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Babel in Brussels: The shadow army of EU interpreters

It’s a round of voting in the European Parliament, and hands shoot up in quick succession as the roll call sounds in German: “Dafuer!” or “Bye!” – “Pro or con.”

Overlooking the crowded meeting room in Brussels, in booths half-hidden by tinted glass, a brigade of interpreters relays precious audio streams of the proceedings to lawmakers from 27 countries.

The EU institutions hum with different languages ​​like a modern-day Tower of Babel, and are the world’s largest employer of interpreters – a veritable shadow army present at every summit, internet-streamed hearings and press conferences.

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