The EU language debate

Szabo Gabor By Szabo Gabor, 9th Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Languages

The United States of America has one common language, but the United States of Europe, better known as the EU, has as many official languages as it has members. With 27 member states, and further expansion on the horizon, this multiplicity of languages is a bureaucratic nightmare. How can communication ever be effective with so many complications?

The main languages

In the most important situations, for example in the session of the European Parliament, a team of interpreters provides simultaneous translation of the proceedings into all of the official languages. Other meetings are held in one of the main languages: English, French or German. Official documents are translated into the official languages. The objective is to ensure that no member state is disadvantaged because its language is not popular international language.

Translation is difficult

But is this objective being achieved? Are the Greeks or the Slovaks able to make their points as strongly as the British or Germans? If you listen to a simultaneous translation between two languages that you know well, you will understand how difficult is to communicate the meaning and tone of speech exactly in another language. Translating documents takes time and slows down the process of debate and legislation. And of course there is the cost of the hundreds of translators, interpreters and the equipment which are needed to make the system work.

The English language is preferred

Even the French and Germans are unhappy. Although their languages are recognized as “main languages”, English is used almost exclusively, as it is the language which most officials from all over Europe can speak to some extent. As a lot of decisions are made and deals are done in informal chats over lunches and dinners and therefore almost always in English, France and Germany realize English native speakers start with an unfair advantage. If the French and Germans think they might have a problem, how much more of a problem can this be for the small countries like Latvia, Estonia or even Hungary and Czech Republic? They would be well advised to consider carefully how to overcome this new language barrier


Communication, Countries, Debate, International, Languages, Politics, The United States Of Europe, Translation

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author avatar Szabo Gabor
I like reading, writing and sharing interesting articles. My favourite topics: environment, animals, plants, science, technology, useful tips and mysteries. Now I’m learning natural science at the university.

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author avatar James R. Coffey
9th Oct 2010 (#)

Good info!

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