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A brief list of misused English terminology in EU publications

The European Union has 24 official languages. Even if the vast majority of people working at the EC are not native speakers, the most spoken one in Brussels is English. This leads to several errors in official publications. A recently published report shows the most frequent pitfalls.

Jeremy Gardner, a senior translator at the European Court of Auditors, has compiled an anthology of offenses committed in what has come to be known as Eurenglish. The EC document "A brief list of misused English terminology in EU publications" shows the most common words used in EU institutions with the wrong meaning or in the wrong context.

Agents and Actors – what are they doing within the EC?

Often in EU regulations you can find the word agent. It is used as a person who is employed by the EU. This is wrong as an agent in English is normally someone who works for a government intelligence agency (CIA, MI5, G2) or a person who represents a service agency (travel agent, estate agent). As well the noun actor is often used in a wrong way. The dictionary defines an actor as a person who acts in a play, film, broadcast, etc. In EU usage actors are often simply people and/or organisations involved in doing something. Research in the UK shows that in the sentence: “The European Parliament ... acknowledges and welcomes the success of state-building efforts by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, which have been supported by the EU and endorsed by various international actors” the general public understood the actors in question to be internationally known film stars.

In the frame of the planification – or how to invent words

“… better planification should make it possible to even out the caseload under FP6, improving internal control and speeding up the process”. This wording comes from a published Court report. But the word planification simply does not exist in English. The correct term would be planning. Another example? “The analysis is performed in the frame of a contamination incident, confirmation by duplicate analysis might be omitted…” is written in the EU law (Commission Regulation (EU) No 278/2012 of 28th March 2012 amending Regulation (EC) No 152/2009). The expression “in the frame of” is found in many other languages (Italian “nel quadro di”, German “im Rahmen von”, French “dans le cadre de”). Unfortunately in English this expression does not exist at all. 

Original Publication:

"A brief list of misused English terminology in EU publications" (PDF)