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Thread: Is the EU fostering the use of English across Europe ?

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    Post Is the EU fostering the use of English across Europe ?



    More Europeans speak English now than 20 or 10 years ago. English is becoming the main, and indeed often sole language of communication between Europeans. It wasn't German that replaced Russian in Eastern Europe, but English. Spaniards and Italians could be learning French, a language very close to theirs, but most now opt for English. Even in multilingual countries like Belgium, where citizens have traditionally learned each others languages, English has become the lingua franca for the younger generations, so as not to give one of the speakers the advantage of speaking their mother tongue.

    Why are Europeans so eager to learn English ? It is certainly not because of American influence. If anything, feelings towards the USA have changed from very pro-US in the decades after WWII to lukewarm, mistrustful or even hostile in the last decade (G.W. Bush has a lot to do with it, but in the European public opinion the blame was especially on 50% of American voters who elected him). Actually Europeans tend to learn British English, so that confirms that the US have little to do with it.

    So why is it that English is now so popular and other major European languages (German, French, Spanish) are losing ground to it like never before ? I believe that the answer is globalisation, and the European Union certainly is part of it. In fact, from a European point of view, the most direct and obvious sign that we now live in a wider, more internationalised world than a few decades ago is the E.U. Borders were scrapped (except with the UK and Ireland, due to isolationist policies), national currencies merged, and people can look for work in anywhere in the single market area without worrying about visa or work permit.

    Because Europeans are travelling and migrating more, getting in touch and working with a greater number of other Europeans with different native languages, it is only natural that a single common language of communication should arise. Nothing is more annoying that not knowing what language to use in an email or over the phone when contacting someone for the first time. The convenient solution is to always use a default language that everyone is supposed to know. This language has emerged for Europeans and it is English.

    So as you can see the popularity of English has nothing to do with the USA or other English-speaking country, but with the internal workings of Europe itself. Things might have been different had the UK and Ireland not been EU members, but it's hard to say.

    Of the three working languages (English, French, German) of the European institutions in Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg, The Hague, Frankfurt and other seats of EU institutions, English is by far the most frequently used, and German by far the least. This may seem ironic considering that German is the official language in 5 European countries and native German speakers are the most numerous in Europe (about 110 million). But few non-natives like to learn or use German, partly because it is difficult, partly because it doesn't sound so beautiful (not my personal opinion here), and partly because of the lingering negative association with the Nazi and WWII.

    English has the advantage of being easier to learn than either French or German (notably the grammar), meeting Germanic and Romance vocabulary half-way, and being already the most common international language outside Europe (North America, Africa, South Asia, Oceania). But these factors were just as true one hundred years ago as they are now. English hasn't become easier than French or German; it always was. The British Empire was already well-established in the early 20th century, and most Brits have since gone home to Blighty. So these arguments are only facilitators for the popularity of English in today's Europe, not the main reasons.

    The main and possibly only essential factor is the European Union. For the first time in history Europeans feel part of a greater whole, (generally) don't harbour (much) ill feelings towards each others, and work for companies and governments that are increasingly European in scale, or anyway cannot work without the rest of Europe like 100 or even just 50 years ago.
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    From a swedish perspective I think that many who are anti-American due to their politics, often admire the culture. And they have much to be admired as well as much to dislike. As we never dubbed or used voice over, we are bombarded with english music, english movies on tv and cinema, and the Internet's language has up til now been mainly or majorly english. If one is a computer programmer one must or should know basic english as computer languages are syntaxed in it. A pilot must speak english wherever they come from. English is simply the worlds most important language of our time.

    But I agree it's an easier language than most in Europe, but I think that it's also due to that it's the real and living esperanto of our continent. English is a linguistic mut, because of all the different historic invasions leaving a linguistic imprint every time. It helps that it has it's Latin, German, French and Scandinavian heritage.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Folkesson View Post
    From a swedish perspective I think that many who are anti-American due to their politics, often admire the culture.
    ...
    And they have much to be admired as well as much to dislike. As we never dubbed or used voice over, we are bombarded with english music, english movies on tv and cinema
    Among the things to be admired about the USA, I don't think that culture is one of them. I admire more some segment of the economy (notably Internet related like Google or Amazon) or the way American businesses are run. Culture means food, drinks, fashion, literature, music, and so on. I don't see how American fast food or soft drinks can be seen as superior to European or Asian food. The big names of fashion are mostly European, not American. Pop music and Hollywood are the biggest cultural export of the USA. But it's easy to think that all English-speaking singers and actors are American, when this is far from being true.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 02-05-10 at 11:20.

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    Well, the majority of Americans are our departed relatives - Europeans with a tan - who has created diverse sub-cultures all over the continent of North America. American food is not fast food, but they made a world wide profit out of making it fast food. You have much more than that. The Creole cuisine of the south, Texas cuisine, Californian kitchen, the rich tradition of American cakes and cookies. There is much to admire. The music revolution is American, and with no african slaves, there would have been no rock 'n roll. We all wear jeans, sneakers and american style clothing. They lead the computer industry and many other technical areas. There is so much they have accomplished that has made them the leading economy of the world. It's unfair to say that they have no or little culture. I say America is rich and distinct in various American cultures of the country, and that it is a country with a fanstastic history. It is also a country that has abused it's democratic tradition and values for a long time, a country that will have to back down internationally, reform it's politics and social system and conform to a multilateral way of dealing with global issues.

    Of course the majority of musicians and actors are non-American, but my point was that in Sweden - as are many countries today - we are completely showered with english and American culture. As a very small internationalized country totally dependent on the international community the impact might be bigger for us.

    You have a point that all actors are not American. I noticed your list covered only english speaking people, and that is an important aspect. Most actor imports are englsh speakers, but there are many non-english native speakers in Hollywood as well. We have a share of Swedes in Hollywood, as do other European countries.

    Few European movies enter our theaters in Sweden, and seldom is music played in any other language than English in Sweden. The US has in many ways a global monopoly on movies. Great many bands sing in English here as well, and the majority of music played anywhere is in English. With the rich culture of music and movies in Europe, this is a bit sad. There is so much great European bands singing in their own language, and in my country it is difficult to find them.

    America also has a rich literary tradition, with authors like Twain, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway, Emily Dickinson to contemporary authors of today. The list is long.

    But when it comes to the OP, yes, I think that the European community will probably - as effect of it's openess and integration - foster the use of English. I thinks it's hard to have it any other way, other than making another language the official language of the Union, and that's not going to happen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Folkesson View Post
    There is much to admire. The music revolution is American, and with no african slaves, there would have been no rock 'n roll. We all wear jeans, sneakers and american style clothing. They lead the computer industry and many other technical areas. There is so much they have accomplished that has made them the leading economy of the world. It's unfair to say that they have no or little culture. I say America is rich and distinct in various American cultures of the country, and that it is a country with a fanstastic history. It is also a country that has abused it's democratic tradition and values for a long time, a country that will have to back down internationally, reform it's politics and social system and conform to a multilateral way of dealing with global issues.
    I think that sums it up perfectly .

    I do think Europe has much more to offer than America in almost every area, but inorder to do so would probably require a much greater level of political and economic intergration.

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    I agree on you Maciamo for the most. You make great posts.

    And to what you say there Edao, Europe is fantastic, and I am proud to be a part of it. Tomorrow I'll raise the "Crown of Immortality" on the flagpole again. Summer is starting and we are getting guests to our camp site opening for the season. I hope I get to practice my Russian and French this summer. I am a bit rusty.
    Last edited by Michael Folkesson; 02-05-10 at 19:58.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Folkesson View Post
    American food is not fast food, but they made a world wide profit out of making it fast food. You have much more than that. The Creole cuisine of the south
    How often do you see Creole or Cajun cuisine in Europe ? Never seen it once. I only had it in the States and wasn't impressed.

    Texas cuisine
    That's good, but Tex-Mex is basically Mexican food, with its roots in Native American culture (notably Aztec). Texans may have had the beef steaks brought from their northern European homeland.

    Californian kitchen
    That's what we call international cuisine or fusion cuisine elsewhere. It's not specific to California (all right fortune cookies in Chinese restaurants are a Californian invention, but it originated with the Japanese omikuji in Kyoto).

    the rich tradition of American cakes and cookies.
    Most of which was inherited from their British or German grandmothers... Give me some examples of internationally famous American cakes with no European roots.

    There is much to admire.
    Not when you grew up with French cuisine as your default benchmark.

    I am not trying to bash American culture. I am just saying that they could do a lot better for a country of that size and economic importance.

    The music revolution is American,
    Do you mean 1960's bands like the Beattles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Queen ? Oh, no wait, they are all English !

    and with no african slaves, there would have been no rock 'n roll.
    I suppose you mean Blues, Jazz and R&B. Rock 'n Roll itself is white.

    We all wear jeans, sneakers and american style clothing.
    Really ? Jeans are mostly teenagers' clothing. I only wear sneakers for sports, and they are usually European brands (Adidas,Reebok...).

    "Blue jeans" is a corruption of the French bleu de Gênes, and denim of de Nîmes (from the French city of that name). Trousers in this material were worn in north-western Italy since the Renaissance. Americans only imported the concept and made a big business out of it.


    They lead the computer industry and many other technical areas.
    That's business and technology, not culture. It's part of the things I admire most about the US. But how many European expats work in the Silicon Valley ?


    There is so much they have accomplished that has made them the leading economy of the world.
    Yes, economy again.

    It's unfair to say that they have no or little culture.
    I didn't say that. There is an American culture, or actually several American cultures because the lifestyle in California, Wyoming, Alabama and New York are worlds apart from each others. But what part of the US culture would I want to replicate here because it is better than what I know ? I am not sure.


    Of course the majority of musicians and actors are non-American, but my point was that in Sweden - as are many countries today - we are completely showered with english and American culture. As a very small internationalized country totally dependent on the international community the impact might be bigger for us.
    ...
    Few European movies enter our theaters in Sweden, and seldom is music played in any other language than English in Sweden. The US has in many ways a global monopoly on movies. Great many bands sing in English here as well, and the majority of music played anywhere is in English. With the rich culture of music and movies in Europe, this is a bit sad. There is so much great European bands singing in their own language, and in my country it is difficult to find them.
    I understood your point. It's the same in Flanders and in the Netherlands. My point was just that not everything that is in English (music, cinema, books) is American, and a great part of it is actually... English !

    America also has a rich literary tradition, with authors like Twain, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway, Emily Dickinson to contemporary authors of today. The list is long.
    Comparatively to England, or the whole British Isles, the list is surprisingly short, even if you limit the comparison to the last 200 years. The per capita literary output of Britain, and even more so Ireland, is far greater than the American one. Why is that ?

    But when it comes to the OP, yes, I think that the European community will probably - as effect of it's openess and integration - foster the use of English. I thinks it's hard to have it any other way, other than making another language the official language of the Union, and that's not going to happen.
    I was trying to explain in the OP that there shouldn't be a rift between English-speaking countries and the rest of Europe, and that English is a perfectly acceptable common language for Europeans. I hear some British people saying that they should quit the EU and seek closer relationships with the USA or Commonwealth countries because they share a common language. They are forgetting that a substantial number of other Europeans speak English* (as we do), and that the EU is actually a way of fostering the use of this great language across the continent. What is certain is that there are more (reasonably fluent) speakers of English in continental Europe (Scandinavia included) than in Australia and Canada combined.

    * At present, 38% of Europeans outside the UK and Ireland can speak English fluently. In contrast, over 20% of Americans are not native speakers or English, and about 5% cannot speak it well or at all.

    The European Union has 230 million speakers of English, including 62 million native speakers. The USA has 251 million English speakers, including 215 million natives. The difference of total speakers is really marginal. If Europeans spend more time learning English better, many of them could reach near native levels. It only took me a few years to learn English. I started when I was 15, was fluent at 18 and reach near-native level by age 20.

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    I don't want to argue about how American culture is really English or French. They Americans are our blood relatives so it goes without saying that the root is European.

    Yes, English is a very easy language. Likely for the reason it has so much of other European languages in it. Quite the Esperanto.

    For trivia, I think that it's interesting that the biggest immigrant European group in the US is German. That they speak English in the US says nothing of the origin of the people there. Seeing the US as closer to the UK than the rest of Europe is quite delusional. Kind of like some brits I've talked to that want to migrate to Canada instead because the UK has "too much immigrants". If one says that, one hasn't been to Canada.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Folkesson View Post
    For trivia, I think that it's interesting that the biggest immigrant European group in the US is German. That they speak English in the US says nothing of the origin of the people there. Seeing the US as closer to the UK than the rest of Europe is quite delusional.
    That's true. Once the total is done, only about 25% of American claim some English ancestry (as opposed to 30% Irish and 43% German ancestry). And as the English were the first to settled in North America, along with some French, Dutch/Belgians, Swedes and Germans, people claiming English ancestry will inevitably have some of the most mixed ancestry of any American, almost always including some Native American and even Afro-American blood (this is controversial, but DNA tests like 23andMe have shown that Americans in the South-East USA, where settlements are the oldest and ancestry is lost in time, usually have a few percent of African DNA). In other words English ancestry is very diffuse and diluted in the US population.

    Kind of like some brits I've talked to that want to migrate to Canada instead because the UK has "too much immigrants". If one says that, one hasn't been to Canada.
    Yeah, without mentioning the infallible logic of becoming an immigrant because one dislikes immigrants.

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    Only 20 % of our communication is words !

    Agree: language does not define culture and it is often a mistake made by recruiters looking for local talents for global companies: For example in Japan, I have seen Japanese executives hired because of their fluency in English not their leadership skills or global perspective. I also saw people with great communication skills without good language proficiency.

    Body languages, business etiquette, food, religion etc define general culture traits, then individuals have their own family culture. Look for a slideshare presentation on intercultural-leadesrship-anne-egros

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    I think I'd have to agree with Michael, Hollywood and pop music have made English a global language that few other languages can compete with.

    There was a time that countries competing in the Euro-vision had to sing in their native languages but that appears to have been scrapped, did competitors feel at a disadvantage not being able to sing in English?

    Alot of Irish kids have a slight American twang in their accents from watching so many US shows like Hanna Montana.

    I read somewhere where they were looking at the different influences on Irish accents, where one time kids called their Mother Ma and then the English TV programmes influence changed that to Mum and now hollywood has changed it to Mom.

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    Graham Norton says mom, but I'm not sure whether that is more his accent rather than US influence. I will notice the difference between the harsher northern Irish accent compared to the softer southern one, but I wouldn't know different county accents. Graham Norton is from Cork originally, so it might be part of the accent from that part of the country.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starship View Post
    I think I'd have to agree with Michael, Hollywood and pop music have made English a global language that few other languages can compete with.

    There was a time that countries competing in the Euro-vision had to sing in their native languages but that appears to have been scrapped, did competitors feel at a disadvantage not being able to sing in English?

    Alot of Irish kids have a slight American twang in their accents from watching so many US shows like Hanna Montana.

    I read somewhere where they were looking at the different influences on Irish accents, where one time kids called their Mother Ma and then the English TV programmes influence changed that to Mum and now hollywood has changed it to Mom.
    It has the same impact on me! I once met a girl who is half Irish and half English. She was born in England, she said that I sounded like American or Canadian rather than Australian.
    Last edited by Minty; 12-07-10 at 23:52.



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    Quote Originally Posted by Mycernius View Post
    Graham Norton says mom, but I'm not sure whether that is more his accent rather than US influence. I will notice the difference between the harsher northern Irish accent compared to the softer southern one, but I wouldn't know different county accents. Graham Norton is from Cork originally, so it might be part of the accent from that part of the country.
    Every county has its own accent some like Dublin have several but it can be hard to distinguish one from the other, in general you can pick out the variation between North, South East and West.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Minty View Post
    It has the same impact on me! I once met a girl who is half Irish and half English. She was born in England, she said that I sounded like American or Canadian rather than Australian.
    I cant tell the difference between American and Canadian or Australian and New Zealand, unless maybe it was that Southern drawl, is there much of a difference between Oz and NZ?

    I think there is alot to be said for home grown TV programmes if only to combat the influence of Hollywood, when I've been away from home for awhile its nice to come back and listen to familiar accents its the same when I put on the TV.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starship View Post
    I cant tell the difference between American and Canadian or Australian and New Zealand, unless maybe it was that Southern drawl, is there much of a difference between Oz and NZ?

    I think there is alot to be said for home grown TV programmes if only to combat the influence of Hollywood, when I've been away from home for awhile its nice to come back and listen to familiar accents its the same when I put on the TV.
    Um they are very close; most people don’t really notice the difference.
    For fish and chips, the ozzie’s accent sounds like this “feesh and cheeps,"
    On the other hand the kiwi’s accent sounds like this "fush and chups,"
    There is a lot of “oi” sounds in the Australian accent! The kiwis called cheque “chiik” They tend to shorten the "e" sound when they speak!

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    Quote Originally Posted by logecam View Post
    I agree to you
    You too huh!

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    The increase in the use of English is a global trend, so it seems strange to accord credit or blame for it in Europe to the EU.

    It would make more sense to associate it with the prevailing economic and social reality.

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    It is very clear that English as a global language has brought us enormous benefits in all aspects of society, which has greatly promoted our economic development. To begin with, as a tool of cross-cultural communication, English promotes mutual understanding and friendship, removing prejudice and hostlity. It is no exaggeration to say that English helps maintain the world peace.

    Globally adoption of a uniform language, most likely English, is one of the key requirements for transition of human civilization from type 0 to type 1 on the Kardashev scale.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starship View Post
    is there much of a difference between Oz and NZ?
    Blasphemy

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mako View Post
    It is very clear that English as a global language has brought us enormous benefits in all aspects of society, which has greatly promoted our economic development. To begin with, as a tool of cross-cultural communication, English promotes mutual understanding and friendship, removing prejudice and hostlity. It is no exaggeration to say that English helps maintain the world peace.

    Globally adoption of a uniform language, most likely English, is one of the key requirements for transition of human civilization from type 0 to type 1 on the Kardashev scale.
    How terribly kind of you to say so, old fruit! Thankyou from an Englishman [sipping tea as I post].

  22. #22
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    It is nice going to Europe and finding that most people speak English. Or atleast have a hint on what your applying.

    I remember when I was younger I went to Greece with my family and we went to the beach. I went out and started playing with all these native kids and even though we did not speak the same language we all had a great time

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Folkesson View Post
    From a swedish perspective I think that many who are anti-American due to their politics, often admire the culture. And they have much to be admired as well as much to dislike. As we never dubbed or used voice over, we are bombarded with english music, english movies on tv and cinema, and the Internet's language has up til now been mainly or majorly english. If one is a computer programmer one must or should know basic english as computer languages are syntaxed in it. A pilot must speak english wherever they come from. English is simply the worlds most important language of our time.

    But I agree it's an easier language than most in Europe, but I think that it's also due to that it's the real and living esperanto of our continent. English is a linguistic mut, because of all the different historic invasions leaving a linguistic imprint every time. It helps that it has it's Latin, German, French and Scandinavian heritage.
    I would like to try to correct a frequent misconception in the use of English regarding the forms of "its" and "it's" which are very commonly misused.
    "its" is a possessive pronoun, pronoun meaning "instead of a noun". It DOES NOT take an apostrophe. Examples.."a dog and its master", "a car and its passengers". Where the original form may have been "the dog's master", the apostrophe here does not move when the form "its master" is used.
    "it's" is NOT a possessive form, but a short form, used instead of "it is" "it has" etc.
    "It's going to rain today", "it's been a long time since I saw her".
    It may be a puzzle sometimes as English does have idiosyncrasies! Hope this helps.

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    Well for the majority of people who use this board, English is not a first language and I'd be happy if I could express myself half as well as the users here, in a language not my own. Do you have something to add to the topic by any chance?

    Back to the discussion, I think that the US has much to offer to the world and has exported and sold itself as a product exceptionally well over the years. The problem is that it has now reached saturation point and, like any other aggressively marketed product, most people have tired of the sales pitch and we are now seeing a backlash toward the US. It is unfortunate that many in the US have made the basic mistake of believing their own propoganda, so whether or not the problem will be recognised and the US can adjust themselves according to current trends remains to be seen.

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    I think the only reason is "Hollywood" , most of the childrens want to learn english because they want to learn the language of the best movies in the world:)
    There is a part that learn english beacus of the music...

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