Language Diplomacy Chapter2

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Stanko Nick

Use of Language in Diplomacy

USE OF LANGUAGE IN DIPLOMACY
Stanko Nick

A

n old and funny catchphrase says that one should use many languages to be properly understood: speaking to God, Latin; to the military, German; to the merchants, Greek and Arabic; to the musicians, Italian; to his cook, Chinese; to the sailors and engineers, English; to the artists, Russian; to friends, Spanish; to enemies Dutch or Hungarian; to his girl-friend, French; to his wife, Japanese...
What language should one use when speaking to diplomats, or what language should diplomats use? Or, to be more precise, what language/ languages should a (young) diplomat try to learn to be more successful in his profession?
The term “language in diplomacy” obviously can be interpreted in several ways. First, as tongue (“mother” tongue or an acquired one), the speech “used by one nation, tribe, or other similar large group of people”;1 in this sense we can say, for example, that French used to be the predominant diplomatic language in the first half of the 20th century. Second, as a special way of expressing the subtle needs of the diplomatic profession; in this way it can be said, for example, that the delegate of such-and-such a country spoke of the given subject in totally non-diplomatic language. Also, the term can refer to the particular form, style, manner or tone of expression; such as the minister formulated his conditions in unusually strong language. It may mean as well the verbal or non-verbal expression of thoughts or feelings: sending the gunships is a language that everybody understands.
All of these meanings—and probably several others—can be utilised in both oral and written practice. In any of these senses, the use of language in diplomacy is of major importance, since language is not a simple tool, vehicle for transmission of thoughts, or instrument of communication, but very often the very essence of the diplomatic vocation, and that has been so from the early

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