Languages in the Tobacco Industry: Nikos Mertzanidis

This week on Languages in Different industries, we are hosting the interview of Nikos Mertzanidis, the EU Affairs Manager of ITG. Nikos gives us an insight on how important languages are in his field of expertise. Enjoy!


Please give a description of your line of work.

I work in the EU Affairs Office of Imperial Tobacco Group (ITG) in Brussels. ITG is a multinational corporation with interests across the world. However, the main focus of ITG is in the EU, where it maintains the second biggest market share and several lines of production in EU Member States. Thus, ITG has established a ‘Brussels Office’ to monitor the legislative initiatives of the European Commission and contribute to the legislative process via public consultations, public hearings, workshops etc. In my role as EU Affairs Manager, I am responsible for monitoring the legislative activities of the European Parliament in the fields of Health, Industrial Policies, Agriculture, Environment and International Trade. It falls upon me to filter the information and find the relevant parts where ITG senior colleagues, specialized on the above issues can contribute. Another part of my job is to follow and contribute into relevant discussions in the European tobacco trade associations. Both in the European Parliament and in the trade associations, I need to advocate the ITG positions on several topics, using our specialists’ expertise to create relevant strong messages.

What is your personal perception of the value of languages in general?

Language is one of the common tools to bring people together. Working and living in a multinational, multicultural and finally multilingual environment, I find the knowledge of each of the languages I speak (and the ones I’m currently learning) to be invaluable. It allows me to approach people that feel ‘strangers’ in Brussels by speaking their own language. It enables me to mingle with other communities in Brussels. It gives me the opportunity to create strong ties of friendship  and bond with people who are not of the same nationality as I am.

What is the value of languages in your field of expertise?

My field of expertise requires mastering of more than two European languages. On one hand, ITG is a British company and the main language of communication is English. However, ITG being a multinational company, its management teams need to communicate with colleagues in all EU countries. In that context knowledge of another language can make communication faster and easier and create stronger ties.

On the other hand, the ITG Brussels Office operates in the most multilingual environment in Europe. People from 28 nations, speaking 24 different languages, work and engage in the city. Most of them need to speak at least 2 more languages in order to cover at least one combination of languages and be able to operate within multilingual teams.

From your professional experience, what thoughts come to mind when someone tells you she/he works as a translator?

In Brussels we usually meet both translators and interpreters. I am always interested to learn the languages they ‘speak’, i.e. the languages they work on. It is also interesting to explore whether they focus on a specific family of languages (e.g. Germanic, western European, Cyrillic etc) or they divert between languages with different origins; to find out whether they only ‘know’ a language or the culture behind it as well; to discuss which combination of language they are most competent on when it comes to translating a document and also, what are the tricky parts or the ‘funny’ parts of translating between different languages.

Where you ever in need of translation services? If yes, please provide more details about the nature of the project(s).

During our engagement within the European Institutions we need to address officials who speak 24 different languages. Although using the most “common” languages (i.e. English, French, German, Spanish) could cover the majority of them, using translations of our position papers and other engagement material in as many languages as possible has proven to be most effective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *