Inspiration is the key!
To be clearer, loanwords are words that come from other languages to fill a gap (but not necessarily) in the recipient language. Let’s take English as example of a predominant language, having Spanish and Italian as recipients. The word “meeting” is way overused in such languages, where “reunión/encuentro” or “riunione/incontro” respectively, are proper terms having the exact meaning as “meeting“, but the English loanword is often preferred. Spanish even made it a word of its own by morphing it into “mitin“!
This way the predominance of the English language in the world starts making sense.
Spanish has always shown a tendency of translating or adapting foreign terms, and the same used to happen in Italy too. This is mostly due to the fact that linguistic protectionism was implied by the Fascist governments of Spain and Italy, but we might assume that since Fascism was uprooted from Spain just a four decades ago, that tendency hasn’t disappeared yet.
Is linguistic protectionism a political thing? Should it not be a matter of sense and proper love for one’s own language. If you accept a loanword in your language but fail to translate it, or use it in its original form just for its appeal, it all turns into a case of laziness or useless glamour. Because I love languages, and I love them all, I would rather have all words translated.
In Italy, even names of people used to be translated, especially those of monarchs. Up to Prince Charles being translated into “Principe Carlo“, the British Royal family had its name translated into Italian, with Prince William and Prince Harry maintaining their original names in the Italian press. It would be surprising to hear about “Principe Guglielmo” and “Principe Enrico“, although some people wondered when or how the shift happened. In Spain, translating names of people continues.
The fundamental question remains: why do foreign languages need to pick an English word to name something they would be entitled to translate in their own languages? I think it’s a translation thing vs. a society thing. By society, I mean the English world coming up with a word that is such tied to the context, it’s better used as it is. By translation, I mean a translator/intepreter’s choice to keep the word as it is. It’s always a matter of choices. Sometimes it’s the individual making these choices: a translator might make this choice and therefore start something that later starts to trend. The masses (or the individual who tries to appeal to the masses) subconsciously bow to the English speaking world, which dominates the most diverse contexts in the Western world. I don’t tend to see this as a great thing. It is good that there is a common language through which different countries communicate, but it’s sad to see English fill gaps that aren’t really gaps. What prompted me to write this piece, is how the Italian media emphasised on the government’s process of managing several aspects of public spending as “Spending review“. Surprisingly, the Italian media started using this term despite having a proper translation which has always been in use for years and more than efficient and as explicative as a perfect translation: “Revisione della spesa“. Why this shift? Why now? It was not a new term, something most people did not know how to translate, or a translator’s choice being applied to the media. It was a term as equally translated as a noun, or a verb would be. It is worrying how the media amplify this behaviour and promote loanwords instead of empowering their own languages.
It’s not a matter of power, it’s a matter of love. As I love all languages, I wish for them to be equally fair to each other and be as independent as they can be, for this is the only way a constructive communication between languages can take place and won’t turn into a culture dilemma.