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Sprechen Sie Deutsch? - 01/02/2008

Young translator wearing juvenes translatores shirt

Every European should have a "second mother tongue", say experts in report to the EU.

In this year dedicated to intercultural dialogue, the EU is keen to learn how it can promote language learning. To this end, it commissioned a report from a group of leading experts. Their key recommendation? The EU should encourage all Europeans to learn a "personal adoptive language" – akin to a second mother tongue.

"A good knowledge of other languages builds bridges and promotes understanding between cultures" said multilingualism commissioner Leonard Orban. The report findings will serve to fuel discussions at the first ever ministerial conference on multilingualism on 15 February, attended by education ministers from every EU country.

The report comes just days after the winners of the Commission's Juvenes translatores translation contest were announced. Assessing the entries were 126 translators from the Commission translation department, who had the task of marking 134 different language combinations and picking a winner from each country. The contest highlighted the central role of translation in the Commission's multilingual policy.

The EU institutions are a mirror of Europe's linguistic diversity, with  more multilingual texts than any other organisation. This is because the EU has to publish its laws in each of its 23 official languages. Some 1.5 million pages of this are translated every year. Even this web page and the article you're reading is available daily in those 23 languages. And recently the EU released to the public, free of charge, one million sentences and their translations in 22 or 23 of these languages. This should help improve machine translation systems, especially in lesser-known languages.

Visit the Commission translation department

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