Posted by Christopher O'Regan on 20:06 12/14/01
In reply to: Languages of Belshai posted by Philip Newton on 1:03 12/12/01
I think Belshai's terrestrial analogy would be Switzerland. They have no one official government language there; federal legislation etc is simply published in different languages, and as Mark mentioned, there is a very high degree of multilingualism. Not only between say, French and German, but also between Swiss and High varieties of German, not to mention Italian, Romansch, and a few other minority toungues. (Multilingualism is actually a very natural situation for most people throughout history. Many indigenous Australians, for example, were fluent in a great many different tribal languages.)
As for the United Nations . . . i don't mean to be pedantic, the reason i mention it is because I think it's so cool! During meetings of the various organs, delegations don't have their own interpreters, the UN has ts own battery of professionals, each simultaneously translating speeches (which must be made in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic or Chinese . . . or German as well? i can't quite remember if it's official or not) into all the other official languages. Delegates simply pick up a set of headphones and choose which translation they wish to listen to. I never cease to be amazed at the ability of these people to keep up with what is being said, often about highly technical subjects, and process it into natural idiom of a foreign tongue at the same time! Just imagine, for example, trying German-to-English, where forming sentences while waiting for the verb must be horrendously tough!
Yes, simultaneous translation is an amazing ability... I can't even provide a gist if (say) my wife and I are watching a movie with a few lines in French. Just following along is hard enough!