE, it takes place every two years in Strasbourg, 2018 was the third session. I must admit I had not heard about it before. The aim of the EYE is to create dialogue between young people and European decision makers. This year the motto for the event was “The plan is to fan this spark into a flame.” (Hamilton, "My Shot"), and the event covered five main themes:

  1. Young and old: Keeping up with the digital revolution
  2. Rich and poor: Calling for a fair share
  3. Apart and together: Working out for a stronger Europe
  4. Safe and dangerous: Staying alive in turbulent times
  5. Local and global: Protecting our planet

Policy makers, inspirational speakers and young people from around Europe came together to discuss and debate these themes; there were concerts, artistic performances, workshops, even a few rap battles between the political groups in parliament! Outside of the parliament buildings YO!Fest, a youth-led festival organised by the European Youth Forum, ran all day and late into the evening.

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As multilingualism volunteer interpreters we had a unique view of all the madness. Multilingualism is a valued feature of Europe, the European Union, and the EYE is no different. The event was mainly conducted in three languages, French, German and English. Interpretation services were offered in these languages however there were sessions where extra languages were provided. The DG LINC team took us under their wing and as volunteer interpreters we had the opportunity to experience the events of the EYE from the booth.

We got to experience the buzz of a packed hemicycle at the opening ceremony on day one. We had the opportunity to listen to the professional interpreters at work, and also to get some dummy booth practice.  We also had the privilege of listening to previous winners of the Sakharov Prize recount their heart-breaking and fascinating stories, and to attempt to embody such emotional and compelling speakers in the dummy booth. We were all particularly enthralled to hear the Kurdish interpreter at work! After each session a debrief chat allowed us to assess our performances, to address any difficulties or challenges we faced in our practice, to get feedback from a professional interpreter and to hear from our colleagues in the other booths about how they got on.

Nobody could deny that there was a current of nervous excitement flowing through the group when we were told that we would be providing unofficial interpretation for two panel discussions. Although we have all spent weeks, months, years, in training, switching on the microphone to an audience that isn’t made up of your trainers or your classmates, brings with it a rush of adrenalin that can only be described as a mingling of excitement, apprehension, and/or terror! As a student interpreter it is a hugely beneficial to experience first-hand what it feels like to be actively facilitating communication. Unfortunately the English booth were fresh out of luck, as both meetings ended up being conducted entirely in English, so our mics remained switched off. I won the toss up with my booth mate and so I did get on mic for a 30 second introduction on how to use the interpretation equipment, which Andrea from DG LINC gave in German. But, alas, that appears to be the life of an interpreter in the English booth, with more and more people choosing to express themselves in English at international events.  

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When we weren’t interpreting we spent time at the multilingualism stand for interpretation. There we got to meet young people from all over Europe, we discussed the benefits of multilingualism, we told them about the profession, and our training. There were different language games, translation competitions, and there was even a booth set up so they could have a go at simultaneous interpretation themselves. It was really enjoyable to meet so many talented young linguists, and also people with no language background who were interested to know what interpreters do. It was great to hear so many people comment on how they appreciated the interpretation services and used them at different sessions over the two days. We also took to our social media to promote the EYE and the interpreter profession during the event. 

This was the first year that DG LINC called for multilingualism volunteers to participate at the EYE, they reached out to the different interpreter training courses from European universities. I was one of nine student interpreters who was happy to play guinea pig. We all felt very important getting to bypass the queues at the entrance and security by flashing our red partner wristbands! I must commend DG LINC for their hard-work. We were extremely well looked after, we had a jam-packed schedule that allowed us to benefit from the experience as much as possible. Andrea and Agniescka were so helpful. They were on-hand to answer any questions, give feedback, and offer advice on our future careers. I would highly recommend it to any budding interpreter, not only will it give you a glimpse into a day in the life of your future career, but you may well be chatting to young people who will one day be the delegates you hope to work for! It is also a great opportunity to meet other student interpreters and make new friends. The next EYE event will take place in 2020, but if you want a more detailed look at this year’s event, many of the sessions are available on demand on the EuparlTV website. 

The future of Europe is something that is at the forefront of everybody’s mind of late, especially with EU elections taking place next year.  Having spent two days at the EYE, listening to the youth of Europe have their say, I wholeheartedly believe that the future looks bright!


Update: Friend of the blog Katja Stoewer recorded a video interview with another volunteer interpreter from Galway, Róisín Nic Thaidhg. Check it out on Facebook.

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