Depending on who you are and what your role is, multilingualism can be a beautiful thing, or it can be a pain in the neck. The European Central Bank is finding that out.
In the European Union, citizens have the right to address any European Institution in any of the EU’s official languages. Let’s say we have two private citizens who need answers to their questions. For a French citizen wanting to write in French and a Czech citizen wanting to write in Czech, this makes a lot of sense. Speaking a foreign language should not be a requirement to interacting with your own government, be it at the national or European level.
However, the European Union is made up of 28 nations, has 24 official languages and includes more than 500 million people; this amounts to a LOT of translation to get things done! For the sake of efficiency within European institutions, sometimes just English or French is used as a working language, but this is controversial, as some people feel that this is a threat to the other languages.
Like private citizens, entities in Europe like companies and banks also have the right to express themselves in their official European language of choice.
The European Central Bank carries out its work in English. Now that it is supervising banks across the European Union, it asked banks to work with them in English too. However, the banks were none too pleased and the English requirement had to go. Roughly a quarter of the banks have decided to use their national languages when corresponding with the European Central Bank. As a result, the European Central Bank is having to dedicate substantial new resources to the task.
It also means that any translation errors are the European Central Bank’s responsibility and not those of the individual bank.
Do you think that companies and banks in the European Union should have the same language rights as private citizens?