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!