Interview: Orban seeks language links to boost economy

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Speaking to EURACTIV, the ‘newest’ commissioner, Romanian multilingualism chief Leonard Orban, says multilingualism benefits competitiveness and announces the September launch of a languages Business Forum. He also examines how EU institutions can better adapt to 23 EU languages, and announces policy initiatives for 2008.  

Multilingualism Commissioner Leonard Orban explains that he is very keen to stress the importance of multilingualism for business: “It is one of the main dimensions – my priorities concerning multilingualism in general, not only on the institutional level, are linked…immediately after I started my work, a study was published – a study drafted by the UK National Centre for Languages – and this clearly demonstrated that the companies who do not have the necessary linguistic skills are losing money and losing business. So it is a very clear conclusion here – the companies need linguistic skills and need linguistic strategies.”

“Very soon, I will launch a Business Forum concerning the link between multilingualism and competitiveness,” says the commissioner.

The Business Forum is intended, among other objectives, to provide input for Orban’s new languages strategy, which is expected to be adopted in the second half of 2008. However, the commissioner does not expect languages to feature highly in Commisioner Margot Wallström’s Communication Action Plan, due to be presented on 4 July: “I don’t know, it’s too early. It’s too early to discuss about this.” 

“Of course,” he adds, “language learning is a key priority for me. The cultural aspect of languages and mainly the contribution of multilingualism to inter-cultural dialogue –and last but not least, creating a space for communicating with EU citizens.”

From a translation perspective, Orban is convinced that, with the number of official languages having increased from 11 to 23 since 2005, practical measures are essential to ensure that languages are as far as possible kept on an equal footing – “the executive decided to divide documents into two categories – the important (and all important documents should be translated into all the official languages) – and less important documents,” Orban explains.

Finally, the commissioner addresses multilingualism and education: “I recently visited the UK, especially for this reason, because now the UK authorities are working on some very concrete proposals concerning the educational system, but also concerning language learning. I went there to encourage them to find the best solution. I also went there to discuss the concrete terms of their proposals. Do you know what the most difficult issue in the UK is? Finding the motivation to learn foreign languages.”

To read the full interview, please click here.

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