The impact of EU policies on the language of small states

The fourth seminar session of the Europe Dialogues was held by Gauti Kristmannsson, Associate Professor of Translation Studies at the Faculty of Icelandic and Comparative Cultural Studies. Kristmannsson attracted a different crowd by addressing the impact that EU policies will have on the language of small states with a particular emphasis on the Icelandic language. His main argument was that the EU would have a positive impact on Iceland in general and the Icelandic language in particular.

Gauti Kristmannsson

Kristmannsson opened his lecture by citing two poems by Matthias Jochumsson. He emphasised the significance that language plays for national unity and national planning. Iceland has to abide by EU regulations, laws and treaties, many of which are translated into Icelandic at the expense of Iceland. However, Kristmannsson argued, by becoming a member, the EU would absorb those costs. At the same time, more material would also be translated, providing Icelanders with a better understanding of the processes occurring around them. This, in turn, would also lead to an increase in much needed funding and progress in the translation services. Kristmannsson highlighted that there is a dearth of interpreters in Iceland today. Having a college degree in English is not enough as an interpreter needs excellent skills in their own language as well as at least two others. Thus, EU membership would reinforce the importance of learning languages in secondary school.

The presentation was well attended and Kristmannsson answered many questions from the audience. Next week Jón Karl Helgason, Associate Professor of Icelandic and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Icelandic and Comparative Cultural Studies, will present the topic European National Heroes.