EU Working Language
Should the EU introduce one working language?
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Introducing one working language would save the EU much of the money it now spends on translation se...
Introducing one working language would save the EU much of the money it now spends on translation services. These costs range from paying translators to building new booths and offices and increased office supplies because of newly introduced languages. Eurostat estimates that the cost will rise from roughly 550 million euros to over 800 million euros per year after enlargement. With introduction of one working language most of that money could be relocated to other, more substantive areas.
While 800 million euros may seem a high figure, the number is extremely misleading. The cost of language services at all the EU institutions is currently 0.8% of the total EU budget, amounting to a meagre €2 per person annually. Estimates say that after enlargement that should increase by only 10 cents. At that price one can barely afford a cup of coffee. Surely, costs will increase, but these should be considered a reasonable price to pay for ensuring democratic participation in decision-making on matters that affect the lives of all EU citizens. Moreover the translation industry provides valuable jobs that would be lost if other languages are scrapped.
The time delay between meetings and the availability of documents is considerable, a single translat...
The time delay between meetings and the availability of documents is considerable, a single translator finishes merely around 4-5 pages per day. Because of this and because of the growing volume of work, it normally takes 3 weeks between the arrival of a text at the translation service and its dissemination in all requisite versions. Currently there are around 60 000 pages of untranslated material and the number by some estimates increases by around 3 000 pages per week. The introduction of a working language would reduce delays associated with translation and thus make the work of EU institutions much more effective and timely.
Currently there are still delays in translation but the right answer to solve this problem is not the introduction of a single language but rather a continuation of a reform that is already on its way and solving many of the time efficiency problems. In 2001 a set of measures was accepted by the Commission in order to make the translation service more effective and last year a whole general directorate responsible for translation was reorganized. These and other similar measures are expected to increase productivity by 40% by the year 2006. Advances in computer-aided translation will also allow preliminary draft translations to be produced swiftly and further reduce delays.
There are several practical problems with multiple languages that are an everyday reality in the EU....
There are several practical problems with multiple languages that are an everyday reality in the EU. Twenty languages give a total of 190 possible combinations and finding a person who speaks both Maltese and Estonian is quite a challenge. To overcome this setback, the parliament uses much more 'relay translation', where a speech is firstly translated into one and then into another language. While in the game of Chinese whispers the mistakes may be fun, EU discussions have much more serious consequences. Also many new countries can’t secure enough suitable candidates for translation jobs. A recent call was looking for 135 new translators for all nine new languages and only 40 and 82 candidates applied for Maltese and Latvian, respectively.
While there may be considerable practical problems with current language policy, introduction of a single language poses an even greater one. Which language to choose? Should it be English, already the most commonly used in communication with member states and third parties? Perhaps instead French, which has the upper hand for purposes of internal communication? Or German, which has the most native speakers in the EU? And these questions only raise practical issues, while the most important is still the fact that language is an extremely politically sensitive issue and countries are strongly against elevating one language to a higher position, unless it is their own. Should EU instead choose a neutral language, like Esperanto, and then face a pile of practical problems as there aren’t that many who speak it?
The introduction of one working language does not mean the destruction of other languages as under t...
The introduction of one working language does not mean the destruction of other languages as under the proposal all others still retain their status as official languages. The EU would continue to generously finance programs that are intended for a greater diversity of languages and support exchange study. What the plan does is simplifies the everyday dealings of EU institutions.
European identity has always been based on cultural diversity, that has been the pride of Europeans, and a large portion of culture is language. Introduction of one language elevates that language over the others and may be the beginning of the end of that diversity. If for instance English is introduced as a working language, fewer people will have an incentive to learn German, French or Spanish, cuirrently popular choices for a second language in schools. The plan favours one language over the others and that is the end of Europe as we know it.
The findings on actual language use in the institutions suggest that a de facto working language sit...
The findings on actual language use in the institutions suggest that a de facto working language situation is already in place. What the plan does is simply pushes for the legalization of the status quo. The Commission has, for practical purposes, limited its regime to a number of working languages, namely English and French, and, to a lesser extent, German.
Translating documents is crucial when documents take legal effect in member states. Up to 80% of national legislation involves implementing decisions that have already been agreed on at the EU level. It is vital that citizens retain their right to have legislation produced in a language that they understand and even before this stage, it is essential for potential legislation to be circulated in all official language versions to allow for public comment. What the plan does is gives one language and its native speakers an unfair advantage in their dealings with the EU.
One working language gives the EU one voice when dealing with the rest of the world. It encourages ...
One working language gives the EU one voice when dealing with the rest of the world. It encourages closer connections, better understanding, and more common feeling between people and a sense of cooperation. One of the ideas of the EU is to bring people together and having one voice would mean exactly that.
Introducing one language would certainly not bring people together; rather it would probably divide them even more. Moreover, a more important principle of EU is its democracy. Having struggled to tackle the accusations of democratic deficit ever since its existence, the EU would be foolish to be seen to further restrict democracy within the institutions. The problem could prove to be the gravest in the European Parliament where MPs are elected not because of their language skills but to represent their political constituency.
What do you think?