Sunday, August 1, 2010

French vs. English and the EU

Blogger and Harvard professor Art Goldman has added this post about the wan status of French language in EU policy circles. The following is from a New York Times article on the announcement of European foreign policy chief Lady Catherine Ashton's plans to take French courses this summer.

"French was once the unchallenged lingua franca of European integration. Until 1995, French had the monopoly in the European Commission press room, where Anglophone journalists had to address their questions to English spokespeople in French. 

"That position became unsustainable when Sweden and Finland joined the bloc in the mid-1990s, followed by 10 East European countries in the last decade. In many of these countries, English is the second language, with French well down the list. 

"According to the European Commission, the number of documents it sent for translation with English as the original language was 72.5 percent in 2008, the same as the year before. The proportion of original texts in French dropped to 11.8 percent in 2008 from 12.2 percent in 2007. (...)"

These and other indicators suggest a clear decline of French in official spheres. In what seems a tellingly robust display of counter-measures, the Permanent Representation of France in the EU has an entire web page devoted to representing the strength of French language in Brussels and other European capitals. But just in case, Brussels policymakers can still sign up for free French courses geared specifically for them. And for the rest of us mortals, there's always the Alliance Française.

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