What is the official language of the European Union?

Jordi   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 08:03 GMT
Still funny, isn't it?, how some Brits are the last to accept the Euro or even the metric system but the first to propose their national tongue. By the way, according to today's Spanish press 900.000 Brits are already permanent residents in Spain.
Damian   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 10:17 GMT
Let's have a reality check here. I live in the UK and will do so for the rest if my life, so I know what I'm talking about.

If there was a national referendum in this country tomorrow on the question of whether to remain in the EU or to withdraw a.s.a.p, the outcome would be a majority FOR withdrawal, maybe by quite a substantial majority. There are various reasons for this increasing anti European sentiment in Britain but I won't say more than that. There were local and European elections in the UK earlier this year and the ONLY party to make huge gains was the UK Independence Party, which demands total withdrawal from the EU at the earliest opportunity. You only have to listen to phone-in programs here in the UK to hear a constant barrage of vehemently anti European sentiment. It's quite scary really.

When I say this I m not expressing my own personal opinion. I really love the idea of Europe and all it's variety and mix of cultures and languages, and if they all meld together as one it would be lovely....it could be seen as some sort of Utopia. Maybe I am not typical of a very large number of other Britons who still look at the European Union extremely negatively.

I'm not sure whether Britain is truly proposing the superiority of the English language and imposing it on others inside Europe, or that it should become the "official language". Perhaps English is gaining this apparent ascendancy because most people outside these British shores want to learn it! It is after all the main language of the United States, the world's most dominant power, as well as all those British Commonwealth country.

It would be very, very interesting to see what would happen regarding "oficial language" if the UK DID completely withdraw from the EU, say in 2006. That would just leave the republic of Ireland as the only other English speaking country still in the EU. Ireland would never leave the EU as they have benefited tremendously from the EU as a net recipient, unlike the UK which has been a net contributor. They have already adopted the Euro anyway, something that Britain seems most unlikely to do for a very long time, if ever.

So, imagine the scenario....the UK leaves the EU. Surely English would never become the "official language" if that happens? Unless the Irish become very assertive.
Damian   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 10:19 GMT
<<British Commonwealth country>> = countries.
blank   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 13:18 GMT
I never really thought about what might happen if the UK pulled out of the EU, but if they did I still think English would take precedence. I don't think it would be labeled the "official language" just because of spite, but if people from Eastern Europe are going to be migrating west and western corporations are going to be expanding east then I think English will be the language they choose to speak with each other. Its true that many Eastern Europeans still speak German or Russian but this mainly applies to the older generation. I had a Slovakian roommate in college and he said that all of the younger generation can pretty much speak English. That is just his point of view though. Whatever happens, I deffinately think that Europe is setting a precedent for the rest of the world. There has never really been a situation like this before and it will be interesting to see how it pans out in the end. This is basically the first major example of globalization. Maybe one day we could see the same thing happening in South America or Africa.
Jordi   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 16:33 GMT
The problem is not so much the more or less generalised knowledge of English. How could anybody with another natural language other than English deliver an abstract, high level speech in the EU if it isn't in his native language? Do you imagine the president of France, or any European MP for that matter, lowering their "level of intelligence" in English when their speech would rise enormously in their own native tongue? As a trained conference interpreter I know very well what I'm talking about since chatting or going shopping has got nothing to do with explaining "evironmental or political problems" in your country in a language that is not your own. Most Europeans --even the youngest and most fluent-- are only half-speakers of English. There is much more to a language than syntax and vocabulary and a nice accent. Even bilingual or native speakers are "at a loss of words" when they move to a country where their language isn't spoken. I've known Brits in Spain (with poor Spanish) who've told me they've lost part of the English vocabulary since they don't have to use it in an every day basis. The advantage given to one or two languages would be (and actually is) unbearable to the rest.
blank   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 19:01 GMT

I deffinately agree with you, but I've been told that learning English in Europe has become like learning math. It has become a standard subject in schools. And although you're right that having it as your native tongue does make a big difference, the president of Al Jazeera TV, who is Arabic, was one of the best public speakers I've ever seen (in English). I've been watching the UN conference on CSPAN and have seen some better foreign public speakers than our own President Bush (but that's a whole other subject that I won't get into). Anyway, I think I am off topic so I won't go on.

Are there any Europeans that can shed some light on what the situation is with English over there? Is it normal for the younger generation to be able to speak it and is it a standard subject in schools?
Damian   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 20:02 GMT
I understand all those points. The issue of language is bound to be a huge one when 25 individual European nations (as of the present time) all with their various cultures and languages, are joined together in a single Union within the borders of Europe. If and when Turket ever joins in the party it'll become even more interesting...a bit bizarre too, really, seeing as most of the country technically is in another Continent! That's another matter, but will add to the fun if it ever comes about.

There probably never will be an "official European language" anyway...I'm not sure I'd like to see one. What I mean to say is, if English ever does become the dominant language in the EU (whether or not the UK remains as a member State, which may be questionable judging by the apparent national mood) then I don't think it will have anything to do with British pressure or undue influence. It just happens that English is the language which the majority of none native people want to learn. It's most likely that a Latvian will chat to a Portuguese in English if they do not understand each other's languages, as an example.

Of course, nobody can express themselves as well in a foreign language as they can their own, however fluent or multilingual they are. The EU is a great place for interpreters to utilise their skill. What would they find to do if everybody understaood and spoke the same language?

The USA is forunate (or unfortunate, depending on your viewpoint) in just having English already as the undisputed main language, although someone has said in this forum that it is actually not the official language! I think the EU is really more interesting a place simply because of all the different languages and cultures.

The British as a whole are really crap at learning foreign languages, probably because they think everyone speaks (or should speak!) English, arrogant though that is. So they go to Spain to live when they're old and don't bother to learn Spanish, or to integrate too well, as it seems they do. It's no surprise, that's for sure. Would the Americans do any better if they were in the same ex-patriate situation in the lovely Spanish climate? It's just a pity that the ever so tiny UK has such a minging climate much of the time which is the only reason that those Brits move down there when they get to the crumbly stage in life!

The Americans are lucky living in a huge country where they have ready made regions with Spanish weather, such as Florida, so they just shoot off down there and find that the locals speak the same lingo so they don't have to form English speaking ghettoes.
Damian   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 20:26 GMT
Ooops....Florida.....maybe not such a good idea in the hurricane season...maybe California is a better bet but I hear now that they're having earthquakes!
Damian   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 20:38 GMT
<<And as for 200 languages>> in the EU?

I once heard someone say on TV or the radio that over 300 different languages are spoken in Greater London alone. I know London is an enormous city and extremely multicultural and cosmopolitan, but that is an amazing number I think. Having said that, maybe not....as I've said before in this forum I've been stopped by someone in London asking for directions, with their first quesion being: "Excuse me, do you speak English?"
Jordi   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 21:27 GMT
I travel widely over Europe, as other people in this forum know. I work in the Tourism trade and English is the inter-lingo of all people in this trade in Europe. I know very young executives and more mature ones, people who are fully native in English as myself and who would pass for native English speakers. Most people in this forum know I grew up in Australia. I'm not pleading for professional interpreters since we could probably find work elsewhere and shift better than most of the workforce since we have wider horizons. You learn a number of skills in Translating Departaments, which open many doors and possibilities I can assure you. It's not only about languages but also about economics, laws, anthropology, accountancy...
I started doing conference interpreting and teaching English as a very young man and then moved on to greener pastures. The fact is that if I were to write an essay I would do it in Catalan right now, my native tongue, with all the nuances I know so well. In my case it would take very little extra effort to do it in English and I'd probably do it better right now than the average fellow in GB but I would not feel at ease until I came back to my native Catalan. In the trade Spaniards, Frenchmen, Italians, Germans, Dutch etc. will speak very good English and some even excellent but they still are, in the best of cases, in my own situation but if I were to debate with Mr. Blair in English I would be at a disadvantage. I certainly would dare to debate with him if an interpreter translated us both. Why should I go slower or worse than what I can expect from myself to be at 100% of my possibilities. My possibilities not a second division myself. I can assure you most of the English you'll hear in the Tourism Trade, spoken by foreigners,has been labelled as International English meaning "enough for what you need" an impoverished version of top class English, which will depend on the individual but that will never reach the level of a Yorkshire peasant's ease in his own language.
If I were to defend my countrymen's needs in Brussels or Strasburg I would do it even better in my native Catalan than in Spanish and I am a Spanish national. It's not a political issue it's simply that there is a language that prevails in every human being no matter how good he is at other languages. In my case it would be different if I moved to GB since, after a few months, English would probably prevail and the same thing would happen with my Spanish if I moved to Madrid or my French if I moved to Paris. One usually dreams in a language only and knows proverbs, idioms and all kinds of expressions in that language. I'm speaking, of course, of the educated man or woman in an International body where so much is at stake. As you can see I haven't looked up the dictionary at all and apologise if I've gone too fast. Imagine what I could have added if I would have been able to address myself to you all in Catalan.
Jordi   Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 21:58 GMT
would have been allowed since I'm quite able...
Mi5 Mick   Wednesday, September 29, 2004, 12:51 GMT
You're da man Jordi!

I get by with the little Spanish posted here and there, with the help of online translations, but the Catalan you post is cryptic! Your English is good enough ;P and elaborateness there to keep my interest :)
Adam   Sunday, October 03, 2004, 09:45 GMT
Jordi Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 08:03 GMT
Still funny, isn't it?, how some Brits are the last to accept the Euro or even the metric system but the first to propose their national tongue. By the way, according to today's Spanish press 900.000 Brits are already permanent residents in Spain.

That's because the British don't want to be run by a group of unelected foreigners in Brussels or, when the French toffs get their way, for a few weeks by Strasbourg.

It was only in the newspaper a few weeks ago how thousands of pounds of British taxpayers' money is wasted each year to move everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, from Brussels to Strasbourg in a huge lorry, just to please a few French toffs who wish their country to rule Europe for a few weeks. The EU is nothing but a farce.

By 2030, Britain will have overtaken Germany to become Europe's largest economy. We are also the only EU country, apart from Republic of Ireland and Luxembourg, whose population and workforce are growing. All other EU countries are shrinking. Italy, for example, which now has a population of 57 million, will only have a population of about 44 million by 2030. By 2030, Britain will be the only European country to still be a member of the EU, and we are the only G7 country whose econonomy has grown continuously since 1997. All the others have been in recession. Our unemployment rate is also only half that of the EU. Why? Cos we weren't stupid enough to adopt the Euro.

And Britain isn't the only one. Denmark, Sweden and Greece also don't have the Euro.
Adam   Sunday, October 03, 2004, 09:48 GMT
I meant to say that by 2030, Britain will be the only European country to still be a member of G7.
Adam   Sunday, October 03, 2004, 09:51 GMT
The British as a whole are really crap at learning foreign languages, probably because they think everyone speaks (or should speak!) English, arrogant though that is. So they go to Spain to live when they're old and don't bother to learn Spanish, or to integrate too well, as it seems they do.

As I've said in the post entitled "The dominance of the English language continues", the reason why Brits don't learn other languages is because they don't need to. English is by far the dominant language of the world. So other people need to learn learn English cos it's far more important. Other English-speaking nations such as the US and Australia are also poor at learning foreign languages - because they don't really need to.