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


10 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.

  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

  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…

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