The Guest Blog

According to an article on EurActiv, the Commission’s translation chief, Juhani Lönnroth, considers the multilingual nature of the EU institutions “too politically sensitive” an issue to be dramatically reformed.

The equal treatment of all European languages without any exception is indeed the backbone for a peaceful European society. Each and every attempt to exclude a language on all levels, including the highest levels, or to emphasise the use of particular languages above others bears the germs of the ultimate destruction of the Union, even when these preferences are backed up by so-called neutral facts such as their relative importance.

This is one more “covenient lie”, implying that because all European cultures and by consequence their corresponding languages are to be considered equal something like relative importance simply cannot exist. There is only a different amount of people speaking a particular language. By consequence, people speaking a more widely-spoken language have an advantage when their language dominates or becomes exclusively used in the Union, which is incompatible with the basic equality of European citizens.

Nevertheless, the need for a ‘lingua franca’ is obvious. And it only makes sense when there is only one ‘lingua franca’. Efficiency, cost, and avoiding misinterpretations in translations are some pretty good arguments, among others, to get rid of the present Tower of Babel. In order to comply with the equal treatment such a lingua franca may never ever be one of the languages spoken in the union.

This dilemma can easily be solved by using an artificial language such as Esperanto and by consequence including it in basic education. Some people suggest Latin. Never mind, all ideas are welcome as long as no single language that is currently spoken somewhere is smuggled into the discussion. The advantages are obvious: people only need to speak their mother tongue and the ‘lingua franca’. All European activities, from discussions in the European Parliament up to legal texts, would occur in that ‘lingua franca’. It saves time and money for governments as well as for individuals. The choice to learn other languages becomes free and corresponds to private need or preference.

Whoever can present a better solution is invited to raise his hand.

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Comments

  1. Jes, Esperanto is THE solution, if we just want it. I do, so for me there is no other solution, only bad alternatives.

  2. I always thought Esperanto was dead. However perhaps its supporters have a ghetto-like mentality which is why any serious person will always ignore it.

  3. As an American speaker of English it would be easy for me to simply say, “Let everyone else in the world simply learn English.” And this appears to be what most Americans would probably say.

    But as a speaker also of Esperanto, it is apparent to me that easy-to-learn Esperanto would be the better choice for Europe and for the world.

    The Irish have a saying, “Tir gan teanga, tir gan anam” ( A country without [its own] language [is] a country without a soul). But look at how few native Irish speakers exist in Ireland today — only about 50,000 out of 4,000,000! That is what English did to the Irish language! Yet, recently the Irish members of the European Union were successful in making Irish one of the “official” languages of the EU, even though they were content to use English instead of Irish for their previous four decades of membership in the EU!

    Finns, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Maltese, Portuguese, Danes and Swedes, take notice. This could be your future under English as the common language of the EU!

  4. This is not the first time I have seen suggestions that a neutral language like Esperanto or Latin should be made the lingua fanca in the EU. Those are noble suggestions, but how realistic is it that that will actually happen?

    Currently, all languages are treated as equal in the EU and this is something of a holy cow. But new languages keep coming in and once their number reaches a certain critical level, I think the EU will be forced to reconsider and will establish some sort of a language pyramid or a hierarchy of languages.

    What would that pyramid look like? My guess is that it will probably make a distinction between a small number of working languages used internally in the EU institutions on the one hand, and a larger group of languages used for external communication with citizens on the other hand. There may also be a distinction between languages into which eveything is always translated, and languages into which things are translated only if somebody needs it.

    An that would be perfectly okay with me. As a citizen, I don’t care which language the EU institutions use internally for their day-to-day work. I only care which language they use to communicate with me.

  5. With some experience of representing my country in the EU I have to say that the most important meetings are the breaks between formal, interpreted meetings. In formal meetings 27 member states may be present and there is a heterogenous quliaty of translation going on. It is a very ineffiecient way of communication. In the breaks you always find the opinion leaders, who, in my practice, have been speaking English or German when the interpreters were not present. I think the government structure of the EU cannot hide the fact that English has become the universal second language in the globalized world. Esparanto would solve the problem of the EU administrative bureaucracy but not the communication problem.

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