A – 5: why the EU uses so many official languages
B – 3: that the EU launches, often online
C – 7: why the EU uses more languages than multinational bodies
D – 1: with more members than the EU
E – 4: which is a little over € 2 for every citizen
F – 2: which is usually their mother tongue
Running a multilingual European Union
The use of 23 official languages is the public face of the European Union (EU). The reasons A__why the EU uses so many official languages__ are not hard to identify: they are democracy, transparency and the right to know. New legislation must be published and made available in a language all EU citizens can understand. The use of all official languages also makes it easier for people to participate in public debates and consultations B__that the EU launches, often online__.
Its law-making function and the direct involvement of its citizens explain C__why the EU uses more languages than multinational bodies__ like the United Nations or NATO, which operate only at the intergovernmental level with no legislative function. The United Nations, with more than 190 members, uses only six languages. The Council of Europe, D__with more members than the EU__, publishes official documents only in English and French, as does NATO.
Running a multilingual EU comes at a price. But it is a modest price when set against the results. The annual cost of translation and interpretation is about 1% of the EU budget, E__which is a little over € 2 for every citizen__. The total cost has risen by only a small margin despite the arrival of 12 new countries since 2004.
The EU institutions have adjusted their procedures over the years to handle the rising number of official languages. Translators work with written texts, and interpreters with the spoken word. But they must be able to translate or interpret into their main language, F__which is usually their mother tongue__, from at least two other EU languages.