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Title: Lost in Translation? An Examination of the Translation Policies of The United Nations and the European Union
Authors: Bray, N. Mika
Advisors: Bellos, David
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: In this thesis, I will be comparing and contrasting the differing policies regarding translation employed by the United Nations and the European Union. The United Nations uses a policy that supports six official languages of translation, while the European Union has twenty-four official languages, creating a sharp distinction between the two. However, the differences are embedded not only in the number of languages used, but in the philosophies and context surrounding the current established translation policies. The United Nations has selected a core group of languages that has remained relatively unchanged over the years despite changes in state membership, whereas the European Union translates all documents into an official language of each participatory nation. These policies also necessarily affect the member states of these international organizations when they are put in practice. In the United Nations’ case, some countries go unrepresented in this translation system. Contrarily, the European Union’s policy is more time-consuming and may cause delay of important documentation. This thesis will examine the question of whether the United Nations’ limited language policy is harmful to its member states, either in stifling communication, suppressing participation, or providing flawed information. Since the two organizations practice such differing policies, the results will enable me to provide recommendations as to which policy is more effective, and whether the other should be adjusted to parallel it. In tackling this question, I initially hypothesized that the United Nations’ six-language policy would be limiting for nations whose languages are unrepresented by the selected set. To qualify this statement, I posited the effect would be more obvious in countries that were not large or well-funded enough to establish their own translation service booth at the United Nations. My research relied heavily on documentation from the United Nations and the European Union, and the literature already existing about translation in international organizations. The methodology I employed was to compare four nations: two represented at both the European Union and the United Nations (one spoken by multiple nations, one less commonly spoken), and two represented at the European Union but not at the United Nations (with the same subcategories). This work reflects my findings from the case studies of French, Spanish, German, and Estonian. I have read through documentation to determine whether there is a noticeable lack of participation by the unrepresented nations’ delegates at the United Nations, and compared them to the same nations’ participation at the European Union as a control example. The results will allow me to make policy recommendations based on the practical outcomes and effects on member states of these organizations, but also taking into account the historical context of these language policies’ implementation.
Extent: 91 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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