Tower of Babel; There Are 11 Official Languages in the European Union and despite Attempts to Make English the Language of Europe, the Minority Languages Are Fighting Back. Liz Davies Finds out More

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), December 15, 2001 | Go to article overview

Tower of Babel; There Are 11 Official Languages in the European Union and despite Attempts to Make English the Language of Europe, the Minority Languages Are Fighting Back. Liz Davies Finds out More


Byline: Liz Davies

YOU can see the logic in it: you have delegates from EU countries together, discussing a common subject, and they all speak to one another in a common language - English.

It would save time, because there are inevitable delays when all documentation and spoken words have to be translated; it would save confusion because unavoidable misunderstandings happen in the interpretation of another language and it would certainly save vast amounts of money as each language requires a back-up staff of around 200 people to sustain the service.

This, a few months ago, was the proposal made in Brussels, the home of the European Community, where there are currently 11 official languages. With more countries joining soon, this number will double, and its easy to understand the concerns of administrators about the use of language.

"Hang on", say the French. "Our language has always been the one most heard in the corridors of the European Parliament. We don't want to do business in English." And so say the Germans, the Italians, the Spanish. They may all learn English as their second language, but they won't let it take over their own.

Yr Iaith Fain (English) takes a close look at languages in Europe and at how English is growing, Triffid-like, taking over everything in its path and relating it all to what is happening here in Wales.

THE programme is presented by BBC Political Correspondent Guto Harri. Himself bilingual and working in a thoroughly English-speaking environment, he has found the situation in Europe fascinating.

In Scandinavia, for example, each country has its own official language. Numerically, Swedish is the strongest language in Scandinavia, but in Finland, Swedish is a minority language. It is spoken by around 300,000 people in the country and these people live a thoroughly bilingual life. These Swedishspeaking Finns face the same problems as any other minority language, he says.

The programme focuses on the effect English has on Europe's other languages and the way these languages cope with its influence.

English language and in turn, the AngloAmerican culture, asserts pressure on other languages and cultures, but according to Guto, the countries of Europe are fighting back.

In the 50s and 60s, the world eagerly awaited every statement from the front lines of Paris where Godard and Truffaut were rewriting the film rule book.

Gradually, France saw the increasing influence of Hollywood in its cinemas, for example, the recent film Chocolat, which is a Hollywood-style film from France. But today the French are fighting back, and both French and French-language films, such as Brotherhood of the Wolf and Amelie, are proving to be very popular today in France and beyond.

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Tower of Babel; There Are 11 Official Languages in the European Union and despite Attempts to Make English the Language of Europe, the Minority Languages Are Fighting Back. Liz Davies Finds out More
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