Nowadays English is considered to be Lingua Franca, a language spoken throughout the entire world. Views regarding this are divided. Many people encourage the use of English in all possible contexts, citing the benefits of cost reduction and the lack of time available to employ interpreters and translators. On the other hand, there are many voices which ardently support multilingualism. A very good example of such an entity is the European Union. In 2007 Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, bringing total membership to 27 countries with 23 official languages. The European Union's motto is 'united in diversity' and the policy makers' claim is that all the official languages are equal within its boundaries. Thus, all member citizens should be able to have access to information in their own native language.
But what does multilingualism mean in practice? How does the European Union promote it and does promotion of multilingualism also include promotion of translation?
First of all, from my point of view, linguistic diversity, multilingualism and translation are all intertwined concepts, and usually cannot be separated one from another. However, I must add that this is most valid when we refer to translation in its general sense, not necessarily only when we’re discussing the translating process. According to the European Commission's 'Languages' website (http://ec.europa.eu/languages)
, there are three constituent elements in the complex multilingualism policy.
1. Ensuring that citizens have access to EU legislation, procedures and information in their own language
2. Underlining the major role that languages and multilingualism play in the European economy, and finding ways to develop this further
3. Encouraging all citizens to learn and speak more languages, in order to improve mutual understanding and communication
Thus, we realise at a glance that the task the European Commission has assumed is an extremely complex one, with many layers and many points to be tackled. The methods they use to put these statements into practice are also quite complex. In this regard, we can distinguish two different paths that they follow. On the one hand, we have the in-house translation service the EC has in Brussels and Luxembourg. The Directorate-General for Translation represents one of the most important translation institutions in the world, with the capacity to work from an enormous number of source languages to other target languages. On the other hand, the European Commission is striving to promote multilingualism and translation for the benefit of the masses, carrying out different studies on how this would be possible and then promoting, implementing, mapping language and intercultural communication strategies through projects such as 'Languages for Businesses', EMT's, visiting translator scheme, visits to DG Translation or LIND-Web (Language Industry web platform).
I believe this makes it clear that, at least at an official level, the European Commission promotes multilingualism and translation on two dimensions. From a specific perspective, when we refer to word-for-word translations, it encourages this process both inside and outside the EU institutions, by encouraging people and businesses to use translation professionals and translation tools. The other dimension refers to a consequence of the first one – if we look at this issue from a broader perspective, by implementing its linguistic policies, the EC encourages people to be more open to new cultures and languages, to accept others' realities and to understand that learning new foreign languages is an extremely important skill in today's world.
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