English has long been the lingua franca of the European Union. However, recently, German MPs have started to argue that they have a constitutional right to have any and all official documents around the decisions and events at the EU translated into German rather than to be expected to receive everything in a foreign language. The idea of not being able to have and use their own language in the EU is, the German Parliamentary body considers, unfair. They are currently arguing for EU documents to be translated into German in order to preserve the German language as well as to promote it.
At the current time, EU documents are received in English and the German government has to pay for its own translation, like in many other countries that belong to the EU. However, recently, Angel Merkel's government has started to argue that this is unconstitutional and that they have a right to access relevant and important information in their first language.
How many people speak English in the EU?
Not everyone in the countries that belong to the EU speak English even as a second or third language, but it is still a majority language. It is estimated that as many as 25,000 people who live in Berlin alone speak English as their first language. In the whole of Germany, there are more than 51 million speakers of English, but only around 270,000 speak it as a first language. Currently, the Technical University in Munich is making plans to start teaching most of its Master's courses and material in English rather than German, a change that they hope will be complete by 2020. It is because of changes like this that the German MPs consider it even more important to preserve and promote their own native tongue.
Why is it so important to have official translations?
Whilst a huge percentage of the native German population speak excellent English, the technical writing from and around the EU is difficult to understand fully for those who do not speak English as a native language. There are important nuances to phrases and words that most people will not catch. For this reason, it is absolutely essential that official translations are given out, written by professional translators who understand how to capture nuance from one language to another and who are experts in the fields of finance, politics and other essential areas of the EU. Reportedly, the European Commission sent around one and a half thousand documents to German MPs in the last parliament. The vast majority of these documents had already been translated into German for the most part, but more than a thousand of them had attachments and annexes that were only written in English.
Critics suggest that Germany's Parliament should not be so thrifty when it comes to essential translation services and that spending money on translation EU documents is necessary. However, German MPs remain resolute that having all documents pertaining to the EU translated is a constitutional right that should be afforded to them.