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Unit 49 – Multilingualism In The EU

Difficulty: Hard

Time: 4 minutes 30 seconds

The passage below is adapted from an article published on on 4th July 2012.

Jean Quatremer, a renowned French political journalist from the Daily Libération, complained about the official press statements accompanying the Commission’s economic recommendations to member states, published on 30 May.

The statements, eagerly awaited by the press because of the euro debt crisis, were initially made available to journalists in English only, with translations in other languages following hours later in the day.

This, Quatremer said, gave the Anglo-Saxon press an “incredible competitive advantage” over others. “Can you govern a eurozone, which numbers 330 million citizens, in a language which is only spoken by less than five million Irish? …Well, that is what the European Commission claims to do,” Quatremer wrote in a strongly-worded blog post.

Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said he understood the frustration but urged Quatremer to “accept it” since English had become the most widely spoken language in the EU Executive.

The documents, Bailly argued, were translated within a few hours into the other EU working languages (French and German) and within two days for the remaining 20 official languages.

Quatremer is not isolated in his quest for more linguistic balance within the EU institutions. Jean-Pierre de Launoit, President of the ‘Alliance Française’, a public association promoting the French language and culture worldwide, said he has long sought to promote linguistic diversity within the European institutions. “Our struggle lies in the defence of multilingualism and the use of French whenever possible” in the EU institutions, he said.

Dennis Abbott, Commission spokesman for education, culture and multilingualism, argued that the translation delays on May 30th were due to some last-minute changes to the documents, made during the meeting of the College of Commissioners that took place the same day. In total, 66 documents required translation, representing 10,500 pages or 450 pages per language for the Commission’s translation services. All were translated within the set deadline, Abbott told EurActiv in emailed comments.

Anticipating the Commission’s response, Quatremer wrote that he did not wish for all documents to be translated immediately into French, but at least the report concerning France. The Commission estimates that translating its more than two million documents yearly costs the European taxpayer 60 cents per person, which is often referred to as “the cost of democracy”.

1 – Which quality of the Eurozone did Quatremer argue has been negatively affected by the actions of the European Commission described in the above passage?

  • A. Its educational development
  • B. Its cultural diversity
  • C. Its legitimacy as a democratic institution
  • D. Its economic stability

2 – Considering both Jean Quatremer and Olivier Bailly, which of the following statements could be said to be true?

  • A. Each refers to different statistics to quantify the use of the English language across Europe
  • B. Each expresses a different understanding of the issue described
  • C. One cites evidence in support of his argument and the other doesn’t
  • D. One engages with the public mass media on the issue while the other doesn’t

3 – Of the people mentioned in the passage, how many neglect to directly acknowledge the monetary implications of maintaining multilingualism in the Eurozone?

  • A. 1
  • B. 2
  • C. 3
  • D. 4

Select the text below to highlight the answers:

Q1: C
Quatremer appears concerned with two things: 1) equality for political journalists in the EU (instead of favoritism for the english speakers) and 2) Transparency and equality in the release of information to the public. He suggests that the eurozone cannot be governed through one single language. If one country is receiving information before the others then that gives them an advantage over others. The eurozone claims to be a democratic institution, so it is reasonable to infer that Quatremer would consider this equality-of-information issue detrimental to the legitimacy of that claim.

Q2: A
a is correct because Quatremer says: ““Can you govern a eurozone, which numbers 330 million citizens, in a language which is only spoken by less than five million Irish? ”
While Bailly says “English had become the most widely spoken language in the EU Executive.” Quatremer is referring to the population of the eurozone in which english is spoken as a first language. (UK still does not use the Euro and is therefore excluded), while Bailly refers to the more general usage of English within the EU.

Q3: D
Jean-Pierre de Launoit and Quatremer make no reference to the cost involved in the translations. Quatremer, although he ‘anticipated’ Abbott’s response, did not address the cost issue (neither did Abbott for that matter). The commission emphasises the monetary implications of the translation of the documents, but neither of its spokespeople, Bailly and Abbott, mention cost specifically in their quotes.