this is data

The pressure to use English is intense.

conform conform conform

There are so many reasons.

“why do need a ________ translation of this letter?
all the members of parliament speek english….”

“The most important question is, are you certain you need a translation, for all those speakers are fluent in English. It seems such a waste of time.”

Ah yes. There is the idea (of multilingualism, of the right to speak/read/write in one’s mother tongue – or at least their official national language), and then there is what people do regardless of the ideal (notion, concept, belief, commitment) that the words of “the idea” point toward.


July, 2006, I opened a Facebook Group (Interpretation: An Action Learning Set) to facilitate some of the logistics of this research project. I received an email in response to the invitation I sent friends:
“Hey, what’s this “interpretation” group?
Tell me more before I commit.”

“All I really need,” I answered, “is a translation of my research invitation into your national language, so that I can send it to all the relevant MEPS.” The conversation that ensued was informative, to say the least. The extent of the questions and doubt caught me by surprise: nearly everyone asked why, nearly everyone expressed a reason – or two or three reasons – against it. (Conform.) I have to keep explaining myself (it is like a political campaign). Most friends eventually come around to seeing the point, but doubt is nearly always held in reserve: ” . . . there’s the practical level.” Another criteria is marshalled that supercedes (supposedly) the original logic, point, or value, discouraging and weakening implementation.
Most of my arguments with friends to date have been based in communication theory, but there is also EU law:

“Therefore each citizen of the Union has the right, “[to] write to any of the institutions or bodies referred to in this Article or in Article 7 in one of the languages mentioned in Article 314…”

Legal Basis. 4.16.3. Language policy.

There are some layers of irony here, no? I am not a citizen of any European Union country, yet I am trying to apply an ethic that has been believed so strongly – or understood to have such utilitarian value – that it has been institutionalized into law; and am being told (essentially, repeatedly) not to bother. (Conform!)
Here we are, in the European Union’s Year of Intercultural Dialogue. Without neglecting the initiative’s achievements . . . are there really only words in one language by which such “dialogue” can be accomplished? If only one language is being used, can whatever communication that happens even qualify, potentially, as dialogue? Di = two, logue = word. Two words, two different words (or more), are necessary.
Thankfully, and due to extraordinary efforts from friends, their families, friends of friends, and their families (!), I presently have seventeen translations (of twenty-three).

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