DOC - Europa

Leonard Orban
European Commissioner for Multilingualism
Juvenes Translatores Award Ceremony
Brussels, 10 March 2008 –
Ladies and gentlemen, dear students,
I am extremely happy to be here today with this group of young “translators”,
accompanied by their parents and teachers.
The Commission is also delighted to present them with their awards today as the
winners of the first translation contest organised in schools all over Europe.
The Commission organised this contest to raise the profile of the crucial, but often
forgotten, function of translation, which is a key factor in the legitimacy and
transparency of the European Union, as it enables the European Union to function
properly with 23 official languages. But another aim was also to demonstrate the
value of language learning, to encourage pupils and schools alike to invest in its
quality and to arouse interest in the translator’s profession.
The laureats of this contest have long passed the level of learning just a few words
in another language. They have proven their skills of translating from one language
to another. At the same time, through the words used in their translations, they have
proven their ability to build intercultural bridges.
Given the growing diversity of the European Union – with its successive
enlargements, increasing mobility for its citizens, economic globalisation and
migratory movements – the ability to mediate between languages and cultures will
become more and more important.
The added value of language skills for individuals, for businesses, large and small,
and for the general competitiveness of our economies will also increase.
Languages do open doors, giving access to better jobs and better market
opportunities, but also to different traditions, literatures, beliefs and ways of seeing
the world.
It is interesting to see, in this connection, that many of the winners of this contest do
not come from the capital cities of their countries, but from small towns and villages.
This underlines that language learning is a matter for everybody, independent of
where one lives nor that this should be limited to the intellectual elite.
The language industry is rapidly growing in present-day Europe. Translation,
interpretation and localisation are increasingly seen as strategic management tools
rather than merely inevitable expenses.
Early language learning is essential to developing good language skills, and the
level already attained by these seventeen-year old students certainly gives the
Commission every encouragement to pursue its promoting role.
What matters most is not which language is the most appropriate one for learning –
in fact, it is extremely difficult to foresee where these children will be living in ten,
twenty or thirty years' time. What does matter is that each person leaves school with
the ability, curiosity and appetite to learn, as foreign language learning is a life-long
experience and being open to other cultures brings spice into the life of each of us.
But no matter how many languages the new generation is able to learn, the need for
professional translators and interpreters will remain. In a multi-polar world, only the
services of specialist linguists will cover all the possible language combinations with
the accuracy required.
Translators are, so to speak, the tuners of this orchestra, enabling the strings, the
percussion section and the wind instruments to play together in perfect harmony.
I wish to conclude by extending my sincerest thanks and congratulations to these
young pupils who rightly have the centre stage today, as they are the best
representatives of a new generation of European citizens.
If “the language of Europe is translation,” as Umberto Eco once wrote, the winners
of this contest have proved that they speak the language of Europe.
Thank you very much.