The Linguist

The Linguist 59,1 - February/March 2020

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 13 of 35

AWARDS FOCUS R enée Van hoof-haferkamp's attitude towards languages is not what you might expect from the winner of a prestigious award for outstanding contribution to the field of languages. 1 As director-General of the Joint interpreting and Conference service for the European institutions, which she established in an earlier incarnation in 1958, she has been at the forefront of interpreting provision for the European institutions from the start, inspiring a generation of linguists. Yet she doesn't see the study of languages as an objective in itself; language, rather, is "a tool for better understanding," ideally to be acquired while studying other things. For those of us raised in times of peace, this distinction might not hold such importance, but for Van hoof-haferkamp, language learning was the result not of schooling but of upheaval. As a child, she was forced to leave her home in Cologne, Germany after the Nazis came to power, finding refuge first in holland and then in Brussels. she was hidden by the resistance in Belgium with her half-American mother, German father and older sister after a failed attempt to get to switzerland following the invasion of holland. it was a journey into languages born of the worst trauma imaginable, as she learnt the languages of the countries she sought refuge in: first dutch, then French, later picking up English at school. As a result, "i never thought of languages as something interesting," she concedes. Cross-cultural communication and understanding were simply essentials for survival. so when her parents agreed to her study of German philology after the war, they were motivated by a much deeper imperative than a simple interest in languages. "they pushed me not only into languages, but so that it would never happen again," she explains. her mother, in particular, was determined that she work for the Belgian Foreign Minister Paul-henri spaak, a dedicated supporter of European integration. Faced with such high expectations, the young renée was understandably reticent, but when her parents took her Voice of Europe renée Van hoof-haferkamp has been at the centre of major events in Europe over the last century, having set up the European institutions' interpreting service. in a rare interview, she tells Miranda Moore about her life and legacy © Chris Christodoulou

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Linguist - The Linguist 59,1 - February/March 2020