The enlarged European Union now has 23 official languages. The latest expansion has added Romanian and Bulgarian, with Irish gaining recognition at the same time. The EU’s main institutions already employ some 4,000 interpreters, but it is difficult to find enough linguists fluent in some of the lesser-used languages. Ireland has been an EU member since 1973. Census figures indicate that around 1.6 million of its citizens are completely at home using Irish. In contrast, there are 7.7 million people using Bulgarian, and more than 21 million using Romanian.
The multiplication of translation possibilities has increased the use of English as a hub language. This helps overcome the shortage of translators. An expert can relay a language to an English-user who then interprets into another language. In this way, for instance, you might get a combination such as Finnish to English, and then English to Maltese or Lithuanian. The budget for the EU’s language services, including documentation, is roughly a billion euros per year.