How do you say ‘Diversity’ in Maltese? The European Union has 24 official languages (including Maltese). In theory, all 24 of them are accepted as working languages within the European institutions. In practice, however, only two of them – English and French – are widely used, and of these English is by far the most common.
Now that the UK is committed to pulling out of the EU, could it be time to give French a boost as the Lingua Franca of Europe? Since the Brexit vote, a slew of international papers (see here, here, here, and here, for example) have been reporting on the possibility of English losing its status as an official EU language. It doesn’t seem to make economic sense (English is by far the most widely-spoken language in Europe, and is the international language of business), but, then, politics doesn’t always add up rationally.
We had a comment from Toni, for example, who argued that it was a question of passion and principles: “The Britons said ‘No’ to the EU. Why should the EU say ‘Yes’ to English as a working language of the EU?”
To get a reaction, we spoke to Danuta Hübner, a Polish MEP for the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), and Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs. What would she say to Toni?
I would say: Dear Toni, you should also remember that we have Ireland and Malta among our Member States. In both countries, English is an official language. So, in any case, those countries would have the right to have the English language in the EU.
The second thing to remember is: I think we all see that English is the most popular language in the EU, particularly among EU citizens travelling to other countries. If we held a competition for a language to call Europe’s Lingua Franca, English would probably win.
Over the decades, English has become the international language. We have also, throughout the history of European integration, developed everything that we have produced in English, in terms of laws, in terms of all sorts of initiatives that have the format of written documents. So, I see no reason to stop using this language.
By the way, “Diversity” in Maltese is apparently “Diversità”. At least, that’s what Google Translate tells us (I’m sure our Maltese readers will be ready to correct us!).
Why should the EU keep English as an official working language? The UK said “No” to the EU, so should the EU say “No” to English? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!