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French set to replace English as EU’s ‘working language’ (independent.co.uk)
182 points by nomoreplease 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 369 comments



The sane thing to do after the Brexit, was to embrace English as main language, since it has not become neutral ground!

According to Wikipedia we have:

* Germany: 56% English speakers, 14.5% French speakers

* Italy: 34% English vs. 19.43% French

* Spain: 22% English vs. 11.73% French

* Sweden: 89% English vs. 8% French

I can't get over how bad this decision is. How can you ignore these kinds of discrepancies?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_English-s...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geographical_distribution_of_F...


The EU has a 6-month rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

So this is the President of France postulating that when his country takes the Presidency next year, he will use that to push French to be the next working language. I don’t know what the President of the Council of Europe does besides Chair meetings, but apparently it includes setting the language for which the meetings will be held in.

So this isn’t something the EU as a whole has determined will be policy going forward, more like the first guy to drop his pants in a newly opened frontier for dick-waving. If this was something the President of the Council of the European Union could do unilaterally anyway, then my read is that Emmanuel Macron would have pulled this stunt, Brexit or no Brexit, and Brexit is just convenient political cover.

More likely this won’t last more than the 6 months that France has the Presidency, and it will be amusing to see if say, Hungary the next time they have the Presidency insists on high level communications in Hungarian.


> I don’t know what the President of the Council of Europe does besides Chair meetings, but apparently it includes setting the language for which the meetings will be held in.

Please excuse my pedantry, but you've misspoken here: the European Council, the Council of the European Union, and the Council of Europe are three different things; and here you've accidentally said the third when you meant to speak of the second. The first two are EU institutions–the European Council is senior to the Council of the European Union, in the former EU member states are represented by heads of state or government, in the later they are represented by the ministers responsible for various policy areas (finance, agriculture, trade, transport, education, etc). The Council of Europe, by contrast, is a separate international organisation from the EU, with a much broader membership – it includes the vast majority of European countries; it is most famous for hosting the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), although it is active in other policy areas as well.

And all three have a presidency. The President of the European Council is an individual, currently former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. He doesn't take orders from the Belgian government, he is truly independent. By contrast, the presidencies of the Council of the European Union, and the Council of Europe, are held by governments not by individuals. The presidency of the Council of the European Union rotates every six months, it is currently held by Portugal, Slovenia is up next. Likewise, the presidency of the Council of Europe rotates every six months; currently it is held by Hungary.


> Please excuse my pedantry, but you've misspoken here: the European Council, the Council of the European Union, and the Council of Europe are three different things; and here you've accidentally said the third

Yes, yes I did and I did not catch it, and I’m outside the Edit window as well.

It seems not even I can keep up with Europe’s love of councils.


This comment brightened my morning.

I'd like to add something substantive, but the two parent posts already noted everything I would have.


Just the number of councils with similar sounding names makes the whole EU project sound like satire.


The EU has one of those "ideas" websites where people can post and vote on proposals. (Of course, most proposals are going to go nowhere, but maybe it will put the idea in the head of some bureaucrat somewhere.)

And their idea website already has a proposal posted to rename the European Council and Council of the European, in order to reduce confusion with the Council of Europe: https://futureu.europa.eu/processes/OtherIdeas/f/8/proposals...


Thanks for providing some insight into the inner workings. It’s worrying seeing one of the nominal leaders of a union of over half a billion people succumb to these pressures. Clearly he is intelligent and perceptive enough to understand the consequences.

And besides the long term costs that can be reasoned out, all sorts of emotions, insecurities, etc., will undoubtedly come flying out from many quarters.

I doubt if these sorts of topics can be discussed calmly by anyone invested in the change.


> Clearly he is intelligent and perceptive enough to understand the consequences.

Yes. The consequences are hopefully getting re-elected as a moderate at a time when right-wing populism and nationalistic rhetoric is popular. The next French election is next year.

If this is what it takes to keep Le Pen out then consider ourselves fortunate.


I mean, this language stunt is quite harmless, but you can only appease the rightwing nationalist a certain way, before you become one of them.


If you give Dutch politicians the choice of speaking French or Dutch with translators in an international meeting they will use English.

But I don't think the French really care about how other cultures work. It's all nationalist nonsense and living in the glorious past for them. See Strasbourg.


This behavior isn't limited to France. French Canada sure would like it if more people spoke French.


Perhaps this can be generalized? Language entitlement seems to be a thing among French speaking regions. Whether it's French Canada, French Belgium or France?


Funny to see so much drab posturing about our supposed « language entitlement » while almost calling for languages to be rolled over and wiped out by English.

I'm quite certain the position of French-Canadians has little to do with « entitlement », and more with how trapped they feel. Not that Anglo-Canadians would give a rats ass about the actual motives of Québec's cultural policy, as long as it can get weaponized for political currency.

Frankly this entire thread reeks.


This isn't about changing the native language to English, France gets to keep its French language. This is about using the language that most people understand in the entire EU. French is not that language, English is. The vote went probably like this... We can choose between French and German, cause Britain left the EU. German is disliked by more countries than French hence French won. The end result is we need more interpreters and it costs the tax payers more money.


> German is disliked by more countries than French hence French won.

French has also been a traditional common language or diplomacy and international relations. It's probably got more inertia going for it in those circles than German would.


That's good point, I suspect it's more a question of time before English replaces French in the UN and similar institutions though.


>This isn't about changing the native language to English, France gets to keep its French language

Ireland kept its Gaelic language. And nobody speaks it.


That development took 2 centuries, that's a pretty normal evolution to be honest. Languages grow and die organically.

Also I fail to see how this would impact the usage of French in France if the official language within the EU institution is English? The EU as an institution is comprised of a couple of thousand people from all over the EU, it would have no impact whatsoever on French as a spoken language. French is no longer the lingua franca, English is and therefore it makes more sense to use English as the common language within the EU institutions. Anything else is political currency as you so aptly mentioned.


Speaking as an anglophone I think you are entirely correct. Quebec is majority Francophone and has a right to stay that way. In addition it is also fun and interesting. This thread is clearly pitched at people that get off on Freedom Fries.


Who is saying they want languages to be wiped out by English? Using the most common language seems like a no brainer that doesn’t have to anything to do with wanting to hurt other languages.


Indulge us, what are those actual motives?

Not that I believe that the rest of Canada somehow has the moral high ground or something but what is going on in Quebec language wise is frankly completely non-understandable from an outsider's point of view. From that both sides have good and bad arguments in the debate but at this point things are just silly. It feels like a never ending blood feud. The vicious cycle has to be broken.

Yes the Anglos weren't nice to French speakers. I sympathize.

Now the French speakers want to legislate doing the same to Anglos? Are they crazy? Sorry but sympathy withdrawn immediately!


Even more so in the case of Quebec which sees itself as an enclave surrounded by English-speaking nations.


Well, that is because it _is_ an enclave in which speaking French is the majority "normal" and surrounded by provinces in which speaking English is normal.

If Quebec did not enforce language laws then English would end up driving out French except for decorative, heritage functions.

The result of the language laws is that we have a part of North America strongly bound in to not just a significant part of the EU but also to Vietnam, large parts of Africa and the rest of la Francophonie. Not a bad thing at all.


With the advent of the internet and the new generations of Quebecers being mostly online, as well as being generally more educated in english than their parents through standard school curriculum, I expect this to change in the next hundred years. I’m 28 years old now and I welcome this future, being isolated has a great price.


The current government is certainly intent on reversing that tide though. Especially now with who has or hasn't the right to education in English.


It's mostly Africa. The presence in Vietnam and the rest of Asia has declined.

https://qz.com/africa/1428637/french-is-worlds-fifth-spoken-...

https://languagesinconflict.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/115/


Strasbourg is probably more about economics than politics. Yes it would be a political loss but they could probably find an alternative (e.g. France said they'd be happy to give up Strasbourg if the ECB moves to France instead), the real deal is the billions it brings to the city.


Honest question, what about Strasbourg?


One of the two capitals of the EU. Why does the EU need two capitals? Because France wanted a win.

The European Parliament would love to pick up and leave Strasbourg, but it is legally bound to meet there several times a year for a full session despite the majority of its work being in Brussels.


> One of the two capitals of the EU. Why does the EU need two capitals? Because France wanted a win.

Yes, it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Strasbourg is the capital of a region which was highly contested between France and Germany and changed hands multiple times in the last two centuries and is seen as a symbole of the reconciliation between the two countries. It's also not linked at all with the fact it was already the seat of the Council of Europe when the parliament was put there.

Also, the EU doesn't have two capitals. It has none.


As a general principle, the capital is wherever the seat of the Executive and Legislature is based from. The European Parliament is split between two cities, spending a minority of its time in Strasbourg. You don’t have to put it on paper to call it a capital.

The symbolic rhetorical cover is interesting, irrelevant, and fulfilled by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and other CoE institutions. More importantly, the European Union already symbolically represents a reconciliation between its member nations encompassing more than merely Germany and France.

Basing the European Parliament out of Strasbourg for a time may have made sense as it could share a building with an existing pan-European institution, but to keep it legally bound to continue spending a minority of the year there when the bulk of the EU’s institutions that the European Parliament is concerned with are in another city in another country is just silly and entirely rectifiable.


> As a general principle, the capital is wherever the seat of the Executive and Legislature is based from.

That's what people call a de facto capital. Still the EU intentionaly has no capital in its laws.

> The symbolic rhetorical cover is interesting, irrelevant

It's in no way irrelevant nor a cover. It's the reason Strasbourg was selected as the seat of the parliement in the 50s.

You can't discard facts because they don't suit your worldview. I will personally stop this pointless discussion.


> That's what people call a de facto capital.

It’s also what people just call a capital.

> It's in no way irrelevant nor a cover. It's the reason Strasbourg was selected as the seat of the parliement in the 50s.

In the 1950s.

First: the given justification for any policy decision particularly in democratic societies is always rhetorical. Rhetoric is intended to persuade. Factual accuracy is not mutually exclusive with rhetoric.

Second: It was in 1992 that the decision was made to keep the European Parliament in Strasbourg per the decision of Edinburgh European Council of 11 and 12 December 1992.[1]

Prior to this it was already located in Strasbourg, which for a time did make sense. However when the European Union chose to revisit this issue, it chose not to consolidate its institutions into one location, but to keep them spread apart and thus the European Parliament now splits its time between what are effectively two capital cities with all the additional overhead costs this incurs in the time and money of the taxpayers and the productivity of the MEPs and staff.

[1] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/20492/1992_december_-_... [page 47] [pdf]


Did you mean Straßburg?



For Sweden and Germany all (guess >99%) of the french speakers speak english way better then french. The amount of english we're exposed to is so massive and the french is basically non-existent.

This is such a useless egoistic move from the french, just accept that english is the lingua franca.


I’m french and most of the content i watch is also in english, made mostly by americans with an american point of views and ways of resolving problems. Sometime in british english with british point of view.

I think it’s sad that that you don’t seem to realize that it’s a problem that most of the content we are exposed comes from a single culture.

As for the move, it’s totally useless, and if they wanted to be strongest against english they should have said “we’ll only accept communication in french or german” but that would have meant most of the communications would have been in german.


> you don’t seem to realize that it’s a problem that most of the content we are exposed comes from a single culture.

I don't think GP's desire to minimise language barriers among 27 co-operating governments implies that they are oblivious to cultural bias.

I do think the latter is an issue worth addressing, but this is probably not an effective or appropriate way to do it.


OP's solution to cultural bias is to ignore it and just go with convenience.

Well, you have to start somewhere. But I agree that the only thing it's likely to do is annoy the heck out of everybody.

I think they said French because if they had said French or German the other bodies might have used only German just to annoy the French back.


I don’t understand, you think that switching to French will expose us to each single European country culture?


Haha, OP has no awareness of his/her bias!


Wouldn't you listen to more content (news, movies...) from European countries, if it was in a language you understand, that being English? I'm in EU and would love for English to be the de facto language.


Why does it seem to be impossible for other cultures to compete with the Americans in the realm of movies, tv shows, music, etc.? Is it just a matter of money? Couldn’t the EU fund their own version of Hollywood?


Lots of countries compete well - India, Nigeria, the UK, France, Germany, Italy ...

But you're not going to find them in the US [much] if they're not in English

Here's some data from several years ago (couldn't find anything more recent in a quick scan) - https://screenville.blogspot.com/2009/06/production-world-ci...

Here's a related Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-makes-British-television-at-least...


It's actually not that hard to completely ban Hollywood from your watching for a while. Especially now with netflix and co. Honestly, from a German speaking pov, I don't see this being true anymore today.


Nah, the EU is too busy forcing upon its member states a new language and other political posturing.


I'm quite disillusioned about the future of the Union because of ridiculous stunts like this.

Using English exposes people to a certain way of thinking that is more linked to a set of cultures or traditions. It's an undeniable fact, both semantics and linguistics teach us that.

But if the aim is to help politicians think from a different perspective, French is a bad choice. If that was the purpose, a reasonable choice would be to opt for languages related to cultures of more practical rationality.. German or Scandinavian languages

Of course it's the French politicians who have the nerve to try impose their language. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that French culture is one of the most pedantic and nationalistic in Europe, to the detriment of the other members.


>a reasonable choice would be to opt for languages related to cultures of more practical rationality

That's essentialist nonsense. How are German or Scandinavian cultures more « practically rational » in an empirical sense ? Is there anything to it beyond short-sighted stereotypes ? That's not even getting to the fact that rationalism and positivism have French input stamped all over it, with German philosophy generally pulling in the exact opposite direction.


Please do not attribute to me things I did not write.

I did not mention positivism, which is not necessarily embedded in the political environment we have today.

The main contributions in rationalism and empiricism are not French.

German philosophy is not generally positivist, but that’s not what I wrote.


> The main contributions in rationalism and empiricism are not French.

Are you certain of this? I can think of many contributions to rationalism and empiricism made by French speakers that I feel are important. The metric system, for instance, was in large part a French project [01].

Here are a few French rationalists and empiricists that came to my mind when I read your comment:

Alain Aspect

Contemporary exerimentalist known for work in quantum optics [02]

Louis de Broglie

Quantum physicist known for pioneering wave-particle duality [03]

Nicolas de Condorcet

Mathematician and leading figure of the enlightenment [04]

Rene Descartes

Philosopher and mathematician known for the Cartesian co-ordinate system [05]

Pierre de Fermat

Mathematician known for his eponymous last theorem [06]

Joseph-Louis Lagrange

Mathematician and astronomer known for Lagrangian mechanics and Lagrange points in astronomy [07]

Pierre-Simon Laplace

Polymath known for Laplace's Demon, among much else [08]

Antoine Lavoisier

Experimental chemist who named hydrogen and oxygen [09]

Blaise Pascal

Mathematician and inventor of an early mechanical calculator [10]

Louis Pasteur

Chemist and microbiologist who developed the germ theory of disease and invented Pasteurisation [11]

Henri Poincare

Mathematician, theoretical physicist and engineer [12]

Urbain le Verrier

Astronomer, discoverer of Neptune [13]

Full disclosure: I'm English.

[01] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_metric_system#T...

[02] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_Aspect

[03] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_de_Broglie

[04]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquis_de_Condorcet

[05] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Descartes

[06] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_de_Fermat

[07] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph-Louis_Lagrange

[08] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Simon_Laplace

[09] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoine_Lavoisier

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blaise_Pascal

[11]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Pasteur

[12] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Poincar%C3%A9

[13] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urbain_Le_Verrier


"The main contribution in rationalism and empiricism are not French" does not equal "French speakers did not contribute relevant knowledge in rationalism or empiricism"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empiricism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationalism

Hindu and Greek philosophers, Islamic golden age, Italian renaissance, British empiricism, Scottish Enlightenment, Austrian/German empiricism, US Pragmatism, ...

I'm not trying to neglect French rationalists and empiricists. Of course they exist, ... together with the many other scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, ... from many other cultures. Each single culture contributed less than the sum of the others simply because rationalism and empiricism are the fruits of global knowledge.

When detailing reasons for pushing the adoption of French in Europe, Macron acknowledged the work of Victor Hugo, who "believed that French would be the language of Europe, would today perhaps be a little disappointed" and promoted the re-examination of past colonialism in Africa, seeking to use the language as a tool to "reset a complex history in the continent".

The reasons for pretending the use of French in Europe are nationalistic. In an incident, European diplomats defined "overly dramatic, a statement of anger that clearly need no translation" when a French diplomat left his chair empty after the Council decided to use only-English in a working group.

This development was foreseen in 2017 (pre-Brexit) when Mario Monti said "The EU, when the UK leaves, should take the decision of upgrading the use of the English language in EU affairs. I think we should upgrade the ways we use English and it should become the language of the EU. I exaggerate a bit - there should be a bit of French. It will be a very appropriate gesture to the UK. It would help us Europeans to become more competitive by using fewer languages."

The statements of Mario Monti was pragmatic, it defines an issue and propose a solution. The behaviour of French diplomats is stubborn and nationalistic.

Disclosing too that I'm Italian.


I wouldn't dispute much of what you wrote above, but I do think the French contribution to empiricism and rationalism qualifies as major (difficult as these things are to measure), and that that contribution is at least similar to the other large European nations.

I understand there is a common perception that French academic culture has literary preoccupations, but I don't think the idea that those preoccupations have disadvantaged French science holds up to much scrutiny, much as one might want it to after listening to a fruitless monologue about Derrida.

It's heartening to me that there are people in the EU arguing in favour of pragmatic gestures of friendship to the UK as you point out; I'm all for it and hope it is continued and mutual, regardless of whether the UK is legally part of the organisation.


I think that is your personal interpretation and I am surprised at how angry your comment is.

I lived in the Netherlands, worked for an international organization and I still have a lot of friends who works (or worked) in Brussels. Few comments:

1. The level of profentiency in foreign language of people working for the European institutions is orders of magnitude higher than readers of HN. Not too mention translators. It's not rare to meet people speak 6 languages totally fluently. Switching languages for some working documents is almost a non-event beyond signaling. There will be zero impact for the rest of us.

2. I totally support a Europe where people speak foreign languages beyond English.


Which circles do you wonder in that you do not rarely meet people who speak 6 languages fluently? Maybe I misunderstood, and you meant this for professional translators? I think I've yet to come across one such case in my life, and I live in Norway, where you can "cheat" by counting Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish as three separate, and English you get for free.


I'm German with significantly better command of the English language than French, but I don't at all mind that France is trying to popularize French. I don't want to live in a language mono-culture and it's sad that so much focus has been on English solely.

The appeal to the popularity of English is entirely circular. Obviously you're exposed to more English if nobody makes an effort to use another language. Not an argument against changing that state of affairs.


They could all just revert to a dead language everyone used to use and be done with petty grievances. Go back to Latin.


It looks even worse outside of Western Europe. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Lithuania are more like 1 or 2% francophone, but at least 1/5 anglophone.

I'm no expert on international politics, but it seems like that would severely disadvantage these countries, wouldn't it? With a smaller pool of politicians and technocrats who are proficient in the working language of the EU, they'll have to rely more on translation, and will consequently be less able to communicate efficiently when representing their respective countries.


Anecdotally I can confirm those stats for Sweden. Some of the things I was blown away by in Sweden are:

1) Everyone's beautiful 2) Everyone's super tall. I'm 184cm and saw multiple women every day that were taller than me, let alone men. In the US it's quite rare for me to see women taller than me. 3) Everyone's rather slim. It's nice to see a population at healthier weights than what I'm used to in the US 4) Not once did I find somebody who couldn't speak English, from workers at train stations to museums to airports. It was crazy. In contrast, Germans being about 50/50 matches up with my experience. Italy felt lower than 1/3 even in Venice, but I spent much less time there.

Sweden sure is amazing; can't wait to visit again.


> Not once did I find somebody who couldn't speak English, from workers at train stations to museums to airports. It was crazy

It's crazier than that. I've moved to a small village in northern Sweden in the middle of nowhere, and everybody speaks English here, too.

> Everyone's rather slim.

Agreed, but Austria beats it - there, everyone is ripped :)


184cm = 6ft


Okay, so this makes me wonder something.

So 6 foot tall (72in) is like a magic number for American men. That's like the threshold for manliness in popular culture. If you were to plot the self-reported heights men in America, you'd absolutely see a dip at 70 and 71 inches, then a big spike at 72in.

What's this magic number in various metric countries? 185cm seems like a sound choice, but I could see it being 190 in some places.


190cm (6'3) being a threshold for "manliness", as you say, has no bearing on actual human average sizes and might just be your personal bias showing.

I think there's definitely a threshold around 6' in English cultures, possibly 180 cm in Europe, but in my personal experience it's not seen an important metric as the magic 6' number in Anglo cultures.


> 190cm (6'3) being a threshold for "manliness", as you say, has no bearing on actual human average sizes and might just be your personal bias showing.

Of course it has no bearing on a actual sizes! That’s why the commenter says “manliness in popular culture” and “self-reported heights”. He’s making the point that lots of men who are slightly shorter than 6 feet will lie and say they are 6 feet tall, and wondering if there is a comparable number in cm.


> What's this magic number in various metric countries?

There is no magic number here. The weird emphasis on height is very much an American peculiarity.

Some (maybe most) women don't want to be in a relationship with a guy smaller than them when they wear heels and some like tall guys but that's pretty much it.


180cm in Korea.


The irony of this comment on this article is underrated.


I appreciate the translation, but you should annotate your post, otherwise you risk someone thinking you did it spitefully, as though cm were lesser units.

I ~think~ that's why someone downvoted you.


> as though cm were lesser units.

To be fair, a cm _is_ less than a foot


At some point people need to stop reading malicious intent into things without evidence.


Forgive my trespass. I meant no spite or ill will.

As an American, I had to converted the number to mm and the divided it by 25.4 and again by 12. I figured I save somebody else the trouble.

(I upvoted you.)


What do point 1, 2 and 3 have to do with this thread?


The other side of this is that there are some truly strange looking people as well. Like, almost matches the ideals in American media (which has been filled with Swedish models for nearly a century, setting our ideals from a young age) but an otherwise discarded iteration that would never be invited through our borders by the people already here. (The modeling agency, the au pair household, the guys.)

You can experience it in advance with Tinder Passport.


In the real time strategy world (eg Starcraft, Warcraft), this strategy is called “turtling”. Perceived as low risk… it’s a defensive move aimed at creating moats in hopes that you buy enough time to out tech your competition; it rarely results in a win against any real player (which the US, Germans, Russians and Chinese are) and wastes everybody’s time by creating unnecessary friction. Reason often prevails over the long term thankfully.


Isn't it ironic that English is the Lingua Franca?


Thank you! I'm always saying "English is the Lingua Franca of the tech world"...and no one ever gets the joke.


Haha. What's sad, my galvanized friend, is the younger generation doesn't get my cataclysmic Wizard of Oz allusions. I'm just consulting with the rain.


No, because "lingua franca" derives from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_Lingua_Franca which has nothing to do with French, apart from people who didn't understand it mistook it for "French".


Part of the empire the Franks founded was named "France" and France still traces its origins to Frankish kings. So connecting a trade language spoken by the empire-before-the-empire with the empire of France doesn't seem that far off-base to me: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franks


From the wikipedia article on Mediterranean Lingua Franca

> Based mostly on Northern Italian languages (mainly Venetian and Genoese dialects) and secondarily from Occitano-Romance languages...

So it's not the "language of Franks".

Also,

> Lingua franca means literally "language of the Franks" in Late Latin, and originally referred specifically to the language that was used around the Eastern Mediterranean Sea as the main language of commerce. However, the terms "Franks" and "Frankish" were actually applied to all Western Europeans during the late Byzantine Period.


French was a minority language in modern day France for most of the region's history.


Great comment! I always presumed the term was an 18th-19th century coinage referring to French; had no idea it referred to a pidgin originating in the late middle ages. Thanks for the enlightenment!


Not really. Lingua Franca is not really related to French.


I'm French and honestly I don't really care that much about that but for some reason if I had to choose, I'd rather have EU things done in German for example than English, that would make much more sense to me (even though I speak some English and really no German).


Can you elaborate on your reasons?


It's hard to say but somehow it feels to me that English is the language of "the competition" (the US). It might feel anecdotal to many people, but language is a powerful tool. It's how so many French people consume so many US series and music (and btw we are probably one of the country which are the most protective on this). And https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/02/opinion/france-cnews-amer...

It's not by chance that many invaders tend to force their language to country they invade (the French being no exception, they did both in former colonies and in our own current territory during the French revolution - that's actually a very hot topic currently in France, as some "immersive teaching" of regional languages were found unconstitutional a few days ago)

And well, I'd rather be more German than more American. But I'm one of those who feel more EUropean than french, so maybe that's why :)


i would guess “anything but english”, and German is more spoken in the EU than french.


Its the most French thing I've seen in a long time, and it make me inordinately happy.

The french political class: "It eez time to stick eet to ze germans and ze eengleesh"


I suppose the next logical thing is for them to say: "I fart in your general direction".


But French sounds like poetry: Je pète dans votre direction générale!



I think embracing english as the main language of the EU is the worst idea since Brexit. It’s anything but neutral. It’s a concession made to the brits and a trojan for the Americans. They left, they can f right off and take their piss poor excuse of a language with them. It works for programming, insults and not much else. If they hadn’t joined the EU to sabotage it, maybe english wouldn’t be as popular in the EU.

Let’s force the 3 letter agencies to improve their deep learning NLP models for other languages.

Nobody speaks it in the EU, but if we’re going with popular languages i also don’t think mandarin would be an appropriate language.

I’m french and I think there should be a common EU language, and for political purpose it should a truly neutral language, like Esperanto or another novlang.

(Or maybe french should become the lingua franca of the EU if French official communications to the EU could only be in German)

Latin is rooted in catholicism, which is anything but neutral in terms of history and human rights.

Let’s level the playing field a bit, there is enough english in the world.

[this post made in english, and I write most often in english because nobody reads french compared to english]


> Nobody speaks it in the EU

English is one of the two official languages of Ireland.

Either way, I think everything you've said is basically beside the point because English is the primary international language of the business and science worlds. That's why virtually all airports everywhere in the world have English signage and announcements, that's why many international university lectures are in English. It's very practical.

For better or for worse, that's how it is, and choosing another language based on some principle of neutrality (which certainly won't really be neutral, because anyone's definition of neutrality will be biased) is going against the flow. Something like Esperanto would actually be an especially terrible choice given that there's almost no one who speaks it and virtually no entertainment media that uses it, which makes it far more difficult to learn.

Learning languages is hard enough as it is. As someone who lived in Tokyo and studied Japanese full time, it's something you really need to be motivated for to make it work.


What a depressingly resentful and scornful take against op’s well reasoned comment. Taking a position is fine, shouting through your keyboard is discouraged.


I have nothing against op’s well written and documented comment but it is describing the status quo.

it’s like saying cobol is the most used programming language, why use java or python?


OP is describing the logical reason for english, i’m presenting the emotional reasons against it.


English is a great choice because it is a second language for every country, which puts them on equal footing and helps them communicate (with the world as well). Native speakers are the hardest to understand because they suffer from the curse of knowledge.

(Latin is oppressive? I’ve heard it all. Better tell the scientists.)


> I write most often in english because nobody reads french compared to english

The irony.


My dad told me some time ago that for certain "low risk" documents, the EU distributed them in Norwegian to the Danish and Swedish camps, despite Norway not being in EU. The point being that both can read Norwegian sufficiently, and it saved one translation.

Not sure if it's still done this way.


Definitely not. All documents have to be in the official languages.


Having it as a work language just means that they’ll pout if whatever document they’re sent isn’t in French for the 6 months they are in charge - nothing more.

No big deal.


Not really, the article says:

> “We will always ask the Commission to send us in French the letters it wishes to address to the French authorities, and if they fail to do so, we will wait for the French version before sending it,” the diplomat said.

"Send us French or consider your request to be second-class and ignored until you send us French".


It’s seriously the most French thing ever


Before that it says:

> The unnamed diplomat said all high-level meetings of the Council – the body which helps sets the political agenda in Brussels – will be conducted in French instead of English during the six-month presidency.

It’s only during the Council, outside of the Council every country expects documents in their language.


Those meetings anyway have interpreters.


I'm curious what do you mean by "bad" in that context? In my book, asking people to practice or learn a new language is not inerently bad.

Decision-making should not be reduced to the law of the majority. If Europe wants to push people to learn and practice more foreign languages, I'm all for it. (Disclosure: that starts with me, I speak 3 languages and I'm learning a fourth one).


The head of the English department of my local community college (in the US) told me that it takes about 7 years of study for an average immigrant's English to get good enough that native speakers start wanting to have conversations with the immigrant. Some people require much less time, but for most people, learning a new language (particularly learning to speak it and not just read it) is a very large investment in time.

Some claim that learning a second language will make a person better at thinking -- or confer other broad advantages, but I am unconvinced by the evidence I have seen for those claims.

To improve him or herself and his or her society, the person would do better to spend the time he or she would have spent learning a second language learning science, history, technology and practical arts.

Switzerland wants its young people to study both French and German because it wants to remain one country and to avoid splitting into a German-speaking country and a French-speaking one. That is an example where it makes sense to advocate and to encourage bilingualism IMO. I have a lot of sympathy for the Swiss policy of encouraging bilingualism. I have much less sympathy for the general belief that bilingualism and trilingualism are good in themselves. Human lives are short; people should focus their learning on the things that most advance themselves and their societies.

I guess you could argue that all of Europe is in a milder version of the Switzerland situation: that it is necessary for European individuals to invest a lot into learning second and third language to keep Europe integrated and to prevent wars from breaking out. Maybe that is the root of the belief among Europeans that it is good to learn multiple languages.

But I can't help notice that if there were a button that when pushed, makes it so that all of Europe (or all of the world) magically becomes fluent in the same language, I would vote for pushing the button: the advantages are great (namely, freeing up time currently devoted to the learning of second and third European languages for learning more potent things) and the risks are low IMO (the main risk being the small probability that different languages really do confer on their learners significantly different cognitive strengths and weaknesses).


Swiss here. Many if not most not actually speak two languages (we have 4 btw) or at least not enough to have actual conversations. I even know people who live in split cities (also that's a thing, one river side German and one french) who basically avoid the French side and barely speak it either.

There are many exceptions to this for sure, after all German part has french for like 4 years at school. And older people more likely actually learned the language to the point of speaking it, younger people are usually much more skilled in English as their second language whatever they are French, German.


I’ve worked with lots of non-native English speakers. We “dumb down” our language the the level of the least fluent.

It isn’t really English. It’s “work English.”

I bet a lot more people speak “work English” than are fluent in the full language.


Language arrangements at the Court of Justice of the European Union

https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/jcms/Jo2_10739/en/

"The Court needs a common language in which to conduct deliberations. That language is, by custom, French."


Everybody uses Javascript, why use another programming language? English is newspeak.

They should just replace English as one of the three working language of the EU with esperanto / ido / interlingua or another conlang.


This is just a nationalist policy. Even the French don't think it's actually practical. It's just "see, France can push other countries around too".


Ireland: 99% English


I doubt it's as low as that!

Malta and the Netherlands are other countries where a large majority also speak English.

In some places in the EU the UK's union jack flag is being replaced with the Irish tricolour on bank ATM's display of language choices, which amuses the Irish.


If you consider the alternative to be monolingual Irish speakers, for sure they're way less than 1%, but I imagine if you group them with monolingual Polish/Portugese/Chinese speakers, you might get up to a whole percent


According to the wikipedia page linked above republic of ireland: total english speakers 98.37% as first languge 93.22%

For the UK the figures are: total speakers 98.3% as first language 92.3%


That is funny.


It's not actually a decision yet, is it? It's just something the French want to do. Presumably everyone else will oppose it, for the reasons you gave.


I'm from Spain (but also a native French speaker) and I totally agree.

I haven't done the math, but I'd bet in the EU there are probably more English speakers than any other native language.


Just as stupid as the plan to travel between Brussels and Strassbourg


Let's not forget about Ireland.


[flagged]


Nationalistic flamewar will get you banned on HN. No more of this, please.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I don't see it as a "nationalistic flamewar" as much as "calling spade a spade".


I totally get that, but the thing is: what determines whether you're making a high-quality/substantive or low-quality/flamewar contribution has not only do with your perspective, but also that of the reader—or rather the distribution of reader perspectives that your comment is landing with.

The key thing to understand is that the value of a comment is the expected value of the subthread it forms the root of: https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&sor....

If you want an in-depth explanation of this, the best one I know of is this lengthy interaction I had a few weeks ago with a commenter in a similar situation: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27161365. The in-depth portion starts here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27162386.


[flagged]


What is a category mistake?



* France: 0% proper English, 99.9% French

their English is terrîble


The ability of a native english speaker to speak any other language than their own is abysmal…


Not exactly surprising given the ubiquity of the English language. I always find it funny how it's used as a criticism of English speakers. We are no less able to learn other languages, it's just far less of a necessity. I can speak a bit of German, a bit of French, a bit of Japanese, a bit of Lingala, etc. Inevitably whenever I attempt to speak these languages in their native environments, I am spoken to in English. So I can learn them as a hobby but need to far less out of necessity.


You're sampling the wrong population - what you're doing is akin to finding the most popular "development environment" in a company by asking the entire staff complement (including those in marketing, facilities management and finance) their proficiencies. You're likely to settle on Excel as the preferred tech platform. Instead of asking everyone, ask your developers who'll be doing the actual work.


I don't think those numbers would change a lot if you asked people from the working demography.

I know very little people my age that speak enough French to be able to work, however, everyone I know my age speaks English.


This is a non-story. There are three working languages of the EU: English, French and German. Everyone in Brussels will roll their eyes, use French for six months and then revert to English because it’s the one most people speak.

Would they have done this if Brexit hadn’t happened? Yes, they would. France has a chip on its shoulder about French being replaced as the world’s lingua franca, but stunts like this aren’t going to bring it back. Not even in Brussels.


Indeed, it's mostly a non issue. There are so many translators working for EU institutions, that I don't see how it would change much.


English is the new Lingua Franca. ;-)


Yes this is political trolling, and should France get it way Hungary will counter troll and insist we adopt their language for 6 months next time around.


Hungarian is not a working language.


> Not even in Brussels.

Most people in Brussels already speak French... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francization_of_Brussels


Brussels being an phrase often used to mean EU governmental officials and diplomats.


Most of them live in Brussels and speak at least casual French.


I am quite sure they do. But the point was that those EU institutions will revert to using English as their main working language as they have been before the French turn at presidency of the EU begins.


You can live in Brussels just fine without speaking French


Yep, but this is more of an exception, still.


I'm currently reading a book about the Congress of Vienna and it's amazing that the Russian Tsar argued with the English ambassador in French. Here were all the rich and powerful men of Europe dividing up the continent and there wasn't a single translator needed.


The aristocrats in Russia back then probably spoke French as well as or better than Russian if Tolstoy books are to be believed.


^ This is right. It happened because of Peter the Great's westward alignment of the royal machinery and continued till the last Tsar.


Russian tsars are likely not even native Russian speakers. I listened to a recording recently -- the accent is obvious.

Same family https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/king-george-tsar-nicholas-1...


Interesting -- what kind of accent is it? Would it be most similar to the accent a German native speaker would have speaking Russian today?


That would have been Aleksandr I's first language even.


That sounds like an interesting read, what's the title of the book?


> the taste and pride of multilingualism

For everybody but the French, that is.

> that ersatz of the English language, which narrows the scope of one’s thoughts, and restricts one’s ability to express him or herself

And the ability to formulate a new policy with a subtle twist in your favor that no-one gets until it's too late.

Embarrassing.


> that ersatz of the English language, which narrows the scope of one’s thoughts, and restricts one’s ability to express him or herself

This sounds awfully close to Sapir–Whorf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_relativity


The quote is missing a bit of context, it's specifically referring to "Globish", or International English, not English per-se, but rather the variant of "simplified" English that only use intermediate-level vocabulary and grammar because that's the common ground between most non-native speakers.


> that ersatz of the English language, which narrows the scope of one’s thoughts, and restricts one’s ability to express him or herself

They should use Ithkuil instead then :D


I’d have thought they would have kept English as it’s effectively a neutral language at that point - it would be convenient to avoid accusations of German or French dominance should either push for their’s in English’s place


Bear in mind, this kind of French bloodymindedness is why we have "UTC" - because if they couldn't have "temps universel coordonné" (TUC) then we damn-sure weren't going to have "coordinated universal time" (CUT).


UTC works out better anyway. TUC and CUT are both terrible choices. With UTC the focus is on Universal Time and nobody cares what the C is for.


Universal Time as Coordinated


The UTC abbreviation was made as a compromise between french and english[1] rather than bloody-mindedness from any one nation. This was back in the day when such compromises could be reached without rancour.

For an example of the daft amounts of human life expended on examples of such trivialities, look at the amount of effort spent on arguing if the Concorde airplane should terminate with or without an 'e'.[2]

[1] https://www.space.com/what-is-utc.html

[2] https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/cabinet-office-100/the-s...


I did not know this was a thing! Fascinating!


As others said, this is just a French stunt during their 6-month presidency, which is being amplified in the Anglo press because of post-Brexit tensions. The actual working languages will stay the same. Half the Union would probably leave tomorrow, if French really became the dominant language.

One of the marvels of the EU institutional cathedral is the way they can manage effectively more than a dozen different languages. Yes, there are a handful of preferred ones, but in the end everything has to be translated to even the most obscure lingo. Sadly, instead of celebrating this epic taming of Babel, the French insist in narrow-minded cultural imperialism (as a reaction to Anglo-american imperialism, many of them would probably retort...), so they periodically pull these stunts. Nobody really cares, but if it keeps them invested in the Union, I'm happy to let them play king for 6 months.


Shame there's no real-world interest in the powers that be to officialize Esperanto.


What would be the point? Might as well make Klingon an official language.


One is designed to be easy to learn, to be regular and logical and use roots familiar to European ears, the other is designed to sound alien.

(Does Klingon have a word for bridge-of-a-ship and not bridge-over-water, or is that just an urban legend?)


https://www.kli.org/about-klingon/new-klingon-words/date/# says that QI is klingon for bridge over water.


QI? Curiously, that’s the name of the TV show where I think I heard the claim. I wonder if it was added and given that form as a direct result of that appearance on that show? (The timing is plausible, but I don’t have a detailed enough memory to find which episode).


If Klingon were invented in Europe and designed to be a pan-european easy-to-learn language, sure. Otherwise, Esperanto has some desirable attributes as a universal second language.


There are other, better-designed conlangs than Esperanto. Nobody speaks them, sure, but nobody speaks Esperanto either. And if we're going by popularity, might as well pick English anyway.


Esperanto has a pretty big, organised and active community. But you're right. I also think popularity should be the decider. If Esperanto thinks it should be the chosen auxiliary language, it will have to earn it.

Personally though, I prefer Ido over Esperanto.


Define "pretty big".


Around year 2000 there were about 2 million speakers. It's way above any other conlang.


That's akin to being the biggest fish in a fishbowl. There are minor dialects of minor languages with more speakers.


The question was about conlangs, which have the advantage of being designed to be easier to learn.

Esperanto is so easy it can be learned in negative time.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaedeutic_value_of_Espera....


"Easy-to-learn" is very subjective. There's a lot of different languages spoken in the EU and the accessibility of a language environment matters.


> "Easy to learn" is very subjective

Not really. For example, a language that has no grammatical gender is inarguably easier to learn than a one that has.


All other things being the same. English doesn’t have much grammatical gender, but is a mess.


Yes really. About your example, what have you heard about the difficulty of learning Finnish and Estonian?

That aside, there's no way there's an universal easy-to-learn language. Language families are very different.


Finnish has no grammatical gender. Is it easier to learn than Spanish?


That was just one example but you win I guess. What I had in my mind was for a Spanish speaker it's probably easier to learn a hypothetical Romance language that doesn't have grammatical gender than say French.


So first, I would say that the notion of ease of learning a language is a purely relative one, which is what GGP probably meant. It is easy for an Estonian speaker to learn Finnish, a Dane to learn Swedish, etc., but quite difficult for an English speaker to learn Finnish. As another example, Mandarin on its face should be an easy language to learn because the grammar is very simple - there are no tenses, no cases, no gender, no inflection whatsoever. There's tone, sure, but this isn't the difficult part of understanding Mandarin for a native English speaker. Regarding grammar specifically, despite Mandarin seeming to possess a nominally simpler grammar, speakers use patterns that would appear alien to most speakers of European languages. For example, from section on cleft sentences[0]:

他昨天买的是菜

Literally, this means 'He yesterday buy of is vegetable', but the meaning is 'What he bought yesterday is vegetables'. The way the grammar in this sentence corresponds to its meaning may seem unusual to you, but it is effortless and natural to a Mandarin speaker. And these sorts of invisible grammatical features exist in every language. Most European languages descend from a common ancestor, so it is not so noticeable, and instead we notice the grammatical features that are different between languages: cases, gender, tenses, etc. And Esperanto, being based in these languages, also inherits these unnoticed grammatical biases. A Mandarin speaker learning Esperanto would have the same difficulty as an English speaker learning some Mandarin-derived conlang that 'simplified' certain visible grammatical features. Esperantists tout success in speakers of Asian languages learning Esperanto, but there are many more cases of speakers of Asian languages learning English.

Anyway, I don't think things like gender matter so much when it comes to the practical aspect of learning a language, or even mistakes in semantic grammatical features like case or tense. A native speaker isn't going to be unable to understand you because you flub some of the grammar such as the gender of some noun. Consider when you hear non-native English speakers make mistakes - are you unable to understand sentences like 'I go to bank' or 'Yesterday I eat restaurant'?

So these are the two flaws of Esperanto:

1. Esperanto's grammar is still very much Romance + Germanic-like, so ease of learning it is relative to familiarity with languages in those families.

2. To the extent that Esperanto's grammar is simpler, it doesn't particularly matter from a language acquisition perspective.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_grammar


Esperanto is still one of the easiest languages for Chinese to learn and the grammar is not very European; it also has elements mostly found in Asian languages:

https://www.translationdirectory.com/article715.htm

The Chinese are actually one of the biggest supporters of Esperanto too, offering degrees in it from major universities, regular broadcasts on official radio and some years ago teaching it in primary school.


True. I struggled with Esperanto for 10 years, only to give up and try Ido.


What's your native tongue? I guess that would make non insignificant difference


English and a long time Finnish learner/speaker (because of migration).


Esperanto is considerably easier to learn than Klingon.


Quenya would be a much better sounding option.


Too many people actually speak Klingon, and it was invented in the US. Non-starter.


It would be a cool sci-fi reference, yep.


A language with no literature or culture has no business in the halls of state. Such a language is arguably not even a language in the real sense, but a code. A vernacular is needed - language must live and evolve.


Esperantists have tried, creating a pale imitation of the real thing, as if culture were something you could bootstrap by mixing the right ingredients as you would some sort of cake.


Si. Esperanto havas problemojn, kaj tio estas la plej gravan.


Esperanto havas problemojn. La Ido estas la solvo :P


To some of them, sure. But even fewer have heard of it.


  Se ti sabir
  Ti respondir
  Se non sabir
  Tazir, tazir


That would be even less practical, as almost no-one speaks esperanto.


No... We don't deserve this (not yet).


Doing so strikes me as being impractical in the extreme. English would still be the the lingua franca in every other domain, so it would just mean that Europeans would have one additional lingua franca to have to learn. It doesn't matter how easy that language is to learn, it's still an extra, and almost certainly redundant, effort.

I'm not going to bother finding the hyperlink for the relevant xkcd comic, because we've all seen it before.


Or Ido.


Are the Irish a joke to you?


It's worth remembering that in addition to not being one of the two historic mainland European powers whose languages happen to be the other working languages of the EU (and therefore unlikely to be jostling for supremacy in a post-Brexit EU), Ireland has been famously neutral during its existence as an independent nation. So I don't see what the problem is with characterising English as a "neutral" language in this context.


I _am_ Irish. Due to its small size, its small population, and comparative recency on the world stage, Ireland does not hold the same level of prestige or historical political clout in the EU as France, or Germany (or even the UK when it was a member).

You also forget about the Maltese. The combined population of the two would still make it a middling region of France like Grand Est or a somewhere between Rheinland-Pfalz and Hesse in the case of the German Länder.


Every country in the EU can choose one language as the national language. Ireland chose Irish.


I say if you want a universal language everyone should learn Latin. Now you won't offend anyone. Except the French.


Joking aside, it's a shame Esperanto didn't catch on. One of its features is that it's fairly easy to learn, unlike something like Latin.


Latin is pretty easy to learn. That’s one reason it was a second language for so long.

Latin even has a large amount of texts written at a basic level. Works like Summa Theologica and the Vulgate Bible were written in extremely simple language.

It has a very small vocabulary. There are some weird edge cases (imperative plural, for example), but even they follow common rules.


Well it's a growing movement, so it's still catching on. Who knows, it could become popular enough one day.


Growing for a century and a half, still spoken by fewer people than minor dialects of minor languages.


Time is not really a good measurement in this case. It was doing quite well until it was unfortunately nearly killed off by WW2. It's recent rise in popularity has been due to the tools people have been given to create and host various forms of media and learning platforms on the internet.

If you poll, you will find today that most people will not be aware of the concept of an international auxiliary language. This gives the adoption of one (not necessarily Esperanto) some kind of hope.


In case there are any other French-reading Latin-philes out there: https://www.lefigaro.fr/vox/culture/et-si-la-langue-officiel...


Pretty offensive to me.


Great, well then I suggest that we just repeat this process whenever a new presidency takes over. Wonder when it's Denmark's turn again - we really missed the opportunity in 2012 by being so darn agreeable all the time.


Are there other countries than Denmark speaking danish in the EU , or elsewhere ?


It's a recognised minority language in Germany, specifically in Schleswig-Holstein.


I take it that GPs point is that it makes just as little sense, to change the working language to danish, purely based on presidency.


There's no other country in the EU that speaks French, either. And by numbers, German should prevail.


Your first point is incorrect: Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Monaco [1]

http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/european_languages/languages/...


Switzerland and Monaco aren’t in the EU


Parts of Belgium. Just ~35% of Belgiums are French speakers. Most speak Dutch. Same for Switzerland, most Swiss speak German.


Flemish I think. Although it's pretty similar to Dutch.


Flemish is not a language, it's a dialect. The language is Dutch.


That's an opinion, not a fact, and one that depends on who you ask and where. If you go to the Flanders region people will certainly tell you they speak Flemish.

Language researchers can argue all they want about how languages should be grouped, but they sound different, they use different words, and people call them different things. It is simply incorrect to state that people in Belgium speak Dutch. Might as well just expand the group to include German and English (etc) and say they speak Germanic.

Fun fact, the Dutch call their language Nederlands and refer to German as Duits ("Dutch").


The language is Dutch, the collection of dialects spoken in the Flanders region is Flemish. If you're feeling charitable, you can refer to it as a language variant.

Here is the constitution of Belgium: https://www.senate.be/doc/const_nl.html Articles 2 and 3 define the Flemish (Vlaamse) community and region. Article 4 defines the language areas and specifically mentions Dutch (Nederlands), not Flemish.

See also: the Dutch Language Union (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_Language_Union) being founded on a treaty between the Netherlands and Belgium.

For a language that's derived from Dutch but now its own proper language, try Afrikaans.


> If you go to the Flanders region people will certainly tell you they speak Flemish.

And they would be right. They do indeed speak the Flemish dialect.

> That's an opinion, not a fact, and one that depends on who you ask and where

I don't see how it is "an opinion" if Flemish literally adheres to "Standaardnederlands" (https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standaardnederlands). Your analogy to German doesn't make any sense here. The Dutch language doesn't adhere to some "Germanic" standard language or anything, and barely has any grammar rules in common with German (even though the languages are very similar).


How could I forget Belgium. Damn!


There’s Belgium and Luxembourg, but sure…


Don't tell the Belgians.


Part of them agrees, probably...


Belgians agreeing ?


I can see the logic, since UK isn't part of the EU anymore, but considering over all amount of people who can speak and understand English vs France EU wide this is pretty silly show of power.

After all even if EU matters were done purely in french it wouldn't be "the killer feature" to make french be taught much more in schools since english is the universal business language. And even if EU states decided that they needed to start teaching another language besides english to their kids to prepare them for future employment I would actually go for chinese instead of french. Because that will be the next actual global language by the end of this century unless humanity nukes it self out of existence.


as a non-chinese person, in Taiwan currently I would say otherwise. with Chinese learning english to remain competitive. And currently english schools demand a premium. And likewise foreign english teachers are paid more than locals. Taiwan for example wants to become bilingual by 2030. though, personally, I don't see that happening.

Majority of business communication worldwide is already in english so are technical docs. well, unless it's electronic stuff which is in chinese | german. Culturally america's most known exports are in english.

So yeah, what France is pushing is largely stupid, though i'm an ardent listener of French hip hop.


> After all even if EU matters were done purely in french

That is not going to happen. Nothing is done purely in one language in the EU. The language rules are deeply embedded in the treaties; changing this would require quite a lot of countries to agree formally. The three work languages of the Commission are English, French, and German, and that’s not going to change. What can change is which one of these is used the most.


I think English as the universal language is probably a done deal at this point. Then again people probably thought that about French back in the day.


> even if EU states decided that they needed to start teaching another language besides english to their kids

It's already the case that we learn another language beside English in most (all?) of the EU. Typically French, German or Spanish.

It's also an explicit goal of the EU that every citizen speak two additional languages besides their own native language.


Ireland, however, is still a part of the EU.


The UK left, sure. But Ireland still exists


But Ireland did not choose English as their EU language, they chose Irish.


The only thing to see here is the humor of the highest French diplomats reforcing extreme ethnocentric stereotypes about the French people -- the man on the street will snobbishly ignore your request of directions if not attempted in French first -- on the global stage: The EU president will ignore your country's pleas if not communicated in French first.


Spanish is the way to go: the most spoken language in the world among the ones spoke in EU, very simple to learn for many countries in EU, quite regular, very spoken in the US. French is a terrible language from the POV of pronunciation rules: it is insane to abandon English to pick the language that gave English many of its problems.


Yet another example of the EU and its institutions being a reflection of the career academics and politicians that dominate it.

Arrogant, privileged, disconnected from reality, risk averse and comfortably protected by the bureaucracy which they use to masquerade the gross in efficiency of the whole apparatus.

The UK leaving the EU should have been the loud wake up call it needed to shape up.

As it so often happens in arrogant filled relationships, the departing party is appointed the entirety of the blame.


The irony here is that English is widely spoken mainly because it is the dominant language in America, a superpower where people resolutely refuse to learn any other languages.

Even if France's motivations are purely nationalistic, it's really no different or worse than how we arrived at the status quo.


Nonsense article. France is pushing for this but the other EU countries have no reason to go along with it. Especially in the East no one speaks French, so their citizens and companies would be at a severe disadvantage - from getting people into EU jobs to the various funding calls for reaearch, digitalization, etc everything is currently in English and most Europeans would suffer from a switch to French. Even Germany has no reason to go along with it as it would downgrade German (currently there are three working languages: EN, FR, DE). The EU still retains two countries with English as official language (Ireland and Malta) and clearly it is the most widely spoken second language.

In short: no chance.


But French is even worse. To hell with these non-phonetical languages. I am serious. I'd take Latin over these unpredictable monstrosities any day of the week


Spanish is an almost ideal modern language - it is straightforward in all important respects, while 90% of its vocabulary should be familiar to pretty much everyone.


Un ironically, Spaniards are too modest to even suggest this, but Spanish seems like an ideal solution to this issue.


And used by ~600m people in latin america.


French writing is quite phonetic and regular, but there's an extra layer of etymological orthography which confuses people who need to learned digraphs and trigraphs. But English has them too, and there's much more irregular.


There is something contradictory and insincere about being so concerned about the eminence of French in multilingual European institutions. Multilingualism is the reality today in Europe, English being only a neutral enough language of convenience for international communication. A tiny comparison of French and English orthography seems a bad argument for promoting French in Europe.


That's the trick : English is _not_ neutral. It is perceived, with quite a bit of truth, as a vehicle for English-speaking culture (duh) and in particular American strategies and worldviews. The way specifically American social topics have exported over social networks to Europe in a linear relationship to the degree of English-speaking is quite telling in that respect. There's also a worry that it would hasten the road to the exact opposite of multi-lingualism, that is mono-culture. There's no universe in which adopting English wholeheartedly would somehow result in German, French, Spanish and others receiving the same amount of attention or respect.

It's a fruitless discussion if you pretend that all languages are equal and have the same inertia and networks effects anyway. The network effects of English are too strong, and there would be absolutely no coming back from openly using it as a Paneuropean vehicular language. It's a massive civilisational choice, not some technical detail.

As for orthography, I was merely making an observation. The formal history of both French and English are interesting. I don't think it's a valid point in favour of one language or the other.


I don't think all languages are created equal. Given the arrogance with which the French expect others to use their language, I prefer English. Or German, as it is the only other working language of the European institutions. Anything but French would be fine.


Literary French is quite phonetic, at least outside proper names. What are some examples where you feel that French writing is not in a one to one relation with pronunciation?


Apart from all the silent letters, which are fairly regular (and I assume is what you're getting at) there's a fair number of pronunciation exceptions.

See the different ways of pronouncing "tous" or the different words that have irregularly silent "l"s (e.g. fusil) and other irregularly silent consonants in the middle of words (e.g. automne).

French has quite a lot of exceptions to its pronunciation rules in addition to its already fairly complex regular relationship between letters and sounds.

EDIT: Oh I forgot my pet peeve: there are so many exceptions to the pronunciation of "er" that it's kind of misleading to give its pronunciation as the equivalent of an English "a" as in "slate" (hiver, cher, cancer, mer, the list goes on and on and on).


Those are some good examples, you're right. It is quite a bit less regular than I remembered from my high-school days.

For 'er' though, isn't the rule essentially that it is pronounced 'a' at the end of verbs, and 'ar' otherwise? I realize that is not a phonetic rule, though.


Unfortunately no. See e.g. boulanger, cahier, etc. (Although I do believe you're correct about verbs, I wasn't able to think of any verbs that pronounce "er" irregularly).

I don't know of any regular, even semantic, rule off the top of my head that covers when it should be pronounced which way for non-verbs. I wonder if someone more versed in French etymology could find one.


How many ways are there to spell the sound ō (as in l’eau) in French? I once read that it was over 30, but it might have been a tongue-in-cheek joke, like "ghoti" as an alternate spelling of "fish"[1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghoti


As far as I know, there are two: 'o' (as in 'bon') and 'eau' (as in 'beau').While that's one more than it should have been necessary, it's not that bad I think.


maux? culot?

I feel like we can find more ;-)

But I have learned I had a misconception about what a phonetic spelling is. I had thought that a phonetic spelling had the property of every sound in the language having one way to spell it, but that is not the case; instead for every grapheme there is one sound.

As a native English speaker, learning a little French (after German and Latin) opened my eyes to the horrors of English. Really French is very tame in comparison.


Forgot about 'au'; I think the x and t in these examples are misleading, they are just part of the general rule that final consonants are not pronounced (though there are exceptions to that rule).



Granted, my experience with French is rather limited and the language could be pretty consistent internally. But there's lots of utter madness such as "beacoup" which is literally "buku".

Sorry for being blunt but pronouncing 50% of the letters is extremely non phonetical. There's just no other way of putting it


Beaucoup is 'boku', not 'buku'. And having groups of letters be pronounced as a single sound is not the opposite of being phonetical, as long as the groups are used consistently (e.g. -eau- is always pronounced 'o', -ou- is always pronounced 'u', final consonants are never pronounced etc.) .

Granted, the sibling comment lists quite a few exceptions to these rules, but it is still quite a regular language.

The system of silent consonants is quite useful in keeping the language have somewhat regular declensions/conjugations. If they were not preserved, it would seem that French conjugations are mad, inventing consonants out of thin air. For example, coup/coupee, meaning to cut/ cut (up), are pronounced ku/kupe. This would make it seem like the participle is adding -pe to the infinitive (and it would add -te or -ze or many others), when in fact the participle is almost always adding -e, which forces the consonant in the root to be pronounced, since French really hates hiatuses.

If anything, French phonetics are the real problem, aggressively dropping consonants of the end of words, but loathing hiatuses, sometimes even between words in literary contexts (where sometimes a 't' or 'z' sound is added between a word ending in a vowel and the next word beginning with a vowel, 'la liaison').


French is fairly predictable, there are pronunciation rules. On the other hand you have English where you have things like "weird", "weight", "heir" and "receipt", "recipe" and say "sniper", this uncertainty around "data", "direct", "neither" etc, and as a pragmatic rule there are no pronunciation rules really, you have to learn the language twice.

If your native language has sane spelling correspondences this feature of English never ceases to amaze and to be honest baffle, even bother you.

Will this vowel in this particular word be the diphthong you'd expect according to the patterns you've inferred up to this point or some wild monophtong just because? Let's find out!

As for the French, good for them, they speak a world language that is also one of the three working languages of the EU. My native language is another world language. English is a lingua franca nowadays, but there's no methaphysical necessity about speaking English, it's just popular enough and therefore convenient.


I think you're confusing things. A difference between the number of written characters and the number of phonemes doesn't make a language "non-phonetic" if you mean consistency between spelling and pronunciation.

What matters is that a sequence of symbols _consistently_ matches a phoneme. For example, you'll find that the "u" phoneme is often written as "ou" in French. Same thing for the "o" sound and "eau" (you misspelt "beaucoup").

What I would consider "non-phonetic" is the set "though", "through", "thorough", and "thought" in English, where "ough" has four different sounds.


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