European Patriotism

This blog is about European patriotism and world politics from a European perspective.

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Location: Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Thursday, September 07, 2006

European multilingualsim - disadvantage or advantage

It is no secret that Europeans don't share a common language like the Americans. In fact, we have 25 member states with 20 different languages. This comes because some member states share a language. German, for example, is spoken in Germany, Austria and parts of Liechtenstein, Belgium and Italy. French is spoken in France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Monaco. So, you see, we have 25 member states but "only" 20 languages. The question is, if this fact (the multilangualism) is good or bad for the Union. On the one hand, we get cultural enrichment from our many languages, on the other hand, fellow citizens should be able to communicate and understand each other. Therefore the European Parliament promotes multilingualism, which is a good thing in my opinion. Europeans should be able to speak their mother tongue and English fluent and two or three other languages. I would prefer English as the main language in Europe, because hardly the whole European population speaks and understands it more or less well. I think our different languages are not a disadvantage, they are an advantage, because these languages enrich our cultural variety. They inspire artists and thinkers in a much better way and they enable a great vocabulary, which allows Europeans to write and to think in a very accurate way and to express their thoughts very accurately. Americans don’t have such an advantage. They should be jealous because of our multilingualism. I personally speak German (my mother tongue), English (first foreign language) and French (second foreign language). The great economist and mathematician Reinhard Selten promotes European multilingualism and the artificial language Esperanto. Selten shared the Nobel prize for economy together with US mathematician J.F. Nash. Esperanto is a mixture of nearly all languages. Maybe this would be a good thing, to have Esperanto as the common EU language. Everybody would be happy: the French, The Germans, the Italians, nobody could argue against Esperanto. But honestly, I believe European multilingualism is a particular good thing.


Blogger mankso said...

You write that you would prefer to have English "as the main language in Europe". I can't argue that a low-level pidgin English is perhaps at the moment the most pragmatic choice, but you overlook some very important factors i.a.:
1) the large and unfair financial benefits which accrue to the UK (and to all English-speaking countries) because of this unearned (and unmerited?) privileged position of English.
2) the consequent lack of any motivation whatsoever for native English-speakers to learn any other language, and the scandalous level of 2FL (in)ability among the general English-speaking population everywhere.
3) having English as the "international" language creates major social problems and is for example the main draw for illegal immigrants to the UK (witness the present situation at Sangatte/Calais, and the thousands of unassimilated immigrants already in the UK).
4) native English-speakers no longer possess a language of their own and thus must continually try to come up with new new and modish expressions to exclude others.
5) it is a myth that "everyone speaks English" (or wishes to!). I live in a large supposedly "English-speaking" city in Canada, but cannot communicate with one third of the people in my building, nor with local shopkeepers (even though I can get along in half a dozen languages).
The most rational, fair and democratic solution is "universal bilingualism" using a non-ethnic, non-territorial common, second language such as Esperanto constructed specifically for this purpose, and already in everyday successful use around the world. (Even Benedict XVI used it yesterday in his Christmas greetings - a fact strenuously ignored by the English-language media!)

12:59 PM  
Blogger majorkiller said...

English is the most commonly spoken language in the world, the English strongly support the spread of their language, English people don't NEED to learn other languges (there is simply no point), and the French are increadibally arrigant about the whole thing, they can't accept that their language has failed internationally.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I agree mankso, universal bilingualism would seem to be the most politically acceptable solution. As Esperanto borrows heavily from mostly European languages, and was invented in Europe I think? it is probably the obvious choice. English really isn't an option as political in-fighting between nations within the union can be bad at the best of times, it is hardly likely that 26 states would accept the language of just one as their common tongue, and nor should they.

One of the big advantages of having Esperanto as the language of the state is that while the EU parliament and other institutions can be conducted in Esperanto, the lesser spoken languages such as Welsh, Gaelic and the various Spanish and French dialects would have the chance to flourish once again as common tongues of smaller communities, so the European diversity that is our strength would grow ever more diverse.

7:00 AM  
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4:50 PM  

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