By Jessica DeLoach
During our trip to the European Union’s decision-making body, the European Council, we were introduced to two wonderful speakers, Dominique and Nicholas, who shared with us the structure of the council of ministers, amongst a brief overview of all the levels of the EU. Dominique met us in the large open atrium to the building which featured flags and information about Ireland, the nation from which the current president of the council of ministers resides. Each six months, there is a new acting president who represents one of the nations within the European Council. Fortunately, from our speakers’ perspectives, the transition goes rather smoothly each time.
With 27 current members of the European Council, all representing a different European nation, there is quite a milieu of cultures and languages present within one roundtable discussion. Not only are the actual diction, technical phrases and idioms within the verbal and written language an obstacle, but the varying cultures also play a part in the communication between members. Translators are called upon to help lift some of the language barriers, but at an average of 10,000 euros per meeting, the costs tend to escalate.
To create a general understanding, the official language of the European council is English. While not the first language of many nations represented in the council, English at least serves as a basis for all text communications for which the translators and members can somewhat understand. Even the social media sites for the European council are written in English, and they subscribe to quite a few. According to Nicholas, the social media sites for the European council are not a main outlet of communication for the council, but usually reiterate other, more official announcements. The council does use Twittter and Facebook to link to videos from their EUtube site.
Oftentimes, journalists use the council’s Twitter page to confirm details of send questions and answers to and from one another while visiting in one of the sessions. Nicholas said that he did not understand really why the council had s social media presence, but they have received quite a number of followers. Especially with prior lessons from earlier in the week, I wonder exactly how much the individual nations subscribe to the English language based social media sites of the council. If translators are needed in general meeting, how easy can it be to follow other members of the council or the actual council when your native language does not match up.
Over time, there may be more and more of a trend for a common language that is pushed more than it is currently. With the ideal of one common currency, the euro, having pros, such as the ease of international transactions, and the cons, of the difficult initiation of conversion, there are many things to think about. While cross cultural communication may prove difficult in various settings, do we really want to squash that cultural identity that is so innately ingrained in language? There is great power in uniting, but I believe that each of our own dialects of our own language and nuances of our own cultures make each person unique and special. From daily life to within the walls of the European council, culture will continue to pose great opportunities for growth throughout all intercultural interactions.