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The Idea of Europe

Catriona Seth
Rotraud von Kulessa

45. The Linguistic Wealth of Europe

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1In the Project for Perpetual Peace in Europe, Saint-Pierre evokes the issue of linguistic diversity in Europe and the ensuing problems. He stresses the cultural significance of translation and praises the work of interpreters.

2Two problems have been presented to me. The first is the fact that in Germany, only one language is spoken, while in Europe there are many. To this I respond that if treaties could only be made between sovereigns if they and their subjects share the same language, they could never be negotiated. Yet they are approved every day. How is that possible? It is possible because treaties are negotiated only through deputies, and it is sufficient that deputies representing different nations speak a common language amongst themselves. Moreover, it is common enough to transact with the help of interpreters, without even the deputies comprehending each other’s languages.

3Charles-Irénée Castel de Saint-Pierre,
Project for Perpetual Peace in Europe (1713).

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