When President Kennedy visited Berlin after the fall of the Soviet Union, the German audience diplomatically but enthusiastically applauded his good intentions when he said: "Ich bin ein Berliner". Nu, mein grossvater war in Wien gebornen aber ich will nicht sagen "Ich bin ein Wiener" !!!
Ich kann ein wenig Deutsch sprechen;r ich habe es vergessen aber nicht verloren, ich hoffe. Thank you for this very promising site. It is friendly and easy to navigate - so far! Congratulations to those who are working on it.
I would like to start a thread of discussion here, partly to support this venture, but also to raise a question that is in my mind. It is as follows.
When England (but maybe not Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland!) leaves the E.U., it looks at the moment that Ireland will be the only E.U. country in which English is claimed as a first language. Constitutionally, the Irish language is our first language and I am committed to that being a full working language of the E.U. as is planned. But we also recognise English as a first language in Ireland also. But when the U.K. was a reluctant member of the E.U., the English language seemed to become the common language of the E.U.
I have always believed that one of the best characteristics of the people of the European countries is that we speak more than one language. Except for the English. They have always behaved as if a second language was an admission of defeat. Unfortunately many of my fellow Irish citizens seem to share that belief. This leads me to introduce the question and I would be interested in your views.
What is the best way for Europe to proceed now? We have many languages in Europe, and many of those are minority or lesser-spoken languages which are in danger of dying out because of media domination by English.
I regard Irish as my first "first language" but during my life I have had the pleasure and the challenge of working in many different parts of the world. I found that even small efforts to speak the language of my host country introduced me not only to many new friends, but also gave me a window into the culture of the country where I was living. For that reason I have been a student of languages for many years and as a result, I have been able to communicate in several languages. I am not fluent in any of them, but I can make general conversation, if I get lost in a foreign city I can usually find me way back to my house or hotel, I can read the tabloid newspapers. It takes me about three months of concentrated effort to reach that level but it is worth it.
I now make use of machine translations but I use them in an iterative way. That is, I write my text in English and then I translate it by software into a target text, say Russian. I worked for nearly ten years in Russia so I can understand quite a lot of what I read but I still am not competent to write in Russian from scratch. So, my next step is to use the software to translate the Russian text I created back into English. Then by comparing the two texts, English and Russian, I can identify the words and phrases which the machine could not translate properly. The second stage is where I alter the English text, removing the words or phrases that were not translated correctly and replacing them usually with simpler language. I then translate that second document into Russian and do the same check again, comparing the English and Russian texts, followed by making alterations. I find that by the time I get to the fourth stage, I will have a document in Russian that when translated back into English is close enough to what I wanted to say.
I have shown you the steps in detail to illustrate that even if we all used that type of approach to communicate across language boundaries and respect the right of the other person to use their own language, it would create an awful lot of extra work. The E.U. wouldn't be able to work and social life across country boundaries would suffer. So, what can be done?
Should we ensure that every child going to school in a European country learned a second, and hopefully, a third European language so that they would be prepared for life as a European citizen. But even that well-meaning approach would still create problems. I presume that most parents would want their children to learn French, German, Spanish, Italian, to improve their chances of getting a good job. But would that solution not put smaller countries and endangered minority languages under even greater pressure to survive, as well as creating new barriers between countries within Europe and withing the E.U. institutions themselves?
Or should we opt for an neutral, auxiliary language, such as Esperanto as the official language for communications and debate in the E.U. I admit my personal bias is towards that as a solution because I grew up in Ireland shortly after the end of the Second World War. I learned Esperanto as a young teenager and it enabled me to have pen friends (letters in envelopes with stamps on them!!!!) all over Europe and even further afield. But for some reason, Esperanto never really became widely popular and neither did any other artificial language. But is the situation different now? What do you think? I hope that DiEM25-connect Forum will help me , and you, to find a solution
Vielen Dank! Tschuss!