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  1. #1
    Hansum Man! panama hat's Avatar
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    English as the Lingua Franca, a good thing for the British?

    From The Economist print edition




    Feb 12th 2009
    The adverse side-effects of the growing dominance of English

    LAST summer, on the Atlantic coast of France, Charlemagne was introduced to a fine beach game: building big sand-walls near the shoreline in the face of a rising tide. It is a more thought-provoking activity than building sandcastles, with a nice melancholic tinge. The walls last a surprisingly long time, resisting the lapping tide with the help of energetic patching and fresh buckets of dry sand. But when they fail, they fail quickly. It takes just two or three big waves to signal doom:
    once water flows behind the defences, even the thickest ramparts are swift to collapse.

    European efforts to resist the rise of the English language have now reached the same point. The latest Anglo-surge comes from the European press, with a dramatic increase in the number of heavyweight publications launching English-language websites, offering translated news stories and opinion pieces.

    English-language publications aimed at expatriates and tourists have been common for years. But the new development involves big, established national journals, whose bosses want to be more visible in English. Der Spiegel, a German newsweekly, has founded a pan-European "network"
    linking up such websites. A Dutch daily, NRC Handelsblad, joined a few months ago, followed by Politiken from Denmark. The trio are in talks with newspapers in France and Spain. They are eager to expand into eastern Europe, though the credit crunch is likely to slow progress (an online English edition can cost half a million euros a year in translation fees). Beyond this network, a non-exhaustive trawl finds English-language websites of big newspapers in Germany, Italy, Finland, Greece, Spain, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and Turkey. Many are recent ventures.

    Editors' motives are a mix of idealism and commercial ambition. Bosses at Spiegel have a political dream to create a platform where "Europeans can read what other Europeans think about the world," says Daryl Lindsey, who runs the magazine's international edition. But an English presence is also a "calling card" when pitching to international advertisers. It has proved helpful to journalists seeking interviews with world leaders. Kees Versteegh of NRC Handelsblad talks of creating a European "demos", but also admits to frustration at publishing some "very fine pieces" in Dutch that the rest of the world never notices.

    The evidence points to the imminent collapse of the European Union's official language policy, known as "mother tongue plus two", in which citizens are encouraged to learn two foreign languages as well as their own (ie, please learn something besides English). Among Europeans born before the second world war, English, French and German are almost equally common. But according to a Eurobarometer survey, 15-to-24-year-olds are five times more likely to speak English as a foreign language than either German or French. Add native speakers to those who have learnt it, and some 60% of young Europeans speak English "well or very well".

    This is a clear win for English. But paradoxically, it does not amount to a win for Europe's native English-speakers. There are several reasons for this. Start with a political one. European politicians long feared that the use of English in the EU would lead to the dominance of Anglo-Saxon thinking. They were wrong. The example of newspapers is
    instructive: thanks to English (and the internet), a genuinely pan-European space for political debate is being created. It has never been easier for other Europeans to know what Poles think about the credit crunch, Germans about the Middle East or Danes about nuclear power. English is merely "an instrument", says Mr Versteegh of NRC Handelsblad, not "a surrender to a dominant culture."

    There is a second reason why Anglophones are not about to dominate European debate: they do not want to. British readers have access to an unprecedented range of news and ideas from Europe in their mother tongue. They show little interest. Only 5% of Spiegel International's readers are from Britain (though half are from North America). In recent years, British newspapers have withdrawn staff reporters right across Europe, and not only to save money. Britain's daily newspapers are less and less interested in European politics and policy. Light, sensational stuff is what editors choose for publication, plus tales of British tourists and expatriates in trouble (a genre known as "Brits in the shit").
    Why bother?

    Such parochialism may be linked to a fall in language-learning, accelerated since 2003, when foreign languages became voluntary in England and Wales for pupils over 14. That robs them of such benefits as the humility and respect for others that come from learning another language. But given the rise of English, it is rational, says Philippe van Parijs, a Belgian academic.

    Under his "maxi-min rule", Mr van Parijs observes that speakers at EU meetings automatically choose the language that excludes the fewest people in the room. They do not use the language best known, on average, by those present (which in some meetings will still be French). Instead, they seek the language that is understood, at least minimally, by all.
    Thanks to EU enlargement to the east (and poor language skills among British and Irish visitors to Brussels), this is almost always English.
    That means Britons find it ever harder to justify learning other languages. Even when they do, they have to speak other languages extremely well to avoid inflicting halting French, say, on rooms of fluent English-speakers. And it carries other costs. In Brussels, native English-speakers are notoriously hard for colleagues to understand: they talk too fast, or use obscure idioms.

    *_Mr van Parijs has a prediction: Europeans will become bilingual, except for Anglophones, who are becoming monolingual. _*In other words, just when the British should be happy, some nasty storm clouds are gathering. You could say it sounds rather like a day at the British seaside.
    Quite true, when I was working and living in Europe only very few mid- and senior-management positions were held by British people . . . most were German, Swiss or Dutch.
    The disadvantage of not knowing another language can clearly be seen pretty much across the board in this respect.

    Just as an example, I was transferred to NATO in Brussels because of my languages, ahead of other, more senior, officers.

    I may be easier to know you can order food anywhere being an English-native-speaker but the British eductaion system has let the pupils down again.
    Last edited by panama hat; 17-02-2009 at 08:39 PM. Reason: Adding commentary

  2. #2
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    What do the French and English have in common apart from their arrogance?

  3. #3
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    good2bhappy's Avatar
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    ^ They only speak one language (as a general rule)

  4. #4
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    Forget 'Esperanto', that is dead. Forget French as the 'other' international language- or more recently, the language of diplomacy & the international postal service. That died in the arse too.

    The international language is English, and those of us that were born in native English speaking countries (of which only a small minority are British) should be grateful for that- it sure makes things easier for us (save a few awkward Welsh Gaelics, Boers and Francophones).

    Which, in my opinion just makes it more important that native English speakers should also be taught another language, at least one. There is more to it than just the language- as you will know if you ever bothered (or were imposed upon) to learn. I routinely feel humiliated by people like the Dutch, who can typically roll on in about five different languages.

    A saying crops up, and I forget by whom, that goes something like "language is a window into the soul".
    probes Aliens

  5. #5
    Banned

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    When native English speaking countrymen {and women} venture from their beloved shores, they soon find out that a good portion of average folk worldwide might easily speak at least two languages. Sometimes 3-4. More common than not, really.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    "language is a window into the soul".
    I thought that was the eyes?

  7. #7
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    In Secondary schools in England you have to take a second language. In my day is was either French, German or Spanish.

    I took French for a total of 6 years. Oddly enough I got a better grade in French than I did in my English GCSE's!

    Have barely spoken a word of French since leaving school.

    Although I was at a party once with a large number of French people, I was the only English guy there. I 'joined' in their conversation in my broken rusty French, only to be later pulled aside by one of the French guys and told "Pleazze, don speek French, you speek French no good". To which I replied, "Oh, you won't tolerate my broken French, but I have to tolerate your broken English. I'll tell you what, fuck off and don't bother speaking to me ever again. Thank you".
    Last edited by filch; 18-02-2009 at 10:52 AM.

  8. #8
    Hansum Man! panama hat's Avatar
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    Eyes. Soul. You say potato, I say potatoe . . . or something like that.

    True, though . . . living in Malaysia I am surrounded by people who can speak, read, write more than one language and I'm not even talking about their mother tongue plus English . . . try Chinese, Malay and English . . .

    Being multi-lingual is certainly an advantage to those who simply have not or have not had the opportunity to learn an second language.

  9. #9
    Dan
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    In Secondary schools in England you have to take a second language. In my day is was either French, German or Spanish.
    Not any more. Shamefully, this has been abandoned. Instead, pupils can study such vacuous subjects as Media Studies.

    Although I was at a party once with a large number of French people, I was the only English guy there. I 'joined' in their conversation in my broken rusty French, only to be later pulled aside by one of the French guys and told "Pleazze, don speek French, you speek French no good".
    A Frenchman, talking like that!? I don't believe it!

    As for the OP, foreign language teaching in Britain is abysmal. My brother is one of those lucky bastards who can breeze through an airport lounge and come out the other side speaking the local language. He's fluent in Italian, Spanish, and French and is pretty good in German and Portuguese. As a direct consequence of this, he's had a very successful career in management consultancy across Europe (he happily admits that management consultancy is, by and large, the biggest pile of bullshit on the planet but he's happy to take advantage of the situation.)

  10. #10
    Dan
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    I also seem to remember reading that bi-/ multi-lingualism was related to reduced rates of senility, which explains rather a lot about Britain.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan
    A Frenchman, talking like that!? I don't believe it!
    I know! I couldn't believe it either!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan View Post
    Not any more. Shamefully, this has been abandoned. Instead, pupils can study such vacuous subjects as Media Studies.
    Are you sure? Since when?

  13. #13
    Dan
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    I should have been clearer. As I understand it, you still have to study a foreign language but a few years back the government changed the law so that you could drop it at 14. Not surprisingly, there was an immediate fall in the number of students taking foreign languages at GCSE - I really don't think British kids need any more encouragement to be shit at foreign languages.

  14. #14
    I am in Jail
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    Everyone of my generation had to do either French or German at school and we all did one or the other, but I don't know any of them today, including myself, who could speak more than two sentences in the languages.

    I really don't think we had the right attitude, nor our teachers.

  15. #15
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    Was is das? gerscmidsohemonsvitz already

  16. #16
    Dan
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    Everyone of my generation had to do either French or German at school and we all did one or the other, but I don't know any of them today, including myself, who could speak more than two sentences in the languages.
    I'm the same but I have just about enough to respond to Thai traffic cops in French. I thoroughly recommend it - the police give up instantly and I like to think that I've done what I can to tarnish France's international image.

  17. #17
    I am in Jail
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    ^laughing!

  18. #18
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    Seeing as English is an amalgamation of Old European languages, French and German (incl Scani languages) it is the only real choice for a united European language anyway.

    Every major company in Western Europe will insist upon a good level of English before you gain promotion, even if you never actually deal with English speaking people.

  19. #19
    Days Work Done! Norton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    Which, in my opinion just makes it more important that native English speakers should also be taught another language, at least one.
    Chinese would be my choice if I was a young aspiring career minded person.

  20. #20
    Hansum Man! panama hat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norton View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    Which, in my opinion just makes it more important that native English speakers should also be taught another language, at least one.
    Chinese would be my choice if I was a young aspiring career minded person.
    Good choice . . . so, you're not career-minded anymore?

  21. #21
    ทำไมคุณแปลนี้
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norton View Post
    Chinese would be my choice if I was a young aspiring career minded person.
    Either that or Spanish as a reasonably close second.

    English is a bastardization of many languages, from a few thousand Anglo-Saxons speaking the language to almost 1,500 million!

    For those who are interested, and care for a deep read pick up a copy of David Crystal's "The Stories of English".

    It's a tough read but pretty spot on with regards to how 'modern' English developed.

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