Academic journal article Trames

"Two Languages in Addition to Mother Tongue"-Will This Policy Preserve Linguistic Diversity in Europe?

Academic journal article Trames

"Two Languages in Addition to Mother Tongue"-Will This Policy Preserve Linguistic Diversity in Europe?

Article excerpt

Abbreviations: EU--European Union, LUL--lesser-used language, this term does not include official EU member state languages, LWUL--less widely used language, this term includes LULs and the small EU member state languages, RML--regional or minority language

1. Introduction

This article focuses on the problem of maintenance of linguistic diversity (1) and a multilingual environment in Europe. The European Union has stressed the multilingualism of Europe from the very beginning, from 1958, with Regulation No 1 of the Council of Ministers, which determined the four official and working languages of the European Economic Community. Since then, the official languages of all joining member states have been regarded as equal, having the status of official European Union languages. However, the situation in the field of linguistic diversity and the multilingual environment in Europe does not conform to the ideal; it leaves much to be desired (2).

The protection of the multilingual environment of Europe should be one of the priorities of the cultural and language policy of the European Union. There has been no explicit language policy (3) across the European Union. Since the late nineties, the institutions of the European Union have been quite modest in analyzing the impact of economic, demographic and cultural processes on the status, usage and possibilities of acquisition of European languages and in offering practical solutions to the problems that have recurred within European Union institutions (e.g. Ammon 2006, van Els 2005, Yves 2004:3, Lenaerts 2001, Pool 1996). Several authors consider that the European Union is only holding up a multilingual mask to the face of the reality, that the usage of English is increasing vis-a-vis other languages, and the LWULs are in a very vulnerable position (e.g. Caviedes 2003, Lenaerts 2001, Christiansen Vanting 2006). For example, Caviedes argues:

"... the trend towards English continues and the multilingual administration of the EU presents the idea that form is more important than substance, since in reality English becomes ever more hegemonic, even in the face of laws and policies aimed at preserving equality" (Caviedes 2003:254).

There are some major problems which are expected to be elaborated within the framework of the language policy of the European Union. One problem concerns the LWULs--either official (national) languages of EU small member states or non-official regional or minority (RML) languages (4). The latter have to resist pressure on both the international and national levels. The key question is whether LWULs should be protected explicitly, in order to promote the teaching and dissemination of LWULs vis-a-vis languages having large numbers of speakers (5). Today the LWULs, including RML (6) languages, can benefit from European Union programs based on common grounds.

The other problem, connected closely with the first one, is the question of a lingua franca. There is no official lingua franca in the European Union, nor is it mentioned in new documents. However, critics emphasize the inconsistency between the declared equality of languages, stated de jure, and the linguistic hegemony of English, sustained by global economic processes, proceeding de facto (e.g. Caviedes 2003, Christiansen Vanting 2006). The "free market" approach--in which there is no explicit language policy--would lead to a strengthening of the economic pressure to learn English. Therefore, some authors suggest officially establishing English as the lingua franca, in order to create a common communicative space (e.g. Wright 1999, Laitin 1992). Other authors suggest a planned or auxiliary language, such as Esperanto, to be employed as the lingua franca, in order to maintain equal opportunities for all languages (e.g. Christiansen Vanting 2006, Cwik 2006, Orlandi 2006).

From the beginning of the new century, the European Union has issued several documents which express its values and a framework for action to ensure the maintenance of the linguistic diversity of Europe. …

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