Thursday, 16 July 2009

Sean Ó Riain

…de la European Voice:

The man whose career as a diplomat has taken an unorthodox turn as a translator.

Sean Ó Riain is the first to admit that it was “unusual for a senior diplomat to become a translator”, but looking at his career, it does not seem such an odd decision.

When he joined the Irish department of foreign affairs in 1978, it was out of a love of speaking different languages and a passionate interest in Europe. …

…Depth as well as breadth characterises his language capabilities – he speaks 13 languages, eight of them fluently, and his mastery of Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Esperanto indicates that he sees foreign languages not only as a functional necessity but also as enjoyable studies in their own right.

Unsurprisingly, he welcomed the acceptance of Irish as an EU official language in January 2007 as an extremely important development….

…During his four-year secondment as website translator, he is tasked with having EU documents translated and on the website within a few hours of publication so that they can be read in Irish straight away….

…As well as translation and language policy issues, Ó Riain is heavily involved in linguistic projects elsewhere: he contributes to Irish language newspapers and lectures on the Irish language, as well as promoting Esperanto as an aid to language-learning.

“Esperanto is not a replacement language; it is most useful in teaching,” he says.

“Students who learn some Esperanto are significantly more likely to succeed in other language studies because success in Esperanto is easy due to its streamlined grammar, and that success creates a confidence in approaching other, harder languages.”

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