23 April is UN English Day! Forsooth, gentle readers, we wish a most felicitous English day to thee and thine kin. Today, of course, also traditionally marks William Shakespeare’s birthday and (somewhat apocryphally) the date of his death. Oh, and 23 April is also celebrated as St. George’s day to boot. Here at Debating Europe we thought “English Day” might be a jolly good excuse to revisit the status of the English language in the European Union.

English is the most widely spoken foreign language in the EU. Almost 40% of EU citizens speak English as a second or foreign language, compared to roughly 12% for French and German. According to Eurostat, “96% of pupils in upper secondary education in the EU-27 learnt English as a foreign language” in 2018.

However, some linguists argue that the melting pot of the EU has given rise to a new variety of English called “Euro English”. German Green MEP Terry Reintke describes it like this:

“Euro English is the everyday, pidgin version of the language, as spoken by the people working in the EU’s institutions – an amalgam of jargon, British English, the English spoken by non-native speakers with all its inherent quirks and common mistakes, and terms borrowed from the 23 other official languages from across the bloc.”

What do our readers think? We had a comment come in from Fabio, who says the EU is “already working in Euro-English in most of the preparatory EU meetings”.

Is Fabio right? If so, should the EU just go ahead and adopt Euro-English as its official working language?

To get a response, we put Fabio’s comment to Marko Modiano, Professor of English at Gävle University, Sweden, an expert on the spread of European English, and author of the 2017 paper English in a post‐Brexit European Union. What would he say?

For another perspective, we also put Fabio’s comment to Jeremy Gardner, a former Senior Translator at the European Court of Auditors (1991-2018) and author of the 2016 report Misused English Words and Expressions in EU Publications. How would he respond to Fabio?

Next up, we had a comment come in from Adrian, who argues that if the EU wants to break with the UK linguistically after Brexit, surely it would make more sense to adopt Irish English?

How would Professor Marko Modiano respond?

What would Jeremy Gardner say?

Finally, we had a comment from Heiko, who thinks this whole debate is a bit silly as Google Translate will soon make “official languages” less important. Is he right?

What does Professor Modiano think?

How would Jeremy Gardner respond to Heiko’s comment?

Should the EU adopt Euro-English as its official working language? Or, after Brexit, would Irish English be more appropriate? Will machine translation soon make this entire discussion around “official languages” redundant? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: BigStock – (c) Yorgy67


59 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Николай

    If Scotland leaves UK and join the EU why not

  2. avatar
    Edgar

    Não. Fora com isso. Falemos francês e português, por exemplo.

    • avatar
      Matt

      Sry didn’t understand. Can you please write in English?

  3. avatar
    Georgius

    Anyway the Iris still speaking on English too, but probably at EU meetings officials should speak more French, more Castellano or more German and why not Portuguese since there are 250 million native speakers and 50 million L2 speakers. Portuguese has approximately 300 million total speakers and is the 6th language spoken on Earth.

  4. avatar
    Jan

    Why do I keep getting a picture of the Elysee palace whenever language is mentioned.

  5. avatar
    EU Reform Proactive

    Jeremy Gardner is quite right about his language- English- comment!

    We are drowning in a sea of“gibberish” plus a failed experiment called “Esperanto” that never caught on. To invent another unnecessary official language is pointless and reserved for nerds & supra nerds.

    One could also ask whether the EU was an invention of national political nerds or EU supranational nerds!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerd

    E.g. Spätzle remain Spätzle, a real Wiener Schnitzel (protected) is only a real Wiener Schnitzel if it is made from veal according to the original recipe.

    The EU27 nations are / should remain sovereign nations & not a nation gibberish!

    The original EU concept cum recipe – has developed into a vying club of 27 nerdy politicians & gibberishs!

    All culinary variants remain a mutation & collection of “culinary originals” and a gibberish political a-la EU salad- is no more an original Greek or Italian original salad anymore.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibberish

    • avatar
      Louis v. Wunsch-Rolshoven

      Dear EU Reform Proactive,

      you write about Esperanto – but are you well informed about that language? I published a study which shows that at least 90 % of the negative assertions of professors of linguistics (!) about Esperanto are based on false assumptions, just rumours, no scientific basis. Just have a look at http://www.esperantoland.org/dosieroj/2019-05-12__Image_Esperanto_linguists__Wunsch-Rolshoven.pdf

      The same is true about the officials of the EU-Commision: See what an EU official (!) said, quoted in February 2021 by Politico and Express: “Languages are rooted in culture, and we have no plans to use an artificial common language, whether that be Esperanto or a new international version of English.” https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/1403734/brexit-latest-news-english-language-european-union-brussels-french-euro-english and https://www.politico.eu/article/english-language-of-the-eu/

      It is quite clear that Esperanto is rooted in its culture. Just go to youtube and search for “Esperanto music”. Or see the “Concise Encyclopedia of the Original Literature of Esperanto”. Every year there are about one hundred new Esperanto books.

      You may understand that we will send our protest to some EU parlamentarians and to some newspapers. It is not admissible that the EU Commission make their decision about Esperanto not being well informed, not knowing the Esperanto culture.

      And if you ask, why Esperanto did not yet succeed better than it already did – please consider that it is rather difficult to fight against so called language specialists when you speak about a language. But we should just consider that the EU officials gain their money with translating and on the base of their language knowledge. So they are not amused by the perspective of Esperanto: Every one can speak with the others in one common international language which can be learned in about a quarter of the time needed for a language like English. And you may understand why professors of English as an international language are not amused about Esperanto either…

      Please help us with our protest against false assertions about Esperanto!

  6. avatar
    João

    Stop with English lenguage, please. French it’s much more representative of actual reality!!

  7. avatar
    Στέργιος

    Greater linguistic diversity of course! Although, I still wonder what Europe can accomplish more if its developed nations were communicating in Greek rather than another Latin-based language.

  8. avatar
    catherine benning

    Should the EU adopt “Euro English” as its official working language?

    This thread is very amusing. I can hear the so called ‘British’ children leaving Englands schools at varying ages, all unable to speak English in an understandable sentence. Then, if you add the horrendous accents to the pot it is hardly fit for any legitimate communication. It is the end of our culture as we know it and our civilisation. It is so scary, sometimes it makes it impossible to breath. Where have all our men gone? The historical breed I mean.

    Here are a few sounds you may wish to consider for this ‘Euro English’ adoption.

    Here we start with a kinda guy!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPAr3RpHugM&ab_channel=TyroneJacobsen

    This girl is really clever.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98snj9lUXMQ&ab_channel=AnushaeKhan

    And of course the dreaded elitists.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHgrDDwXkTA&ab_channel=JadeJoddle-SpeakWell

    Which are you going to choose for ‘Euro English,’?

    Which do you think are the strivers and which the scroungers?

  9. avatar
    João

    Ridiculous to have billions of euros spent in translation when 99% of people speak at least one of the 4 languages (english, german, french and spanish)

  10. avatar
    Georgios

    The language in which this post is written speaks for itself…

  11. avatar
    Kimmo

    English, whichever national version, pure or impure, will not go anywhere. As long as it is understood by everyone, it doesn’t really matter. Language, after all, is meant for communication – if it works, whatever goes.

  12. avatar
    Stelios

    Yes. It is a simple and functional language where all modern terminology is based upon. I am Greek and I am proud for my language, but it’s very complex Grammar and Syntax make it far from ideal for a pan-European base for communication.

    • avatar
      Никола

      Stelios Koulouris In general terms the more complex the language’s grammer and its lexical capacity is, so is the thought process of the man that speaks said language… Поздрави, бъдете здрав!

    • avatar
      Stelios

      Никола Петков You are right. But here we are discussing about a language that will be used as a “tool” for common understanding and communication (more or less as it happens already today). We are still going to speak and learn our native and other languages and hopefully maintain the cultural treasure and heritage that the different languages represent for Europe.

  13. avatar
    Paul

    Well, we’ve been used to Americans mangling the language over last 100 years….so time to let Europeans have their turn !

    • avatar
      Nicola

      Paul Vincent we are actually speaking Esperanto, in a surprising new way. In my view, Esperanto has no fixed structure, grammar or vocabulary. Esperanto is just the willingness to communicate across borders and cultures

    • avatar
      Paul

      Nicola Piazzalunga there was a survey of schoolchildren in London asking them what language was spoken at home…..there were more than 250 different ones identified….little wonder that English is the ultimate flexible language !

    • avatar
      Nicola

      Paul Vincent it is flexible not by its structure, but because its political history made it the most spoken language in the world

  14. avatar
    Riccardo

    Ma sí, l’inglese alla fine è di tutti e di nessuno ormai xo

  15. avatar
    Paschalis

    What a ridiculous discussion. The EU should solve the major issues they have been facing for years instead of discussing rubbish like this…

    • avatar
      Nicola

      Paschalis Bourletsikas we do many things at once. Deal with it

    • avatar
      Paschalis

      Nicola Piazzalunga for once have some common sense!

  16. avatar
    Karel

    The fact you asked the question in English makes this a pointless discussion.

  17. avatar
    Martin

    Non, nous avons déjà les États-Unis!

  18. avatar
    Στέργιος

    Although science is promoted in English, political negotiations in this language are only leading to wars globally. We have thousands of years of history for humanity to still behave so primitively. There is need of a more peaceful language.

  19. avatar
    Bernard

    No, the official EU language should be Finnish. But when the EU-parliament convenes in Strasbourg the official language should be Lithuanian. Every third Sunday of the month the official language should be Slovenian, except when it rains in Riga, in that case the official EU language is Slovakian.

    • avatar
      Debating

      Bernard Bakker Finnish Fridays, Spanish Saturdays and coming soon: Macedonian Mondays!

  20. avatar
    Nicola

    I would not mind at all and I would welcome it

  21. avatar
    Argol

    Il faut que les institutions de l’UE travaillent dans les 5 langues maternelles les plus parlées de l’UE qui couvrent 70% de la population de l’UE: Français, Deutsch, italiano, español et polski. Infatti, la gente deve poter esprimere le proprie idee nella propria lingua madre otherwise the Europeans will be dominated in their thoughts and their objectives by the Americans and the Brits. Efectivamente, hay que distinguir entre lengua de comunicación y lengua de pensamiento y saber que uno piensa mejor en su propia lengua y pensar que también se comunica mejor con su propia lengua, aunque hay que prever una solución de emergencia para comunicar en globish pero’ solo de manera excepcional. Europa nie może być budowana wbrew swoim obywatelom i ich własnemu językowi. Eviva il multilinguismo!

  22. avatar
    Крис

    Macedonia can join only if it recognies the rights and freedoms of Bulgarians there. They are oppressed and treat very bad. I hope that Sofia won’t change its stance on this topic. As for the other Western Balkan countries I think they are good as they are now.

  23. avatar
    Jeremy

    Just a bunch of white n***** , maybe can join in 100 years when more civilized

  24. avatar
    Olivier

    Enlarging was a huge error and you want to go on

  25. avatar
    Yannick

    It would seem geographically (and therefore historically) logical to have smooth land access to Greece, no? For me this is fixing the mistakes of history, not an enlargement. Including Turkey far beyond the Bosphorus would be a more questionable enlargement.

  26. avatar
    Julia

    I pity them. I want to move back to the UK because the Eu sucks. The EU is weak. It only makes a bunch of laws slowly then it cannot or doesn’t enforce them.

  27. avatar
    Olivier

    Or Arab? Am sure you would prefer it…

  28. avatar
    Vanja

    Remember Esperanto?
    Yeah, it failed.

  29. avatar
    Kimmo

    “Euro English” is the automatic result of everyone non-native speaking English. As long as it is understandable, no problem. But as a language variant it doesn’t exist, so no need to artificially invent something.

  30. avatar
    Olivier

    England is not a member of EU.. Why not to use mandarine ?

  31. avatar
    Olivier

    Use French and Spanish German

  32. avatar
    Miguel

    I think our EU should incorporate Spanish alongside English, French and German as working language. Currently the EU is missing the universality of the Spanish language and its potential.

  33. avatar
    Rose

    NO! We have legal right to translators!

  34. avatar
    Naïk

    The essence of the EU is to be all united with something that is “above” us. By choosing a language from a specific country rather than one that would be not linked to a country in particular we – the Europeans – admit that we have failed.
    In my opinion the language that reflects the most Europe is Latin. It is the roots of many languages in Europe, and even when it’s not we can still find bits of Latin in every European language. It is also an historical language, used 2000 years ago in Europe !
    Latin was the language of Christianity but also of sciences.
    I think that if all the European institutions would start using the Latin we will make a big step forward for our commune culture and our sovereignty…

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.