Language choice in EPSO competitions – beware the consequences of automatic translation

*16.11.2023, thanks to the colleague who confirmed that the disinformation/misinformation issue outlined in footnote 1 has since been fixed.* Original article: For some time already, EPSO is moving towards monolingualism: we are seeing  competitions that are by-and-large English-only. This appears to completely disregard the 16.02.2023 outcome of the EPSO case where the Court of Justice confirmed the unlawfulness of artificially restricting the choice of the second language of competitions to 3 languages: English, French and German. We now have competitions artificially restricting competitions to one language and that language at either C1 or B2. For example, EPSO/AD/402/23 and EPSO/AD/403/23 state the following:

A candidate in this competition must have a thorough knowledge (minimum C1 level) of at least one of the 24 official EU languages and a satisfactory knowledge (minimum B2 level) of a different official EU language. One of these languages must be English.

This means that the institutions have essentially given up on the idea of multilingualism in the institutions – which is in our view deplorable and which goes directly against the Commission’s own views:

Language competences are at the heart of building the European Education Area. They are indispensable for mobility, cooperation and mutual understanding across borders. […] The arguments supporting ambitious education policies with regard to language learning are plentiful
• for individuals, learning languages creates personal and professional opportunities
• for society, it fosters cultural awareness, mutual understanding and social cohesion.

Then again, it is hardly the first time that the Commission says one thing and does the opposite.
In line with EPSO’s “there are no problems – only time-outs“, they consider that such a strong favouring of one specific language does not pose a problem. But in the case that it does, they refer you to automatic translation:

Candidates can fill in their application form in any of the 24 official EU languages. However, EPSO encourages candidates to complete their application in English, which makes resorting to translation unnecessary. Having all applications available in English — the language spoken by all Selection Board members — facilitates and speeds up eligibility checks. It allows the board members to deal with candidate files independently of their language knowledge. In addition, this will facilitate the search for suitable candidates during the recruitment phase. For candidates who prefer to use another language, an automatic translation tool is made available to help convert their input into English.

If you are comfortable filling in the application form in English, go right ahead. However, if you do not feel comfortable, Generation 2004 advises you not to resort to automatic translation.

The reason is simple: automatic translation gives only a basic understanding of a text. This is not our personal opinion, but comes straight from professional translators! In this particular case, you can find the following on the website of the Commission’s eTranslation service:

Translations are generated by eTranslation, a machine translation tool provided by the European Commission. Machine translation can give you a basic idea of the content in a language you understand. It is fully automated and involves no human intervention. The quality and accuracy of machine translation can vary significantly from one text to another and between different language pairs. The European Commission does not guarantee the accuracy and accepts no liability for possible errors.

Decide for yourself if you want to entrust your professional career to a tool where even the Commission as owner shows so little trust that it disclaims all responsibility. In competitions where 0.1 points can make all the difference, Generation 2004 cannot accept such a callous way of dropping all responsibility on candidates [1].
Of course, we asked EPSO in a meeting of the joint committee responsible (COPARCO, June 2023) how they can ensure that a candidate who is using automatic translation is not disadvantaged by the use this tool. The answer is not really reassuring. In a nutshell, you as a candidate are fully responsible for your input in the application form. If you use automatic translation, then no matter what imprecisions or quality issues appear, they are your responsibility as a candidate. However, if you answer in another language and the Selection Panel uses a translation service, then the onus is on the Selection Panel. Therefore, our advice is clear: no matter in which language you participate in a competition, you should not use automatic translation.

As always, we would love to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us or leave a comment below.

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[1] As an example, [though this specific issue appears to have been fixed after it was reported] check this policy document available in English only and with automatic translation to other languages. Bold is added here for ease of understanding.


Disinformation is false or misleading content that is spread with an intention to deceive or secure economic or political gain, and which may cause public harm. Misinformation is false or misleading content shared without harmful intent though the effects can be still harmful.


La désinformation est «des informations manifestement fausses ou trompeuses créées, présentées et diffusées dans un but lucratif ou pour tromper intentionnellement le public». La désinformation est une information vérifiablement fausse qui est diffusée sans avoir l’intention d’induire en erreur, et souvent partagée parce que l’utilisateur le croit vrai.


La desinformación es contenido falso o engañoso que se difunde con la intención de engañar o asegurar ganancias económicas o políticas, y que puede causar daño público. La desinformación es contenido falso o engañoso compartido sin intención dañina, aunque los efectos aún pueden ser dañinos.

The etranslation teams were made aware of this in spring but the issue is not yet fixed.

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