The EU is a community of 27 countries, whose unity and diversity is expressed via 23 official languages, as well as plethora of other national, regional and local languages. It is home to nearly 500 million people with diverse ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Multilingualism contributes to European values of democracy and equality. The European Parliament is committed to debate and discussion in all EU languages. The reason for this and how it is achieved is explained in this focus.
Preserving this unique linguistic diversity is a big challenge. As the EU has recently started operating in 23 languages, it is worth looking at the meaning of multilingualism, its benefits and its costs.
The EU is a “multicultural, multilingual democracy” and it uses three alphabets: Latin, Greek and Cyrillic. To set the stage for the rest of our article here are a few statistics about multilingualism and its costs * For 2006 the cost of translation in all EU institutions is estimated at €800 million, in 2005: the total cost of interpretation was almost €190 million.
* Multilingualism expenditure represents over one third of the total expenditure of Parliament.
* The EP translated 673,000 pages during the first half of 2007 (165,000 of them externally).
* Since 2005 the EP has translated over a million pages a year.
* EU system on average requires over 2000 translators and 80 interpreters per day.