The other languages of the European Parliament

By in Video_Ingles on 5 noviembre, 2014

EU institutions and the European Parliament in general are widely known for their multilingualism. The great respect for cultural and linguistic diversity in Europe is evident when we look at any session in the European Parliament, in which all members can intervene using any of the 24 EU official languages. This often means that the communitarian institutions are characterized as large towers of Babel. The figures are spectacular.

As all documents, communications and interventions should be available in all official languages, there are up to 552 possible combinations (24 languages ​​translated into 23 other languages). This implies that the staff of translators and interpreters working for the EU is quite extensive. The Parliament has 330 interpreters and a portfolio of over 1.800 interpreters, used to cover different types of events. For instance, just in each parliamentary session, the Parliament needs between 800 and 1000 interpreters. The Commission also has 1,700 linguists and up to 600 linguist assistants to ensure that all documents are available in all official languages. In general, it is widely known the complex system of language management in the EU institutions. But what few people knows is that in the European Parliament there is also presence of the unofficial languages ​​of the EU. And no, we do not speak of Catalan or Basque or Gaelic, but about not spoken languages: sign languages.

The responsible for the entry of these languages ​​in the European Parliament have been the Hungarian MEP Ádám Kósa (PPE – Fidesz) and the Belgium/Flemish Helga Stevens (ECR – N-VA), both belonging to conservative European political groups. These two MEPs are deaf and use sign language ―Kósa uses the Hungarian sign language and Stevens the Flemish one― to communicate. Thanks to them these two languages ​​are also present in the European Parliament, despite not being official languages.

Deaf MEPs - Helga Stevens and Adam Kosa

Helga Stevens and Ádám Kósa during the constitutive session of the European Parliament 2014-2019

In fact, this will be the second term for Kósa, who was the first deaf MEP in history to use sign language in the European Parliament. In the case of Helga Stevens this will be her first term; however, she already knows what it means to be representative as he had been MP at the Belgian parliament. The normalization and visualization of sign language in European institutions should help the normalization of sign languages in our day-to-day lives. That is the reason we celebrate the presence of these MEPs, as they generate a parliament which is increasingly sensitive to diversity and plurality, as it is Europe.


Pau Vall

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