Tuesday, 30 April 2013

What should be the status of Welsh in Brussels?

As a fan of "Nordic Noir" crime fiction I have been enjoying  the latest BBC showing of the Swedish mini-seines under the collective title Arne Dahl .

One of the interesting aspects is that  although the series is mostly in Swedish the "A" group of Detectives all speak English fluently and use that Language not only with an FBI officer but with Police in other countries such as Estonia  and even the villains are  fluent in English..

So English is the Intentional  language of crime . as well as politics.

It helps with the plot line . But shows the huge dominance of the English Language in the World.

Which brings me the news in the Western Mule that Welsh Tory MEP Kay Swinburne that has argued thatWelsh should not become official EU language,and  that millions would be wasted each year on such a move and that the steps taken to protect Welsh over the last 20 years should be used to help protect other minority languages in Europe

Last week Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans declared that Welsh should become an official language of the EU.

She said:

We won semi-official status for the Welsh language in Europe in 2008. That was a welcome step and has done a great deal to raise the profile of Wales and our language and culture. But I see it as a step towards achieving real equality, which means full official status.
“Welsh is an official language in Wales and it should have the same status in Europe. This is about equality for all people in the EU. This is the Year of the Citizens and the debate on the future shape of the EU has started in earnest. For me, making all of our languages equal in status is essential to ensuring that people feel that Europe is relevant to them. It is about democracy and justice and I will make this one of the central issues in the European Parliament election campaign next year.”
Western Mail 30th April 2013 

But Dr Swinburne, a fluent Welsh speaker who was brought up at Llandysul, Ceredigion, said:

“Making Welsh a fully official language in the EU would not advance its cause in the slightest. It would, however, entail huge translation costs within European institutions.
“At the Parliament, Welsh translators would have to be employed on shifts at a cost of millions of pounds – largely for the benefit of Jill and me.”
Dr Swinburne said the semi-official status of Welsh already enabled citizens to write to the EU and get a response in the language.
“I’ve spoken Welsh at the European Parliament – all you have to do is give a bit of notice and they’ll arrange for a translation.”

At first Dr Swinburne seems to have a point she has been working within the EU scrutinising an report on how to safeguard endangered European languages. The report, written by Corsican MEP François Alfonsi, says urgent action should be taken to ensure such languages do not die out.

It says:

 “All languages, including those which are endangered, reflect historical, social, cultural and ecological knowledge and skills that form part of the richness of the European Union. Just like biodiversity in nature, the diversity of European languages and cultures is part of the living heritage that is vital for the sustainable development of our societies, and they should therefore be safeguarded and protected against any risks of extinction,”

However there is a great danger in Dr Swinburne approach . It treats the so called minor languages as something like an ancient monument something that should be preserved and viewed as a curiosity...

But languages need to be  seen as dynamic, relevant  and above all equal to other more widely used languages.

Dr Swinburne translation argument would be easily addressed by employing Translators who where trilingual or even more Speaking say English Welsh and Italian.

English may be widely used but you wouldn't expect Swedes even those who are fluent in more than one language to see Swedish reduced to use only in their homeland.

But let us be clear we need to ensure that we start here ensuring that Wales moves to be fully Bilingual in all aspects of life.

It may be that only when we enter the EU Parliament as a member state in our own right that we can assure the status of Yr hen Iaith there as well as any future Parliament in Cardiff.

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