Stop feeding the multilingual monster!

Angel-014(small)Author: Angèl Nijskens

29 year old personal publicist for public figures, leaders and professionals. Creative entrepreneur living in the Netherlands. Passionate about publicity, storytelling  and (social) media. Love typically Gen Y stuff such as collecting new experiences and sharing them on my smart phone of course 😉

Follow me on Twitter @AngelNijskens

Stop feeding the multilingual monster! Photo Credit: Flickr - epSos .de

Stop feeding the multilingual monster! Photo Credit: Flickr – epSos .de

Dear European brothers and sisters. It’s so nice to meet you here, online. I’m pleased to use this wonderful platform to share some thoughts with you. Thoughts that occur in my mind on a daily basis while watching the news or reading the paper. These thoughts often include the question ‘why’.  I think that’s because I’m a part of ‘Generation Y’, or as I like to call it, Generation WHY.

Our parents and grandparents were very smart people and came up with a lot of smart things when they were young. But times have changed so quickly that many of these things don’t seem to make sense anymore. So I would like to share some of those Generation WHY questions with you now and then. I’m very curious to hear your thoughts, opinions and ideas. Please share them and join the conversation via Twitter using #AskGenWHY.

So for this week… Generation: Why isn’t there an official universal European language?

Flickr:  leoglenn_g

Flickr: leoglenn_g

According to Wikipedia, the European Union has  24 working languages. People living in the EU have access to all EU documents in the official language of their country. We also have the right to write to the Commission, and receive a reply in that language. Members of the European Parliament have the right to use any of the EU’s official languages when speaking in Parliament.

With a permanent staff of around 1750 linguists and 600 support staff, the European Commission has one of the largest translation services in the world. The Commission’s interpretation service employs 600 staff interpreters, a pool of 3,000 freelance interpreters and 250 support staff. Say what?!

British Conservative MEP Geoffry Van Orden does not believe EU institutions need to translate documents into every language to preserve their principles. According to his report at least € 100 million is spent every year translating documents. This figure could rise to € 128 million if three new languages are added.

Van Orden long campaigned to reduce the translation budget and said the following about cutting bureaucratic costs last year: “NATO has 28 member countries and just two working languages, the UN has 193 member states and six working languages. Why must all our documents be translated into 22 different languages? It is one of the most costly parts of parliament’s budget.”

Flickr: woodleywonderworks

Flickr: woodleywonderworks

Before I go on, let me tell you that I am a fan of Europe and its cultural heritage. It brings our generation great opportunities. We can study, live, work or start a business wherever we want and it’s quite easy to conduct business with other European countries. Of course with respect to each other’s cultures and traditions. But how far should we actually go with this? Being a Dutch girl, speaking at least three languages fluently and understanding another two when I hear them, I’m used to adjusting my language to my discussion partner. We are probably one of the most multilingual European countries. Which is great because it makes us flexible. Language is never an excuse for us to not work, live, study or start a business across the border. Of course we have to, since we are a little country.

But please Italian, French, German, Spanish speaking European brothers and sisters, you have to explain some things to me. How do you explain yourself when you visit each other’s countries? And also, please explain to me why Merkel and Hollande have a meeting and speak to the international press in their own language while talking about unifying on a certain topic. I’m sorry, in this context it just does not sound credible to me.

Recently I was in a meeting with six Dutch people and one German guy. What do you think happened? Of course we all switched to the German language because it seemed the German guy didn’t speak any English. I can’t help but find this strange. It’s a universal language! Come on!

Merkel and Hollande

Merkel and Hollande

Another question, why are some countries still dubbing American movies to their own language. It’s so last century!  In the Netherlands, we speak German and English before even taught at school. Because we hear it on radio and TV, all the time. It’s a very cheap way to learn a language if you ask me.

It might not be a surprise that I’m all for English as our universal European language. Just because it’s already the world language and it’s more pragmatic. It will save us [EU citizens] a lot of  money. Imagine 100 million Euros extra that we can spend on other things our generation needs so bad right now…

Check out Angèl’s website:

Do you agree with Angèl? Leave your comments in the box below!


2 thoughts on “Stop feeding the multilingual monster!

  1. Thanks for your reply, I appreciate it! I saw the EC publication you posted when I was writing the blog. I understand your and the EU’s points of view. I still think 1 billion Euro is a ridiculous amount of money to promote the diversity of European languages. On top of that, we can expect members of EU institutions to know the universal English language good enough to fight their political battles on a very professional level. Otherwise they shouldn’t be in EU policics. The arguments the EU provides to justify this budget are very outdated if you ask me. We live in 2013, the world is more globalized then ever. Uniformity is just why we need the EU. So, let’s keep the diversity (of languages) in our own countries.

  2. Hi there ! The European Commission has published some answers to FAQ on languages in Europe defending multilingualism
    ( ).
    (Very recommendable!)
    It says: “What is the cost of multilingualism in the European institutions?

    The total cost of translation and interpretation in all the EU institutions (including the European Commission, European Parliament, the Council, Court of Justice of the European Union, European Court of Auditors, European Economic and Social Committee, Committee of Regions) is around €1 billion per year. This represents less than 1% of the EU budget or just over €2 per citizen. The European Commission employs around 3000 staff translators and interpreters.”

    I do not say that 2€ per citizen is not much money, but I think this money is well-invested, because translation and interpretation is a fundemental condition of international politcs, it supports intercultural dialogue, prevents misunderstandings, and promotes the diversity of European languages and makes participating in politics easier. Using English as a link language helps a lot, but as the EC puts it:
    “The idea that a single language could be the solution to all linguistic needs is too simplistic. This is why the European Commission’s commitment to multilingualism promotes diversity rather than uniformity.”

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