10/03/2009

EU Enlargement and Decline of French

Numbers speak for themselves:

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU enlargement is pushing German ahead of French on the European language ladder, with non-indigenous languages such as Russian and Turkish also on the rise, a new European Commission study has shown. The number of German speakers and English speakers jumped 6 percent each between 2001 and 2005, hitting 14 percent and 38 percent respectively, while the rate of French speakers rose just 3 points to 14 percent. "With the enlargement of the European Union, the balance between French and German is slowly changing. Clearly more citizens in the new member states master German, while their skills in French and Spanish are scarce," the report stated. Almost two thirds of Europeans feel English is the most important foreign language for adults and children to learn. But support for learning French as a foreign language dived from 40 percent to 25 percent in the past five years, while support for German slipped just 1 point to 22 percent. France is fiercely protective of its linguistic heritage, with the Paris-based Academie Francaise sending out ambassadors to eastern Europe to promote French studies and awarding prizes to foreign francophones. The academie also enforces the so-called "loi Toubon" of 1994 against the usage of foreign terms in French public sector texts, providing French options for new words, such as "courriel" instead of "email." "We are aware of international trends, but we want to show that French is able to express reality equally well," academie lexicographer Jean-Matthieu Pasqualini told EUobserver. "There is a danger that the value of French could be forgotten in the language of international science and finance." Exotic tongues on the rise The new study also put Russian on the map as the joint-fourth most popular language in the EU, equal with Spanish on 6 percent. The Russian jump comes mainly from the Baltic States, with about one fifth of Latvians and Estonians citing Russian as their mother tongue while half of all Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians cite Russian as the most important foreign language to learn. Eight percent of Germans quoted non-indigenous languages, mostly Turkish, as their maternal language, with EU candidate Bulgaria also recording 8 percent Turkish mother tongue speakers. Non-indigenous mother tongues account for 5 percent of the British population and 3 percent of the French, with Indian languages and Arabic dominant. The report did not cover Chinese, but European Commission language policy director Jacques Delmoly predicted a "boom" in EU Chinese language learning in the next few years due to China's economic growth. Model Europeans The typical European speaking multiple languages is likely to be young, well-educated and working in a managerial-type position, the study says. The model polyglot is likely to have been born outside his country of residence and to live in a small member state that has more than one official language, such as Belgium, or in a country that has strong ties with neighbours, such as Slovenia. Anglophone and southern European countries came bottom of the class, with 66 percent of the Irish and 62 percent of Brits saying they do not speak any foreign language, while over 55 percent of Italians, Portuguese and Spaniards said the same. The commission itself recently came under fire for shedding Spanish, Italian and French translators in order to take on staff from new member states. With 21 official EU languages and 60 other regional and non-indigenous tongues present in Europe, Tuesday's (21 February) commission press briefing on multilingualism was conducted in English, German and French only. The study said 55 percent of EU citizens believe all EU communication should be handled in just one language, but ducked the sensitive question of "which one?

8 comments:

snakeoilbaron said...

I have heard that the shortage of translators and the widespread use of English means that forms and documents submitted to the EU are processed much sooner if they are submitted in English. It could be that English becomes the EU language of default not by decission but by necessity.

Unfrench Frenchman said...

True, and the fact that most directives and laws are originally in English will be another incentive to learn to read English as translations are often awkward and sometimes even ambiguous or faulty.

It is impossible to maintain a variety of languages in the long run in the context of an political entity that is neither confederal nor federal but highly centralized and will become more and more so.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

First, it's good to see you back UnFrench, and I hope that your health will improve!

Slightly off-topic of the question of French vs. English is the question of German. World War II has been over for over six decades. Why do some people continue to insist that the German LANGUAGE is evil? Pope Benedict promised not to speak German when he visited Poland, and Chancellor Merkel made a similar promise when she visited Israel. I read posts from people saying it's "unthinkable" to use German as a lingua franca in Europe, and even using German lyrics for the European "national anthem" Ode To Joy is out of the question, even though it is sung in German sll the time in non-German countries whenever Beethoven's Ninth is performed.

Now, I'm not saying that German is a BETTER lingua franca than English, but I think it's wrong to demonize a language that was the native tongue of many GOOD people, including Albert Einstein, the original Zionists, Ludwig von Beethoven, and of course Fredrich Schiller. Germans should be ashamed of what their forefathers DID, not what language they spoke.

Sorry...had to vent...

Unfrench Frenchman said...

I perfectly agree that it is absurd to demonize German. Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl once recommended to a fellow Jew who was reproaching him for speaking German that she stop using knives in the kitchen because the Nazis had used knives a lot in the twelve years they were in power.
The EU also seriously undermines its already shaky democratic credentials when it won't accept German as a working language even though it is the language with the most native speakers in the Union.

I didn't know that Merkel or Pope Benedict made such a promise as you wrote they did, but it sounds perfectly believable though revolting.

I wonder in what language the Eurocrats wish us to sing the EU's semi-official (everything in the EU seems to be semi-official) anthem if not German.

Now of course, the French and their accomplices in Brussels and elsewhere have a vested interest in the anachronistic anathema on the German language lasting past its sell-by date, since the French language maintains a position within the European institutions that doesn't reflect its real importance in Europe.

Unfrench Frenchman said...

Oh, and thank you for your kind words. I, too, am happy to see that you are still true to this board, you and snakeoilbaron.
My health have much improved in the past few weeks, and I love being able to blog again.

Anonymous said...

Im so glad that Im not the only one in europe who hates the french and all its stand for:its time they realise that they are just an other country in europe and thats all.

Anonymous said...

My interest is to read as many anti french language blogs that I can find and I tell you ,there are thousends of them,most are from fedup Eu citizens who want to push the frensh language out of use in Brussel.Hope I live long enough to see the french language only spoken in france.Who wants to speak the other way around anyway...

Unfrench Frenchman said...

".Hope I live long enough to see the french language only spoken in france."

What people must start to realize is that French is the majority language of only one sovereign country: France.

Everywhere else, native speakers of French are a minority.

Now compare that to English, Spanish, Portuguese or even German and then you understand that French isn't an important language at all on the world stage and has very little potential to grow. The people of the EU will be too busy learning Spanish, English and German on top of their own national languages to bother studying French.