English becomes Europe's second language. Or maybe not so much...

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/10/05 07:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2010/10/05/10071540.aspx

So I read the English becomes Europe's second language story from the Telegraph.

Of course the title was a bit sensationalistic, since that isn't really what happened....

The subtitle explains what the story was really going to say.

Rather than:

English becomes Europe's second language

The subtitle said:

English has become Europe's second language of choice with two thirds of people in the continent able to speak it, according to a survey.

Now that is a fairly large difference!

The article goes on a bit further to stir the pot with some more kind of incendiary text:

The study found that English is the first foreign language studied in secondary schools in every country outside Britain and Ireland.

The results of the survey are a particular blow to the French, who recently launched a failed bid for their language to be made the sole official language of the EU headquarters in Brussels, claiming their mother tongue was "more precise".

Now I suppose I could go on, but you should probably read it yourself if you want to see some good old fashioned muckraking.

No, I'll do a little more:

It has also prompted calls for the EU to cut back on the £1 billion it spends every year translating official documents into the organisation's 23 recognised languages.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "It's only right that the EU institutions think carefully about every penny they spend to ensure that they're getting the most from their money.

Though there is some truth in the article, I guess I'd be more impressed if a non-English speaking country were having its foreign office making the statements. And if so many different issues were given the clear timeline of a full story instead of a bit of sensationalistic fluff.

On the other hand, this is a sign of the times... or rather, The Telegraph.... :-)

Jimbo on 5 Oct 2010 8:11 AM:

the Times?

Michael S. Kaplan on 5 Oct 2010 9:29 AM:

The Telegraph. :-)

Matt on 6 Oct 2010 2:02 AM:


jmdesp on 11 Oct 2010 5:37 AM:

The EU is becoming more and more monolingual, I don't know what they're supposed to be talking about with that "failed bid", the truth is that 20 years ago, in Brussels the number of documents written in English was only slightly ahead of the number in French, but today it's more than 75% English, a tiny minority in French, and the other languages almost non existent.

English is becoming *the* language of the EU institutions. But how can a single language represent the view of the 27 members of the EU, when it's the official language of only two of it's member(*), and what's more, one the two seems to seldom restrain from despising the EU ?

The EU is multi-cultural, and multi-lingual, and this state of affairs can only make it more distant from the citizens. My own country France unfortunately has quite some responsibility for this evolution, because when it's language enjoyed a privileged status in the EU, it hasn't been smart enough to see long ahead and tried to keep that status instead of helping more languages to be properly represented in the EU, therefore making itself a target for all the other countries that saw no good reason for that privilege, resulting in English staying the only day-to-day communication language in Brussels.

This results with EU institutions that make no effort to speak multiple language, and where as reported recently on a french journalist's blog, a north African journalist can call a collaborator of the EU's foreign affairs policy chief, suggesting French is the foreign language he handles best, and get the answer that : « We're Englishmen and speak only English ».

(*) OK, right, it's also an official language for a third one, but that's just 400 thousand people.

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