The Enigmatic Beauty of Languages

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3rd Jan, 2019
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Dutch is my mother tongue. It is not a common language in our linguistic universe, and certainly not in the diverse and multicultural meetings industry. However, on a positive note, Dutch ranks at the 40th place as the most widely spoken language in the world of 6,000 languages. (Well it is not enough as an argument to consider it as an international language, and I had almost forgotten to defend languages because I am so used to communicating in English — naturally.)

The recent ICCA Congress in Dubai was a significant and iconic one — where voices were raised to also give Mandarin and Arabic a place alongside the official English language. Spanish is also now the Language Champion with its own Spanish ICCA website with all the documents translated (For more information, have at this article for a coverage from our Latin-American partner Eventos LatinoAmericanos.)

Expanding on the diversity of ICCA’s official language(s) paves the way for our industry colleagues to take a moment and look at language learning as a cognitive and cultural enrichment. What a wonderful idea, and that is only the least of the possibilities that will birth from this new change. How exciting!

A translator once told me:

“In your native language you say what you want; In a foreign language you say what you can.” 

That is just human nature. In the EU, many people are able to speak their own languages (thanks to interpreters), though they tend to be able to speak English anyway. The same goes for the UN, where many non-anglophones communicate in English during meetings.

If you can think about the chances of ‘lost-in-translation’ cases; expressions that are unique to the language of speaker; speakers’ personalities, arguments, messages etc. you can imagine a slither of an interpreter’s nightmare. One must be able to speak a common language with a comfortable degree of command, in order to convey the right idea, thoughts and emotions right. Without this first step, we do not need to talk about delivering the right content; the right words to convey the right feelings.

Based on my knowledge and experience, the combination of English-French-Spanish is most common as official languages for international institutes and associations. We also cannot underestimate our German-speaking friends.

While some will say that translators are a bite in the budget, others will say that understanding better is more important than an invoice. I consider this a positive step as more working languages will be used in our global meetings industry, starting with ICCA!

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