Euro confusion

nic   Monday, October 25, 2004, 11:24 GMT

Easterner   Monday, October 25, 2004, 14:41 GMT
To Damian,

That French academic seems to be a little out of touch with reality, honestly. By the way, I think most French people do not seem to care too much about the decline of French as an international language. It was for long the language of diplomacy, but this changed after France lost its empire, or indeed, during and after WWII. On the other hand, French does have a role as a lingua franca in various African countries, but it would be more honest to admit that it has been losing ground to English in Europe. The most important language after English in Europe is now German, and French is maybe the third most important one, its influence being restricted to the francophone parts of Europe, or perhaps to some circles of intellectuals who are still using it between themselves. At any rate, I have been able to converse in English with most French people I have met, although I still prefer to converse with them in French. :-)
Jordi   Monday, October 25, 2004, 17:45 GMT
Hello Easterner,
Let us speak of languages in Europe and the world. I imagine that things seen from Eastern Europe must be different to things seen from Western Mediterranean Europe. Germany is bound to be the heart of a continent it will never rule and if the French and English were yesterday's foes they still are to a great extent. Furthermore, instead of waning, other regional linguistic powers are emerging and smaller national languages do not wish to disappear since they are the best warrants of a free egalitarian Europe.
We all agree that English is the first world and, of course, European language of communication. The thing with English is that it doesn't leave room to a second world language. It is like a gum tree that doesn't live room for smaller trees to grow around it although it will let other smaller trees grow at a distance.
Let us start saying that German isn't even the first choice for the other many Germanic tribes or nations who inhabit Europe. They all prefer a half-Germanic half-Romance breed, called English. Considering the close family tree numbers of fluent German-speakers are very low in Northern Europe and I've always been amazed at how few Dutch are really fluent in another philological standard dialect of their own language whilst they all seem to be fluent in English. I suppose the reason is clear enough.
From neighbouring Eastern European countries German can be seen as a second choice, after English, and that can also be the case with French or Spanish in neighbouring Romance language countries. I suppose it is a long gone reminder of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
German will never be too popular in places like Spain, Portugal, France or even Italy or Greece. People from southern France, and more, will always learn more Spanish and Italian than German. Spanish is bound to become more and more popular in Europe as continental Spain itself grows (almost 45 million already) and as the world Spanish communities (including the fact that it is the most popular second language in the US) make it a secure bond investment for international business and travel.
And then, smaller national and even regional languages will become more and more locally important, as differentials, for those aiming to specific markets. If I had to import-export to Hungary from Catalonia (and that is a fact that happens) I would definitely hire somebody who spoke not only Spanish and English but, more important on my scale, Catalan and Hungarian.
I'm sure the Germans would want a fairer share considering what they give to the continent but the language is far from easy for Romance language speakers, same problem for the British and Irish, even for the neighbouring and vast Arabic world. Last but not least, they aren't probably as loved as they surely deserve to be.
We mustn't forget that Northern Africa is still very much a French-speaking area and the relationship with the European Union will become more and more important. Spanish is also widely known and used by elites in Morocco.
Things, from a geo-political point of view, are never as easy as they seem to be from our own window-sill.
Jordi   Monday, October 25, 2004, 20:25 GMT
leave room (oops!)
........................................   Monday, October 25, 2004, 20:33 GMT
Easterner   Monday, October 25, 2004, 21:07 GMT
Hello Jordi,

Thank you for this very instructive post. It seems indeed that the world looks different when seen from different regions. Having spent part of your life in France, I am certain that you know more about this country than I ever will. Actually I'm not hostile to French as a language, neither biased towards German, this may be obvious from my other posts at other threads. I like the French language very much, but unfortumately it is not of much use to me when communicating with foreigners, which I regret. Here in Eastern Europe the influence of German used to be (and to some extent, still is) historically a long-standing one, although more and more people are starting to learn Italian or Spanish (not so much French, interestingly), besides English.

If you talk to somebody in the street here in a foreign language (and also in Czechia), they are more likely to answer in German rather than English, let alone French - if they answer in any language at all. In the town where I live, I am among the five people or so who speak any French. Actually, some people here may be hostile to France (not French people in general, mind you!) because of the role of this country in the peace settlements after WWI, which affected the former Austria-Hungary, including Hungary, very badly (one reason for the harsh French policy being, so the legend goes, the then-time prime minister Clemenceau having been rejected by a Hungarian lady due to his attitude towards Austria-Hungary). In Eastern Europe, French is the most important second language in Romania only, due to historical ties, and doubtlessly to the fact that the two languages are related.

Finally, I think the French offical policy towards minority languages and cultures is in harsh contrast with the freedom-loving attitude of the very people of France. The notion of multi-culturalism seems to be totally foreign to French politics, even though France has been a refuge for many intellectuals, not the least from Eastern Europe (e.g. Poland), and also from Spain in general Franco's time. Actually I think it is precisely this official France, not Germany, that still has dreams of a hegemonistic rule that is no longer possible. Fortunately, I have met a large number of French people who did not share this attitude, and who don't care much about French hegemony, but feel themselves to be a part of a multi-cultural Europe - an Europe that might be a political nigthmare (thinking of the EU bureucracy), but has long existed in a cultural sense. I think they represent to spirit of the real, non-official France.
........................................   Monday, October 25, 2004, 21:14 GMT
Jaro   Monday, October 25, 2004, 22:40 GMT
"Actually, some people here may be hostile to France (not French people in general, mind you!) because of the role of this country in the peace settlements after WWI, which affected the former Austria-Hungary, including Hungary, very badly "

Very badly? You Hungarians should reconcile yourself to the fact that Slovakia is not part of Hungary anymore.
Jordi   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 05:04 GMT
Easterner said: "Finally, I think the French offical policy towards minority languages and cultures is in harsh contrast with the freedom-loving attitude of the very people of France. The notion of multi-culturalism seems to be totally foreign to French politics."

I totally agree and I said so myself in old ANTIMOON posts. Remember that a small part of Catalonia, some 300.000 inhabitants, with capital city of that area in PerpinyĆ  (Perpignan in French), is on French soil. I love France but I'm extemely critical with French cultural and linguistic policies...
Easterner   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 06:49 GMT
>>Very badly? You Hungarians should reconcile yourself to the fact that Slovakia is not part of Hungary anymore.<<

This is a very complex issue I would not like to carry it further into a dispute. I am convinced the Austro-Hungarian empire would have fallen apart in the course of time by itself, perhaps even without WWI, but it is a fact that the peace-settlement in the case of Hungary (the negotiations about the future borders of the country in the Grand Trianon Palace) was accompanied by a very intense dispute due to the multicultural nature of the Kingdom of Hungary, that formed the eastern part of Austria-Hungary. The problem for Hungarians was not that most of the former nationalities (Slovaks, Serbians, Croatians, Transylvanian Romanians) ceded from the empire, but the fact that as a result of the settlement millions of Hungarians found themselves to be outside the borders overnight, so to speak, which resulted in still considerable ethnic Hungarian minorities (about 2-2,5 million people in neighbouring countries at present).

Many people still feel strongly about this on both sides, and this has often resulted in an outburst of nationalistic sentiments. I am not a nationalist myself, and actually feel happy to have been born into a multi-cultural community in the Serbian province of Voivodina, and to have learnt both Hungarian and Serbian from an early age. I now live in Hungary, and sometimes I feel people from Hungary are rather chauvinistic when it comes to the neighbouring nations, which is unjustified. For myself, I have also learned Romanian and Slovak a little, because I feel it is proper when I visit these countries. So I hope I have clarified my personal viewpoint concerning this issue.
Damian   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 10:40 GMT
The European Union

I really think now that the so called "official" language of the EU should be a Continental language and NO NOT NOT English!

All that talk of a new "Europish" in earlier threads was obviously all pie-in-the sky nonsense and it wil never come about, much as Esperanto never took flight.

The expanding EU is overwhelmingly a Continental entity....the great majority of the EU population live in Continental Europe. The only English speaking member states (the UK and the Republic of Ireland) are very much on the periphery of Europe...separated from the landmass by nature...the sea. Alright, the Channel is only a hop and a skip strip of water but it is still symbolic, even with the Chunnel.

With the ever growing hostility to the EU in Britain there is the possibility of British withdrawal sometime in the future. It's only a possibility, not a probability, at the present time, but as someone who lives in these islands, and intelligent enough to see what is going on, it seems the latter will become a likelihood. What happens then? English still an "official" language of an EU without the membership of the main English speaking member country?

It makes sense to adopt one of your Continental languages for this role.

A recent EU book on European history (now withdrawn!) literally airbrushed out Britain's role in WW1 and WW2! Now the Germans want Queen Elizabeth to apologise for bombing German cities during WW2! Wow! Can you believe that insane request? My history books must all be wrong!

Another recent EU publication (now replaced!) showed a map of the EU which included the British Isles but with Wales entirely missing! It had disappeared off the face of the earth! EU inefficiency maybe, or should it be regarded with British cynicism?

Nobody forces anyone to speak or learn English outside this country, people do so of their own free will. It is really strange when there are complaints and resentment about the "dominance of the English language".

I would like to see a Continental language as the future Eurospeak of an EU, especially minus the UK sometime in the 2010s.

I have learned a great deal in the last month or two.
Jaro   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 11:46 GMT
Don't leave, we want English not French :P
Easterner   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 12:14 GMT
>>It makes sense to adopt one of your Continental languages for this role. <<

I agree, but the question is which one. Besides English, French and German would be the likely candidates, but none of them is universally spoken in Europe. A shift to English as a second language is taking place spontaneously, even among the French and Germans themselves. And I tend to think nowadays it has become a supranational language like Latin used to be, quite independently from the cultures that actually speak it as their first language (well, not so much independently from the leading role of the US in world politics...). Choosing French would have been normal two centuries ago, when it was the language of international diplomacy, but not so much today. As one poster said earlier, even the two major ethnic groups in Belgium use English as a lingua franca instead of learning each other's languages. By the way, do you think the EU will survive the next decade? I'm beginning to have doubts... I wonder how the dispute over the spelling of the name of the common currency will be resolved, and this is just one of the minor issues.
Easterner   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 12:27 GMT
>>English still an "official" language of an EU without the membership of the main English speaking member country? <<

Why not? If the future EU is to survive at all, perhaps a "neutral" language is the best choice, because the dominance of a Continental language will always cause resentment in one part of the population. The fact is that the multi-cultural unity called Europe is not susceptible to political unification, at least in the sense in being governed from one centre. The disappearance of the borders (a good thing in itself) will not immediately result in differences being wiped away in an instant. By the way, the only alternative to English I can see at the moment is some sort of a sign language, but somebody has to make sure that it is standardised and described to the last meaningful unit in a separate directive, to avoid misinterpretation. :-)
nic   Tuesday, October 26, 2004, 13:13 GMT
Why do you want to change of language when english is there, i am french and think english is perfect for that.

You cannot replace english with another language, french : no, german : no, czeh : no...

What's neutral, there is nothing neutral, even esperanto is not because it's against english. There is all the time an ideology behind the fact.

English is perfect as a universal language and in no case it means you must english in your respective country with your compatriot, use polish if you are one of them....