No, it is not now either;
I think there is one extra member in the press gallery. The Postmaster General also
mentioned other difficulties in connection with simultaneous translation. I have had some experience of them myself. It might indeed be hard to translate the expression "nigger in the woodpile" into a phrase which would mean the same thing in French, but I do not think these are very important practical difficulties. In any event, this motion, as I understand it, is that the government should take into consideration the advisability of setting up a special committee of parliament to go into this question and I was encouraged to hear the Postmaster General say at the end of his remarks that a study of this matter would be a good thing.
Its purpose is, as has been pointed out, for a study to be initiated by those members of the House of Commons who are most concerned by the motion. It would be a committee, as I understand it, which would examine and report only. Before that committee there could be discussed the technical, financial and other considerations which would have a bearing on the final adoption of the idea or otherwise.
It has been suggested by the Secretary of State (Mrs. Fairclough) that such an examination could be made, in a preliminary way, by the Speaker. Well, perhaps these two ideas could be combined and Mr. Speaker, who undoubtedly would have an interest in this matter, could carry on an investigation the results of which could be made known to the parliamentary committee. I do think the introduction of a simultaneous translation system into this house-and this has been previously mentioned during this discussion-would give a greater reality to our debates when members are participating in those debates using the French language, which I think we all agree is unfortunately not fully understood by a great many other members. Therefore there are speeches made in this house which cannot be understood as they are made by those who do not know the French language. This makes it very difficult for English speaking members, not understanding the speeches, to participate immediately thereafter in the manner in which they would like, that is to say, by commenting on statements just made. It also puts the speaker using French at a disadvantage.
I would therefore hope that this proposal of simultaneous translation, if it were found to be practical and desirable by a committee of the house, would remove this disadvantage now suffered by some of our members.
The experience of the United Nations with regard to this matter has been referred to by nearly everyone who has taken part in this discussion and that experience, I am sure, has
House of Commons
been very much in the minds of those who have initiated this motion. The practicability and value of such a translation system in this house was also demonstrated by its use at the international postal conference which took place here last summer. The system at the United Nations, as I think the Postmaster General himself pointed out, does not require a member to go a podium and speak into a loud speaker to facilitate the working of the translation system. In the work at the United Nations, on committees, delegates speak from their desks as we do in this House of Commons and the simultaneous translation system does work in that way.
The earphones, I confess have uses at the United Nations to which I know they would not be put in this house. I recall how at times the deterioration of United Nations debates could be illustrated by the use to which earphones were put. At the beginning we would put on the earphones and turn to the Russian translation to listen with eagerness but, after a while, they would be taken off because you would get a little tired of some of those Russian speeches and this would be a way of ignoring them. Finally, as an indication of complete deterioration, we would turn the earphones inside out and put them on our ears in such a way that we would not have to listen to the Russian speech at all, even in Russian. Now I am certain if we had that kind of system in this house it would not be debased in such a way.
It has been suggested, Mr. Speaker-I think first by the hon. member for Parry Sound-Muskoka (Mr. Aiken)-that a system of simultaneous translation would minimize or reduce our desire to listen to speeches in French and thereby interfere with the process which very many of us in Canada are undergoing at this time, namely of becoming more proficient in our other language. But, of course, if we introduced this system into the House of Commons there would be no compulsion on anyone to use it in connection with any particular speech, and I should think that as we became more fluent in French our need for the translation would be less and less, and that we should be only too glad to listen to the French speeches without the aid of the system.
I would also point out-and this has been pointed out by a previous speaker-that it would have a positive advantage, in that it would be possible to listen to some of the speeches made, originally, in English, in a French translation, and, undoubtedly, on some occasions, to hear much better speeches in French than were, probably, being delivered in English. At least, that has been my
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experience when my own halting observations at international meetings have been translated into classic French.
Thus, I do feel that there are a good many arguments to be advanced in favour of this motion, which have been put forward by speakers from both sides during this debate. I hope, therefore, that the house will decide that this is a sensible motion, and that it does at least make a move toward recognizing the unity of this house and of this country in respect of language and that it will commend itself for sympathetic and, I hope, positive study to hon. members on all sides of the house, through the committee that could be set up.