English in the European Union – Worlds of English (2/4)

English in the European Union – Worlds of English (2/4)


[Ambient dialogue] At the European parliament in Brussels there
are twenty three official languages. [Ambient dialogue] When the European Union was first established
the dominant languages were French and German but that has now changed. All languages are equal but to coin a phrase
some are probably more equal than others. Our
official line is very definitely that all languages are equal but there’s no point
denying the fact that English is becoming more used and therefore
more valued. I would, I would say. But officially not at all. “I would like to reiterate in this regard that
the European Parliament supports…” English has become dominant. Pretty much everybody
who wants to have some kind of a role and function and above all influence
will know English. The demise of French is particularly marked.
It used to be the language of all documents presented to the parliament. The amount of material originating in French
has really dropped to below ten per cent, it’s
now very low. Really the reality is that you can’t live without English, you can now
live without French. La question fondamentale c’est.. est-ce
qu’on peut gouverner cinq cents millions de
personnes qui parlent vingt-deux langues avec une seule langue? Ma réponse est
définitivement ‘non’. C’est impossible A key catalyst for the rise of English as
a lingual franca in the European Union has been the
accession of new states from northern and eastern Europe. My own experience, I remember going to Prague
in ‘90 – ‘91 and saying to waiters is it to be
German, is it to be English and they’d all say German. By ’96 – ‘96 it was English
so somewhere or other a switch occurred. Obviously
there are some few exceptions and I don’t really know exactly how but English won out.
Clearly again the prestige of the United States is an enormous significance here and in a
sense this is the sort of normality, well you know if
you’re normal you speak English. In practice there certainly has been a very
big change. It began I think in 1995 when Sweden
and Finland joined the European Union because they really brought with them a tradition
of learning English and speaking English and
that was something which was confirmed then in
2004 with a very big enlargement to Eastern Europe. The staff that came with those countries tended
to be English speaking as a second language rather than French speaking and that really
just tipped the balance. [Ambient dialogue] The role of English is mainly that of a lingua
franca which means that it is a means of communication for people who for whom this
is the best language of communication, it doesn’t mean that everybody is at the same
level of English, it doesn’t even mean that everybody’s happy to choose English but
if it is the only means of communication that everybody shares then that is what you call
English as a lingual franca. Whilst many have accepted the growing use
of English on pragmatic grounds as a tool for
communication, others do not see this as politically neutral. Je ne vois pas comment on pourra arrêter
à court terme cette domination, cette hégémonie de la langue anglaise. A vingt- sept pays
il faut une lingua franca, cette lingua franca pour
l’instant est l’anglais, qu’on se réjouisse, ou qu’on le regrette. C’est que l’union européenne c’est une fédération sur la langue de domaine.
Or on ne peut pas diriger cette fédération dans une autre
langue que les différentes langues parlées par les
citoyens. Sinon ça porte un nom, c’est du colonialisme, c’est un empire. Et l’union
européenne ne peut pas fonctionner de cette façon- la.
Donc, je considère que l’anglais n’est pas une menace pour le français mais c’est
une menace pour la légitimité de l’union européenne. The question is that we do not want to have
one language which will somehow dominate and will become the only language because that
would be against all principles and politics, you
have to realise that the parliament is a place where citizens elect their representatives
and therefore we endeavour here to make it absolutely
compulsory that everyone of the languages has the same respect and dignity. [Ambient dialogue] The European Union spends large sums of money
on ensuring that interpreters are always available for all twenty three official languages
and suggestions that work takes place in the three dominant languages of French, German
and English have been resisted. Very few people speak any foreign language
as precisely as they speak their mother tongue and so that’s why when people say well we
could develop here, we could work only in two or
three languages that would be cheaper indeed because we spend quite some money in
interpretation and translation. My idea is always I would say well I would agree that
we work only in three languages provided that nobody
can speak his own language. And then my British colleagues say no no no no let us
keep on to the twenty three. There’s no question if one is speaking ones
mother tongue one can really have an advantage over those who are speaking a second language.
In that sense I think having all the twenty three languages regardless of what it costs
but also issues of prestige and a sense of equality. Ok not very many people are going
to speak Maltese or Estonian but having them I think is a part of being European, the multiplicity of language is really in a sense at the heart
of what being European is. MEPs are free to choose which language they speak in. For some this is easy, for others it’s more complicated. It is not acceptable that I speak French or
I speak German or I speak English which I can do
whenever I am chairing the parliament, I can only speak Spanish and I should only speak
Spanish. Among other things out of respect for my own people and for my colleagues and
for the thousands of people who are in the guests’
tribunes each one speaks his own language. If I’m speaking on a purely Hungarian topic
which does arise, I will speak Hungarian. If I’m
speaking on a more general topic and let’s say I did make a short speech on Israel, Palestine
not all that long ago I spoke English. So that’s generally the way I pitch it. There
are some MEPs who will use English all the time simply
because they think that more people will listen. I certainly have seen a situation where somebody’s
speaking, in what is called, a sort of primary language, they won’t even put the
headphones on. They will not listen to the simultaneous translation so basically people
are lazy. MEPs are also lazy and they will listen
in English, maybe they’ll listen in French, possibly German and then if somebody starts
speaking Latvian, forget it. And I discovered this very early on, that I spoke Hungarian
in one of the committees and absolutely zero impact.
I might as well not have spoken at all so that
has guided me ever since so in committees I will on the whole speak English, it just
depends. [Ambient dialogue] I’ve heard members in the past talk about
bad experiences with interpreting. I think that is
perhaps the case in the minority of situations. I think a much stronger urge is just the sense
that I think there’s a very human urge to want to directly talk to another person in
the language which they understand without using
an intermediary because even if you’re a very
trusting person, I suppose at the back of your mind there’s always a sense that if
I’m using an intermediary I’m not in complete control
of what it is I’m saying. I think that’s human nature. A language can be chosen for a number of reasons.
A speaker may be wanting to show that he can be a bit of a virtuoso in several languages
or maybe out of a sense of politeness be addressing somebody who’s just asked him
a question and answering them in the same language. They can be wanting to show that
they identify with a particular group. A Belgian may want to show that he can speak both or
even all three of the country’s national languages and so there can be a number of
pragmatic or political considerations. I remember a Finnish colleague two or three
years ago being absolutely furious and said the
Finnish simultaneous translation is so bad that I am going to speak English from now
on. So it may be that you know English is simply
used because they don’t trust the simultaneous translators. My experience with the simultaneous
translators has actually been ok. But when MEPs do not use their mother tongue,
misunderstandings can occur. What happens is people don’t necessarily
say what they mean, they say what they’re able to say and that can be two very different
things and for interpreters that can holds all kinds of repercussions. If someone is speaking English let’s say
imperfectly, first of all the interpreters have to try to
work out what that person actually is trying to say before they can then go on to the process
of converting it into Spanish, into Portuguese, into Greek into whatever. So it adds an extra
step, it adds an extra difficulty. Interpreters always prefer it when people
speak their native language, it’s much easier for us
and for our work because then people are speaking naturally, they’re saying what they want
to say, they’re much more expressive and if someone’s English is limited then they
can only say those things and sometimes they don’t
actually say what they mean to say. Just a little
example – I was at a meeting where a woman said ‘I’m glad you took your time to get
here’. She meant ‘I’m glad you took the time
to get here’. It’s a very small thing but it actually makes
a difference and it means the interpreters have to do a lot more work on understanding
the context and on trying to decipher what it
is that person means to say rather than what it is
they’re actually saying. Some academics believe it’s time to take
a completely different approach to the dominance of
English in Europe. I think what we really need is some innovative
thinking about the linguistic landscape in Europe if you like because this is an unprecedented
situation that we have this growth and spread of one language and I think instead
of adhering to this notion of one nation, one state,
one language which is so deeply engrained in Europe because of our nineteenth century
nationalism. So much, we’ve invested so much into creating nations that some are defined
by their languages and languages are so intricately
bound up with culture and the way forward for me would be to conceptualise English differently
so that you take it out of this hierarchy of
languages that we have. But if you take English out of this hierarchy and say ok English we
take for granted anyway it’s something like a driving license, you know it’s something
that everybody has, it’s nothing special but
without it you don’t get very far if you like. Then if you
take English out of this hierarchy then it will be interesting to decide which other
languages you might want to learn but you would learn
them for very different reasons, because you love
Italian music or because you like French food and have French friends and things like that. This is not a view shared by the critics of
the rise of English in Europe. Une autre question et c’est cela qui préoccupe
à mon avis les Français, est de savoir quelle influence a le language sur l’expression
des idées. Or, on ne peut manquer de remarquer que
depuis dix, quinze ans, vingt ans, le moment où l’anglais est imposé comme langue
commune, l’Europe est devenue de plus en plus libérale.
Donc des valeurs qui ne sont pas des valeurs continentales parce qu’un language, une
langue, n’est pas neutre, une langue est un véhicule des valeurs et c’est cela qui
est préoccupant. There’s another aspect to the rise of English
in Europe which has attracted attention. Is a new variety of English emerging? Something which can be called Euro English? There are a range of views on this subject. I think in different contexts means different
things for different people. So on the one hand its
sometimes used to designate the English that’s used within European institutions, a kind
of you know difficult to understand register
that is used in the corridors of Brussels where people
use certain terms that are very difficult to understand for the average European citizen
such as subsidiarity and all these and I think
they’re actually glossaries of terms that the European
Union uses in a way that you know most English native speakers would not normally
understand., so that’s one very special use of the term. It’s also used more generally
in a sense that people say ok Europe is, most of
Europe is now a union and surely a union has a
shared language and therefore there will be shared features and this is easy to understand
why people would have this expectation but you must bear in mind that there are very
many different European languages and depending
on the combination of speakers that use English as a lingual franca, this English
will vary quite a bit. The question of whether one standard version
of Euro English is arising or evolving I think is
quite a complicated one and I don’t know what the answer is. I’m tempted to think
that there are certain words which are being adopted
through being heard by the members, an example is foreseen. A member might say or anyone
working in the European environment might say
‘well, we’re gonna have to work through this meeting all morning but unfortunately
coffee is not foreseen’, meaning coffee is not provided
and then because in a number of languages like
French or Dutch prévu, vorseen that word is used. It’s become part of this Euro English
which is then adopted by more and more people and it just then…you almost find yourself
saying it yourself. In fact I have heard native English speakers in this context saying that
so gradually, inevitably that process is occurring. There is a truth in it to some extent. The
English that people speak here, if they’re not native
English speakers is different from the English that we would use as native speakers but for
me it’s not coalescing into a Euro English. The Germans speak English in a German way,
the French speak it in a French way but what you
will see you’ll see English used in what we
would deem an incorrect fashion but it’s accepted by everybody because everybody
understands it. Sometimes I think that certain tendencies
are emerging, you know certain lexis but then that
could just be the kind of lexis that you have in any job, any profession where a lot of
people are together and they’re initiated into
it and they use their own vocabulary, their own jargon if
you like. So I suppose you have to be careful to draw a distinction between normal jargon
in any place of work and a new language. In a sense I think Euro English has arrived.
I think its contours are difficult to define, probably
its grammar doesn’t really correspond to English, I suspect that you know the subtleties
of things like to take on, to take off, to take
to, the infinite variations which you can get with just a
tiny switch in English that escapes most of them. So in many ways it’s a simple, sometimes
even a very crude language but effective and it’s very effective in the second language
communication which I think in a sense is what we are talking about. It won’t go away,
I mean I think it’s here to stay and I would
be fascinated to see what it looks like let’s say thirty
years from now and it may be that native English speakers will have to learn it. English speakers you know they only need to
use a couple of expressions and they’ve completely lost their Euro English audience.
You know if I turn round and say ‘well, you
know, I can’t really use the booth today because it’s on the blink’ then, you know,
any native English speaker would know immediately what
I meant but most people speaking Euro English would already be lost. I would already
have alienated them and for me that’s just one
example of this new thing which is emerging, maybe a slightly blander, simpler form of
English being used to convey information in a much less layered idiomatic way. J’adjouterai que les Britannique, les Américains
ne doivent pas trop se réjouir de cette domination de la langue anglaise au sein du
parlement européen et les institutions communautaires parce que l’anglais qu’on
parle ici est un anglais qui est à peine compréhensible pour un ‘native English
speaker’. Pourquoi? Parce que c’est du ‘globish’
qu’on parle ici. Très souvent, moi j’adore, à Bruxelles
lorsque l’on parle anglais, moi même je m’amuse à
parler anglais, on voit les Britanniques souffrir horriblement car leur langue est en réalité
violée tous les jours.

92 comments on “English in the European Union – Worlds of English (2/4)

  1. this jean quatremer seems sore about the rise of English indeed. Also, i feel that the use of a language is due more to function than the giving of respect.

  2. @spoileddelights Yeah, I couldn't help but feel he was upset and felt personally insulted that English, over French, was the more commonly used language. It seems to me, the prevalence of English usage internationally is a much more organic process and is probably effected by media (music and movies) more than most people would be willing to admit.

  3. Disappointed that so many people are so determined to hold onto national pride that it prevents, or at least slows, political discussion. We do need a 'standard', in almost every technical field of work as everything is built upon standards. There would just be chaos otherwise and from the footage, whilst calm, those large meetings were quite chaotic and lacked direction.

    Does English deserve to be the 'standard' over others? No. Will it have the smoothest implementation as the 'standard'? Yes.

  4. @OshiSeven I don't see any problem about English used as a communication medium. But if there is just a single Member that don't want to use it… ok, he is right, and he has the right to use a different language.
    So Latin as a common language would be any better?

  5. @Tinman420 It means that something is not working properly. For example, "The computer is on the fritz." = "The computer is not working correctly."

  6. English is way easier than French, German or any other language. That's why it has become so important. It's a really simple language that people can learn fast.

  7. That's not the only reason. English success is due to the fact that the USA has taken over the world in many fields (e.g. the Internet, smartphones, etc.).

  8. Not necessarily. English is probably, alongside Italian, one of the easiest languages to learn conversationally, but if it is to be mastered or fluency achieved, a much deeper knowledge of its complexities and multiplicity of subtleties is needed. As some of the interviewees point out, this results in a bland and overly practical form of European English emerging.

  9. He perfectly encapsulated the French stereotype of being resentful of any superiority the English language has over French.

  10. I'm American and what the hell does "on the blink" mean… If Britain or America or any other native English country doesn't say it, then it's wrong…

  11. In what way? If a native English country doesn't say it it is wrong. Oh… I see the problem… You're Canadian…

  12. It's a shame they couldn't find a less defensive, ridiculous, and misinformed Frenchman. The man's a cartoon of the classic "spiky Frog."

  13. The eu has no democratic legitimacy. Its purpose is to thwart democracy, which Jean Monnet erroneously blamed for Fascism. What's hilarious, is that Franch founded this totalitarian nightmare for the purpose of thwarting WASP dominance, only to see fragmentation and inability to act with one Euro voice. So the frogs resent imposition of one language. You can bet if French were the dominant lang they'd have no complaints. Now bring in Turkey to make this monstrous organization even more impotent.

  14. National pride? Try sovereignty. Are you naive enough to believe that a totalitarian super state sans de facto representation will be more benevolent? That's what continental types reared on totalitarian kings are brainwashed to believe. Anglo-Saxons will have to save you from yourselves once again. WASP burden.

  15. Bring back Latin. Every European language has common elements with it and it's relatively easy to learn because of it's volcabulary (especially for Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese). Anglos always want everybody to use their language, maybe you'll have to learn Chinese in 30 years.

  16. "very effective in the second language communication"
    Easy enough to understand that. Therefor it is quite confusing to me how those high posted people think of their interprets, rather than on the millions who would benefit from the ability of worldwide communication…
    Just my 10 cents…

  17. btw, that british guy could be a poet, such a smooth, mindfull way of expression, the hungarian is also awesome, and the female translater, uahsse.
    I don't know if most of the people in europe are like that, but after staying for several years in asia i am positivley surprised about the capacity of those white people.
    Hut ab!

  18. The use of English causes increased 'liberality'? I'd be surprised if that French geezer wasn't a borderline fascist.

  19. No, the phrase is "on the fritz".
    Even if it was (which it isn't), why would you even use a phrase that modern English no longer uses.
    You're an idiot.

  20. The French guy really showed his thinking when he smugly talked about how English is 'violated' by the Europeans. As a native speaker I don't think of it being 'violated' at all, but rather 'adapted'; it is the French who see their language as something which must remain pristine and perfectly French.
    I love the promiscuity of English, it fucks around gladly and has many babies with different fathers, a slut mother to a beautiful happy family. French is a prude by comparison, an aging spinster.

  21. I love how bitter that French guy is about English being more widely spoken throughout Europe than French. Warms the cockles of my heart 😀

  22. It's daft to learn esperanto. What is the point in turning an entire continent to a new language, when most people already speak English. Then a few decades later having to choose another language so we can trade more efficiently with North America, Australasia, China, Japan, India and South America. With the exception of South America all of those speak English as a second language if they speak one at all.

  23. Seems like a very common theme with people that have such high level of nationalistic pride, such as the French and the "Americans". Their everything is better, and damn you for thinking otherwise. As a side note, I hate using the word Americans for people, like myself, from the US. We need to think of a new adjective.

  24. I speak Esperanto and it works very well. I know a lot of Esperanto speakers who have a very good level after learning it for only a short time, and many people who suck at English after spending years studying it (not to mention that Esperanto is much more equitable than English as an international language). But when you mention Esperanto, people look at you as if you were crazy. It's incredibly frustrating.

  25. EU is illegitimate in every language, the hegemony and move toward monoculture is an inevitable effect of the imperialistic EU model

  26. It would be impossible to communicate in modern English if you removed all the loanwords. English is a borrower language and that has made it lively and adaptive to new circumstances. It's laughable how concerned you are with lingual purity. If you were to strain out all the foreign matter from English it'd be like taking the mitochondria out of a cell. Once it was an infection, now it's essential for life. Or in the case of English, basic communication.

  27. I think it's easier to learn English, mostly because you don't really have to conjugate. Spanish is easier though if it comes to writing what you hear because they have one and only one way to write a particularly pronounced word (at least in Castilian).
    I've learned both languages but it's hard to differentiate the hassle because I didn't start at one point of time with both languages…

  28. I do agree with OshiSeven. It's the nuances and variations of the English language all over the world that makes it so sought after. I mean, I live in Singapore and teach English here but I tell my students that learning a language and culture is forever inextricable so just politely differentiate to them what standard English is from the local variety, Singlish.

  29. And I'm not a native speaker as well and I do commit mistakes especially in prepositions, but as my American friend would comment on the 'mistakes' I claim: "I wouldn't know."

  30. I know it's ridiculous. I watched a French documentary that followed some French politicians who felt marginalised because they could not speak English with their European counterparts. This is how at over 40, one MEP could be seen learning the basic with a tutor.

  31. ad hominem attack is the top comment, while the French gentlemen makes a supported argument. Shame on you and those who upvoted you.

  32. totally agree, most of the time I was thinking is his alternative for them to speak french? If so doesn't that bring up the same problems and arguments only with them being directed at french?

  33. If you think about it English IS a truly international language. It has absorbed a lot during the Roman occupation, later the German occupation and the French.Not to mention the bits and pieces of other languages. I'm sure the French guy weren't so hot under the collar when French was still the EU language.

  34. hehe I like that Hungary guy … wise, clever, pragmatic …
    the French one on the contrary is just provincial, ideological, lives still in the past …

  35. Some of the comments criticize monsieur Quatremer very harshly. I must say, as a French guy (so please excuse my mistakes in English) that this man is really respected in France because of his deep knowledge of the EU. He has a very sharp mind and fights for another Europe. It's true that we, French people do not want to be governed by English speakers and on the other hand, France has never been a liberal country and the liberal politics of the EU these past years (linked in fact with the use of English…) has provoked much resentment in France against the EU and many French now wish that we leave the EU. Here's the result… We are no fascists or communists but we refuse to live as the English or the American. Liberalism is not only an economic trend but is also politic and cultural.

  36. The bitter French guy is so funny! It says it all, been a French man, in a French speaking city Brussels, having to communicate in English. Who is suffering terribly YOU!!

  37. English can be seen as the todays used "Esperanto" 😉
    I think it is necessary and it is a very good thing to be able to speak, but it will be just a tool in Europe. It can not replace culture, individuality and the beauty of all the languages we have here. (This includes all major languages I guess)

    PS: 4:19 HAHAHA That French guy does not have the right to talk about "COLONISATION" !!! xD

  38. To Jean Quatremer: Yes, a single language can. China uses Mandarin and has 1.4 billion people, 56 major and 22 minor ethnicities; and hundreds if not a thousand languages, dialects and topolects. Yes, a central government can govern a nation using single language. 

  39. 15:50 is really funny and topical to me because I'm in Costa Rica right now and on the plane here the customs sheet asked for my "forseen adress". I'm the native English speaker and I had to ask the flight attendant what that meant! I thought they may have wanted my home address. I was also surprised the customs sheet had so many typos and gramatical errors. I had to read the customs sheet in Spanish to get a better idea of what they wanted.

  40. I'm a first language English-speaker and I had to look up what "on the blink" meant. It seems to be more regional than he said it was. I suppose I would've understood it if it had been put into context, though. I actually like that guy, though. I'm also not convinced that it's out of the question that "took your time" was as accurate a thing to say as "took the time", because the intended meaning could've been that she genuinely did it in her own time; I suppose that, again, there was a lack of context provided.

  41. As much as I would like French to prevail, I'm fine with ENglish as well, it is essentially 60% French, it is just bad pronunced French 😉 Just kidding 😉

  42. "I can't really use the booth today because it's on the blink"…I'm a native English speaker from the US, but honestly I don't know what he said. 🙂 I can't speak for all Americans, but I can understand EU English with my colleagues from Europe just fine. Where I'm from in California we're not grammatical purists…we care more about being able to communicate ideas than people having perfect English grammar and vocabulary.

  43. EUROLINGUAThe most righteous lingua in EU / Europe should be created artificially with very easy and regular grammar without any irregularities, phrases, idioms and irrational
    words, word compounds and other expressions that don’t have a logic.
    Since in Europe there are prevailing Germanic, Romance and Slavic languages, therefore the newly created language should comprise the words of 25% Germanic,
    25% Romance and 25% Slavic languages. The rest of 25% should be the words of languages that are in EU/Europe in the minority like Greek, Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Albanian, keltic languages on British Isles (Gaelic, Welsh, Irish),Bask and other minor European languages.
    Can you imagine one constructed unifying language that would be used along with
    other mother tongues in Europe ? How many billions would be saved ?
    Some could say that we have already had Esperanto. But neither this constructed
    language  fulfill above mentioned criteria.
    Eurolingua should be created by the most leading grammarians and linguists from all Europe.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_Europe

  44. kept english as lingua franca..im from south east asia most of city in the region speak english as 2nd language. since i pactice IT i need to have a good grasp of language

  45. I think the French guy was being ironic. The main dominant languages of the world are English, Spanish and Mandarin. So what? Let us learn each other's language and maybe we can get off our arrogant, nationalistic high horses and start to actually work together on an inter-cultural level?

  46. The arrogant hypocrite French Parisian elites. They are whining about the exact thing they themselves have systematically done to all the regional languages and dialects spoken within France they have attempted quite successfully to obliterate. At least English was voluntarily adopted by Europeans, unlike the majority of France's regions who were forced. And does anyone think for a moment that the French hypocrites would be bitching about one language dominating the EU if it were French instead of English?

  47. Idealy, although pretty much impossible to achieve, the EU would establish a constructed language designed to be both expressive and easy to learn. That way it is everyone's second language, no one's first language, and helps build a common European identity.

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