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Should English be the only official language of the EU?

Language is always going to be a contentious issue, bound as it is to questions of culture and identity. Whilst there are 24 official languages in the EU, studies suggest that almost 40% of Europeans speak English as a foreign language (not counting the 13% that speak it as a mother tongue). That’s almost four times as many foreign language speakers as either of the next most popular languages in Europe (French and German). And the English language is only growing increasingly more dominant, not just in Europe but around the world.

Curious about the status of English compared to other languages in Europe? We’ve put together some language statistics in the infographic below:

One of our Greek readers, Christos, sent us in a comment arguing that – whether people like it or not – English is the “emerging language of Europe”. He argued that English should be made the official language of the EU, so that everybody learns it next to their native tongue. Christos believes that this approach would help boost Europe’s economy and sense of unity, because it would make it easier for workers to travel and work anywhere in the Union:

? For example, if I as a Greek want to move to Hungary and I do not speak Hungarian, I could move there by just speaking English and get a job anywhere…

Hungary may not have been the best example, as that is the EU country where the greatest number of people (65%) admit to not speaking any foreign languages at all. However, his general point remains.

We recently put Christos’ suggestion to Androulla Vassiliou, the former EU Commissioner for Multilingualism. How would she respond? Have a look here.

Christos wasn’t alone in his suggestion. We also had a comment sent in from Pedro, who argued that we should be “honest” and admit that “the English language will dominate the world in the years to come, if it doesn’t already.” He argued that it should be mandatory for all students in the European Union to learn English as a foreign language at school.

We put this comment to Patricia Ryan, a language teacher at Zayed University in Dubai who has given a TED talk looking at whether the world’s focus on English might be preventing the spread of great ideas in other languages. How would she respond? Check it out here.

Should learning English as a foreign language be mandatory for all students in the European Union? Would having English as the official “common language of Europe” give a boost to the EU’s economy and sense of unity? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash