The official languages of the European Union reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of its member states. Currently, the EU has 24 official languages that play a key role in its activities. These include widely spoken languages such as English, French, German and Spanish, as well as less widespread ones such as Maltese and Estonian. Now, a Spanish Foreign Minister‘s proposal could further expand EU multilingualism with the addition of three new official languages.
The objective of this linguistic plurality is to guarantee all European citizens full participation in the life of the Union. Every citizen has the right to receive information and communicate with the institutions of the EU in their own language.
To facilitate communication and mutual understanding, the EU promotes foreign language learning and offers language exchange and training programmes. In addition, official documents are translated into each of the 24 linguistic systems, to ensure that all citizens can access information in a language they understand.
It can therefore be clear that the addition of new official languages is a subject of substantial importance, capable of entailing new administrative challenges for institutions and giving rise to new professional opportunities. Especially for translators and language service providers.
The proposal for three new languages in the EU
Taking up what was said in our introduction, in August the Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares formally requested the EU Council to include three other languages spoken in the Iberian Peninsula in the list of official languages.
We are talking about Catalan, Basque and, Galician.
These languages, in fact, have long been recognized as co-official languages in Spain along with Spanish (Castilian) for administrative and governmental matters in the provinces where they have the largest number of speakers. In addition, from this year, all of them will also be allowed in the sessions of the national congress.
If these languages are recognized as national languages in a member state, says Albares, why not include them in the list of European Union languages?
As we have seen, the decision is by no means simple. Not only for administrative issues related to linguistic inclusiveness, accepting the proposal would, in all likelihood, open the way to similar requests from other linguistic groups in the European Union.
However, the relative advantages would be shared by the local population and professionals in the language sector. If the request is granted, in fact, all the documentation produced by the institutions of the EU should now also be available in these three new languages. Thus, increasing the requests for translation and interpretation services.
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