By Maëlle Alquezar

The EUGerman President Joachim Gauck’s proposal to make English the EU’s official language is not only aimed to encourage the UK to stay, but also to reduce costs linked to translation.

According to the Germany’s President, such a law would encourage multilingualism as well as reinforcing the European community . However, this proposal also aimed to cut translation costs. Indeed, translation in the EU’s headquarters appears to be complicated and is said to be expensive. While all 23 official languages are accepted as working languages in the EU, day-to-day work in the European Commission is based around its three working languages: English, French and German. With the EU’s expansion, the number of translators has significantly increased from 200-300 to 2,000-3,000 people. It is reckoned that £257 million is spent each year in translation with 1.76 million pages of work being produced.

What would be the implications of such a policy?

First of all, not all the EU’s member states would welcome English as an official language. While northern and eastern countries might accept it, southern member states might be outraged. But above all, imposing English as the official language would be profoundly undemocratic according to Diego Marani – an Italian novelist who is in charge of promoting multilingualism at the European Commission. Marani states that the total cost of EU translation work would only be equivalent to the cost of two coffees for each person a year, which is a cheap price to pay for democracy .

But even if EU translation work were expensive, it is the only fair way to implement policies. After all, the EU is said to be in favour of linguistic diversity and making English the official language would be breaking its prior commitments.

What about you? What do you think about English becoming official language of the EU?

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