An associate professor of translation studies has put forward the interesting argument that joining the European Union would actually help Icelanders preserve their language.
Gauti Kristmannsson, addressing the Institute of International Affairs, said that joining the European Union “would benefit the Icelandic language more than any Day of the Icelandic Tongue or language committee,” Vísir reports.
History shows that smaller nations are guaranteed the right to use their native language in international settings within the EU, he points out. According to the platform of the EU, he says, a farmer in Bulgaria can address the European parliament without having to speak English or French; a translator will interpret his speech.
He also pointed out Ireland’s story with the EU. Ireland has long used both English and Irish as official languages within their own country, although far fewer people spoke Irish than English. When they joined the EU in 1973, they didn’t predict that any difference would be made if Irish were considered one of the EU’s official languages. On the contrary, Gauti says, the effect was such that the Irish language was strengthened and given greater support as an official language. Everything written in the workings of the EU can and must be translated into Irish.
Icelanders are of course naturally protective of their language, although hundreds more speakers are added to the roles every year. Should Iceland join the EU, Icelandic would as well be one of the EU’s official languages.