English-speaking Europe consists of four nations (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) three former British colonies (Cyprus, Malta and the Republic of Ireland) and a current British colony Gibraltar, plus the Crown dependencies. There are also major pockets of native English speakers to be found throughout Europe, such as in southern Spain and The Netherlands. English is the most widely used language not only in anglophone countries, but within all European union. Therefore some linguistics experts are promoting the concept of English as a lingua franca for Europe, known by the abbreviation ELFE, which would accommodate the difficulties in pronunciation and grammar of adult students throughout Europe by essentially splitting the difference, for a lingua franca is meant for mere communication, not literature. According to a Eurobarometer survey of 2001, 47% of the citizens of the (15-states) Union speak English well enough to hold a conversation. Such a European language would not favor the pronunciation or usage either of British English or American English. Hence native speakers would not be necessary to teach it to Europeans, and it could be taught more quickly. Some day there may even be an International Standards Organization (ISO) prescription for the English language so used.
English as a lingua franca has already an exact term - Euro-English (or Euroenglish). That means English translations of European concepts that are not native to English-speaking countries. Due to the United Kingdom's involvement in the European Union, the usage focuses on non-British concepts. It also refers to dialects of English spoken by Europeans for whom English is not their first language, especially since English is frequently used by Europeans to communicate even when neither of them know English as the first language. (For example, a French person who doesn't know Italian and a Italian who doesn't know French, but both of whom know English, would use English to communicate with one another, even though it is not the native language of either of them.)
Euro-English is also the subject of a joke circulating on the Internet, whereby the European Commission has decided on English as a preferred language, the British government agreeing to modify the English language in turn (see the annex).
The European Union or EU is a supranational organisation of European countries, which currently has 25 member states. The Union was established under that name by the Treaty on European Union (commonly known as the Maastricht Treaty) in 1992. The European Union is the most powerful regional organisation in existence. In certain areas where member states have transferred a degree of sovereignty to the Union the EU begins to resemble a federation or confederation. The EU has no official capital and its institutions are divided between several cities: Brussels, Strassbourg and Luxembourg.
People within the member states of the European Union use many different languages. They include a number of languages that are official languages of the European Union's institutions, plus many others.EU policy is to encourage all its citizens to be multilingual; specifically, it encourages them to be able to speak two languages in addition to their mother tongue. The reason for this is not only to promote easier communication between Europeans, but also to encourage greater tolerance and respect for diversity. A number of EU funding programmes actively promote language learning and linguistic diversity. The content of educational systems remains the responsibility of individual Member States.
The official languages of the institutions of the European Union are: Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek (Demotic), Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish. All decisions by the institutions are translated into all official languages, and European citizens may contact the institutions and receive a reply in any official language. For top-level meetings, interpreting into any official language is arranged as needed. Simultaneous interpreting between all official languages is always arranged for sessions of the European Parliament and the European Council.
Away from these formal meetings, a more flexible language régime is used. The primary working languages of the institutions are English, French and to some extent German, but other languages are used as befits the situation and the language skills of the people involved. The 1995 and 2004 expansions of the Union to countries where French is less used have strengthened the position of English and German as working languages.
Language skills of European citizens
This table from the year 2000 shows what proportion of citizens said that they could speak each of the official languages of the Union, either as mother tongue or as non-mother tongue (including as foreign language):
Proportion of population of the EU speaking it as a mother tongueProportion of population of the EU speaking it NOT as a mother tongueTotal proportion speaking this language
Note: This table relates to the older 15 Member States of the European Union (source: European Commission). Data for the new Member States are not yet available.
- English is the language which is most widely "spoken" in the EU. While it is the mother tongue for 16% of the European population, a further 31% of the EU citizens speak it well enough to hold a conversation.
- Apart from English, the rank order of languages more or less follows the rank order of inhabitants.
- German is the mother tongue for 24% of the EU's citizens and spoken well enough as a "second" language by 8% of EU citizens.
- French is spoken by 28% of the population, of which more than half are native speakers.
- Italian is the fourth most widely known language - it counts as many native speakers as French, while the proportion of non-native speakers is significantly smaller (2%).
- 15% of the EU population speaks Spanish (11% as mother tongue and 4% as a foreign language).
Half of Europe is already Multilingual
- 45% of European citizens can take part in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue
- There are large variations between the Member States...
- ...in Luxembourg, nearly everyone speaks another language well enough to hold a conversation
- ...this is also true for more than 8 in 10 people living in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.
- People in the UK, Ireland and Portugal are least likely to speak another language, with less than a third of these population saying they can do this.
There was a research in which people were asked what language they find the most useful besides their mother tongue, most people answered English followed by French and German.
The most taught languages
- Generally, English is the first foreign language in education in all EU Member States (except anglophone ones), and French is almost always the second.
- English is learned by 26% of non-anglophone primary pupils; French by 4% of non-francophones
- As far as secondary education is concerned, the language most taught as a foreign language is English.
- Overall, 89% of pupils learn English.
- In Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Austria, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands over 90% of all secondary pupils learn English.
- 32% of pupils learn French, 18% German and 8% Spanish.
As the following table shows, there are large variations in language skills between people with different educational experiences. The proportion who can take part in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue ranges from 77% of students to only 19% of people who left school by the age of 15 or younger.
Educated up to 20 +72%
Average for EU 1545%
Educated to age 16-1944%
Educated to age 15 or younger19%
English as a lingua franca for Europe
The sounds indicated by the letters th, voiced interdental fricative and voiceless interdental fricative, aren't found in other European languages with the exception of Spanish, Greek and Icelandic. The French replace it with the sounds 's' and 'z'; Scandinavians with the sounds 't' (or 'f') and 'd'. English as a lingua franca would choose one of these sounds to standardise on it. The reason this is curious is that, unlike vowels or liquid consonants, tongue placement is specific: place the tip of the tongue more forward and form the sound between the tongue and the upper teeth. It is recognised that vowels and the American or German 'r', on the other hand, are much more difficult to learn because the sound is made by a relative placement of the tongue.
The letter l in English also corresponds to two different sounds, lateral alveolar approximant and velarized lateral alveolar approximant—respectively, the first 'l' in the word, 'little', and the second. Polish has them too, but marks the dark l with a line through it, and over time has diminished the sound to that of a 'w'. Germans have difficulty with the dark l, which does not exist in their language.
In most of the other Germanic languages, like German, Dutch, and Swedish, consonants at the ends of words are never voiced, and so native speakers of those languages tend to not voice consonants at the end of words in English, hence mug and muck, and bat and bad are pronounced alike to them, and they generate confusion by pronouncing the present tense of build the same as the past tense, built. This latter extends to their writing.
Phoneticists note that besides the difference in vowel quality, there is also a difference in length between the vowel sounds in the words bit and beat. Speakers of languages that don't have vowel pairs with this distinction, such as Italian and Spanish, often have difficulty with this distinction, although the distinction does occur in Germanic languages.
The most obvious difficulty is the large number of vowel sounds in the English language, each one of which has to be learned by listening and training tongue placement.
English is a language with stressed syllables, both unmarked in writing and capable of changing the meaning of words and even sentences. Although words without the usual stress can be understood by native speakers, changes in meaning of sentences spoken by them ("I thought SHE was supposed to wash the pan" vs. "I thought she was supposed to wash the PAN") are often entirely missed.
The British use their punctuation rather similar to the French, but not entirely. Though persons can learn another language, they often slip back to the punctuation of their native one. This is most obvious in the so-called temporary allowances for writing in the English language to not use the same punctuation of metric measurements as those in other countries. Germans do not re-convert their decimal points from a comma back to a dot when writing in English, nor do they use the comma as a separator of groups of three digits. The French do not count like other peoples, so their telephone numbers are set in pairs of digits, and this has extended already to many British telephone numbers.
Non-english speakers, especially the Japanese, sometimes take English words and modify them for concepts that they think appropriate, but which will not be comprehended by native speakers. The French have a rationally prescribed vocabulary, so they often cannot notice that many concepts second nature to them mean something different, if anything at all, in English. The primary example are false friends such as the French and German words actuel (aktuell) and eventuel (eventuell), which in English don't mean actual and eventual but rather current and possible.
It is expected that a standardised ELFE would declare many of these neologisms normative, so as to have native speakers have to use them in the same way, too, when communicating to Europeans.
The British spell many words just as the French do; a few words Americans instead spell as the Germans do. But the French and Germans spell many similar words differently and will use these in their writing.
Last but not least, any ISO for the English language might very well bring about spelling rationalisation, of all things the most difficult about the English language for any use on any continent.
(See also the recent experiences with German_spelling_reform.)
The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty's Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5 year phase-in plan that would be known as "EuroEnglish": --
In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c".. Sertainly, this will make the sivil sevants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favor of the "k". This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have one less letter.
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with the "f". This will make words like "fotograf" 20% shorter.
In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent "e"'s in the language is disgraceful, and they should go away.
By the 4th yar, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v". During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaning "ou" and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.
After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech ozer.
ZE DREM VIL FINALI KUM TRU!!