“F?ilte!”

Or if you prefer: welcome. In a move which is to go into effect Jan. 1, 2007, Gaelic is to become an official EU language. After that any Irish representative will be free to speak in the language at EU ministerial meetings or in the European Parliament. The downside: spiralling translation costs. Translation costs for the EU’s 20 official languages are already set to pass $1 billion following the entry in 2004 of the 10 new accession members..

Meantime the European Union also granted semiofficial status today to three more of Spain’s national languages: Basque, Catalan and Galician :).

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

21 thoughts on ““F?ilte!”

  1. At those sort of cost levels it makes sense to finally have a go for a universal translator, or a genetically engineered babelfish! 😉

  2. Let the French pick up the bill(ion). Long ago there was a discussion to use English as the working language in the EU administration. National pride in Paris was against it. But who cares as long as we pay for it.
    But this babylonic tangle has also brought the problem that official translations are not correct anymore as documents get translated from Italian into English and then into Polish. Replace the three mentioned with myriads of other possibilities. und nous abbiamo um complicado geval de politica akatavontos

  3. Ha, if you mentioned Polish, I’ll tell you what – translations into Polish were made by a dilettante company chosen for unclear reasons by the government – so e.g. some law gives “five months” for something that in original sounds “five years” 😉

  4. Let the French pick up the bill(ion). Long ago there was a discussion to use English as the working language in the EU administration. National pride in Paris was against it. But who cares as long as we pay for it.

    Well, both are stupid ideas, aren’t they? Why should English get such treatment given that it’s not even the biggest single language spoken in the EU. It has a higher international profile than French or German but that doesn’t entitle it to such a high status in a union where it’s the third biggest language.

  5. Hoo boy, let’s make German the single working language of the EU on the basis of having the most native speakers. Yeah, that’s a great idea.

  6. Translate everything into every language represented in The Federation and send the bill to the Klingons!

  7. As far as I know, aren’t the *Irish* paying the bill for Gaelic translation? Because I know the Spanish are doing the same thing for the recognition of their three languages.

    At first, I was also pro-language-rights-in-the-EU. Now, however, it seems we *have* gone a bit too far, and for no real practical reasons. There are probably more translation errors now than there would be interpretation/comprehension errors if everyone had to speak either English, French or German in the EU institutions. Then again, the EU should be more about equality, so I don’t know.

    Anyway, I’m happy for the Irish. It’s actually great news that the beautiful Irish language is joining the family!

  8. It’s the EU and not the Irish who’ll be picking up the bill for this. The three languages from Spain have been accorded a different status. In this case the Spanish government will be paying translation costs.

  9. “I know the Spanish are doing the same thing for the recognition of their three languages.”

    Well I put this up because I basically respect minority linguistic rights. In some ways it is about social cohesion. I mean we pay traffic police to keep things flowing smoothly, so I don’t see why we shouldn’t pay tranlators to do likewise. Naturally it isn’t a bad principle that if you want ‘own language documentation’ you should have to pay something for it.

    I don’t see why the UK doesn’t press for Welsh, and cough up the money.

    In cases like Belgium and Spain linguistic flexibility may come cheap at the price, if you have to cost it against what ‘national divorce’ might add up to.

    First language English speakers – like me – tend to be unsympathetic (and to under-rate the importance of this for people whose first language is other than English). My mother spoke Welsh at home, and I tended to reject it as not sufficiently modern and un-sophistocated. With time we mature, and become more tolerant and accepting.

    Actually the French, for all the special case pleading, tend to be even less sympathetic to minority languages than we Brits. I often say to my French friends: it seems I speak one language which is too big for your taste, and one which is too small (Catalan). This is clearly an area where ‘one ring to fit them all’ doesn’t hold :).

  10. “In this case the Spanish government will be paying translation costs.”

    Yes, well, expediency rules here. Since the issue is – to use present day parlance – about the Spanish Cheque. The Catalans want anything between 3 and 5% of Spains GNP returning to them, and Zapatero probably thinks if he can keep them happy with a bit of translation, the cost will be trivial. The Euskera and Gallego things are just thrown in as camouflage IMHO.

  11. I’m most interested in language.

    I believe it is central to understanding modern terrorism/seccession movements. (Spain’s three languages don’t include Basque, I guess).

    This page has many pretty linguistic maps (from the Encyc Brit or something) and includes this one showing Italy is more complicated than Spain (France has Walloon, too).

    How can you follow laws that aren’t published in your language?

  12. Ack! I didn’t notice the caption for that Italy map, it says 250 BCE!

    Spanish Dialects map

    I can’t seem to find my favorite European language map right now. Shows Galician, Walloon, all the littler ones.

  13. Josh :”(Spain?s three languages don?t include Basque, I guess).”

    Edward’s post: “Meantime the European Union also granted semiofficial status today to three more of Spain?s national languages: Basque, Catalan and Galician :).”

    Edward previous comment: “The Euskera and Gallego things are just thrown in as camouflage IMHO.”

    For those who didn’t know Euskera is the way people in Spain call the Basque language. IIRC Basques say Euskara.

    DSW

  14. What’s the legal status of Welsh – or indeed Scots Gaelic – within the UK? Can they be used at Westminster? Are there translators just in case?

  15. Bring back Latin… come to think of it, is the Vatican a member of the Union? Why aren’t things translated to Latin ?