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Off topic: Languages used in the European Parliament
Thread poster: Anil Gidwani

Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 13:56
German to English
+ ...
Feb 20, 2009

Recently, a rather alarming call was heard from some radical factions in Tamil Nadu, a state in India. A call to secede from the Union of India! The reason: the Indian Parliament does not permit legislators to speak in any language other than Hindi or English. Tamil Nadu has always been proud of its state language, Tamil (as it well should, and as should be the case for all regional and local languages).

I'm curious to know what the EU policy is. Can any EU legislator speak in his or her native language when conducting official business? Does this mean there exists an extensive network of interpreters within the European Parliament to deal with every possible language pair combination?

The costs of such an arrangement can be heavy, of course, but then who are we to complain?


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 11:26
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Yes of course Feb 20, 2009

In all meetings there are interpretors for the official languages and those that have been announced to need an interpreter. I believe the market for interpretors shrank some years ago when the member states started to pay for interpretors. But I'm no expert in EU-affairs.

Yesterday the president of the Czech Republic held a speech to the EU parliament in Czech.

Regards
Heinrich


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
23 official languages Feb 20, 2009

Here is the list: http://europa.eu/abc/european_countries/languages/index_en.htm

Actually the situation you describe reminds me of similar claims made by Catalan, Basque and Galician nationalist politicians in Spain: they constantly insist that their languages should become official languages in the EU, just because they say it is irrational to force them to use Spanish (which they speak perfectly well as it is their second mother tongue in their every-day life) if and when they go to any EU meeting.

In my opinion, in the EU we are footing the bill of the luxury of our politicians, who just don't care enough about cost savings to use an agreed common language (or a reduced number of languages) which presumably all of them speak or could learn easily, for instance French or English. It is OK to have documents translated into all official languages given the legal value of EU Directives and Regulations, but when they gather to decide things they could easily use a common language (or two/three different languages, for that matter) and save us all a lot of expenses.


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:26
English to Dutch
+ ...
Wot? No translatorz? Feb 20, 2009

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
In my opinion, in the EU we are footing the bill of the luxury of our politicians, who just don't care enough about cost savings to use an agreed common language (or a reduced number of languages) which presumably all of them speak or could learn easily, for instance French or English. It is OK to have documents translated into all official languages given the legal value of EU Directives and Regulations, but when they gather to decide things they could easily use a common language (or two/three different languages, for that matter) and save us all a lot of expenses.


I disagree. Although many politicians THINK they speak foreign languages well (notably English), the reality is that they don't. After all, politicians are humans too, and all humans seem to vastly overestimate their fluency in English.


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:26
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
It's them who should make the effort for us Feb 20, 2009

Jan Willem van Dormolen wrote:
I disagree. Although many politicians THINK they speak foreign languages well (notably English), the reality is that they don't. After all, politicians are humans too, and all humans seem to vastly overestimate their fluency in English.


Yes, but they are the ones who should make an effort in communicating effectively and learn a common language (or one of a few). I never understood why we should pay the interpreters just because they don't make an effort in that sense.


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Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 13:56
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
At least down to the State level Feb 20, 2009

Things can clearly go too far if the speakers of every regional language/dialect demand to be represented in parliament in their respective tongues. But the EP's policy of allowing the use of the language of each State in the Union seems perfectly logical. Costs are secondary to linguistic and national sentiments.

Tomás Cano Binder wrote:

but when they gather to decide things they could easily use a common language (or two/three different languages, for that matter) and save us all a lot of expenses


Easier said than done. It is far more difficult to interpret, rather than translate, in my experience. Requiring everyone to use a common language could be very counterproductive, since a lot of vital information content could be lost.

Besides, what with economies facing job losses and a lack of suitable alternatives, aren't language service a perfectly good way to add healthy jobs to any economy?

I'm all in favour of allowing the Tamils to speak in Tamil in parliament...


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 10:26
English to Hungarian
+ ...
correction Feb 20, 2009

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

In all meetings there are interpretors for the official languages and those that have been announced to need an interpreter.


There are 23 official languages; the (primary) official languages of all the member states have equal status.
So interpretation is provided in the languages requested by participants (if possible: I think the DG for Iterpretation is not obliged to comply with every request... there are numerous meetings taking place simultaneously at any given time).
I'm sure English and probably French are always provided by default, but they are not "the official languages", just the de facto lingua franca.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:26
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Costs vs. reality Feb 20, 2009

Anil Gidwani wrote:

The costs of such an arrangement can be heavy, of course, but then who are we to complain?


Costs are divided per capita. According to this equation, before the last EU expansion we were all paying 2 euro per capita per year for language services, and after the expansion we are still paying 2 euro per capita per year. What differs is how much 2 euro can buy in each member state.

The down side of the affordable cost is the industry reality. The interpretation DG has taken to 'pivoting' when it can't meet the demand (there's a long feasibility study on this), and up to last year people were still talking about problems in finding Maltese translators, not to mention interpreters.

[Edited at 2009-02-20 15:46 GMT]


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 10:26
English to Hungarian
+ ...
pivot Feb 21, 2009

Parrot wrote:

Anil Gidwani wrote:

The costs of such an arrangement can be heavy, of course, but then who are we to complain?


Costs are divided per capita. According to this equation, before the last EU expansion we were all paying 2 euro per capita per year for language services, and after the expansion we are still paying 2 euro per capita per year. What differs is how much 2 euro can buy in each member state.

The down side of the affordable cost is the industry reality. The interpretation DG has taken to 'pivoting' when it can't meet the demand (there's a long feasibility study on this), and up to last year people were still talking about problems in finding Maltese translators, not to mention interpreters.

[Edited at 2009-02-20 15:46 GMT]


I think pivoting has been around for quite a while, hasn't it? (Or rather, relay, isn't it? There is no single pivot language; say, a Maltese interpreter can choose to work from the English, French, German etc rendering of a Czech speech.) I'm sure it has been used extensively since 2004 at least. The number of interpreters needed otherwise would be absurd.


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