Resistance is being met over the proposed language changes submitted by the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB has begun supervising many of the largest banks within the eurozone, with around 25% of the 120 banks stating they would prefer to do business in their respective languages, rather than English.

The ECB, which began supervising in November, is the central bank for the Euro and oversees financial policy within the eurozone. The zone of 18 member states is one of the largest areas for currency in the world. For written correspondence, the ECB has been lobbying for English to be used, but has met continued resistance to this.

Framework text for continued supervision by the ECB has stated that it wants banks to use English, the working language used since 1998 when it was founded. However, English cannot be mandated as European law allows EU citizens to contact European institutions in any of the EU’s 24 official languages.

The suggestion to move to English has been met with negative feedback. Simply put, Whilst the eurozone has 18 countries, only two have English as an official language – Ireland and Malta.

Of course, there is also a cost issue involved. In line with EU regulations, the ECB must use translators to publish their official documents. This can require translation in up to all 23 languages, as well as English and other languages not within the zone.

The ECB is currently increasing its staff by up to 1,000 people to help with its new supervisor role. Whilst they have not stated exactly how many new translators are being hired, translation costs must be paid by all banks, based on their size.

A majority of banks included are currently using their native language, which is German. Germany does feature high on English proficiency amongst European countries, but a total changeover is still something they do not want to do right now.

One representative of a German bank stated that they chose to remain with German because of a desire to ensure certain terms and concepts were being used correctly and not lost in translation. A French bank also stated something similar, saying it’s employees do not speak English, especially in retail branches.

Some banks have comes around to the ECB suggestion to use English. One bank in Austria is choosing to utilise English as it is “the language of international finance.” However, two out of the eight Austrian banking groups supervised by ECB have chosen German as their language.

The issue is still ongoing.