France and Germany call to phase out English as EU’s working language (Prima Aprilis)

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France and Germany call to phase out English as EU’s working language (Prima Aprilis)

Postby Raconteur » Wed Mar 31, 2021 10:31 pm

UPDATE: as we're approaching April 2nd, I think it's time to warn one and all that this was a not-so-elaborate Prima Aprilis (aka April Fools' Day) prank. What did we learn today? Not that many of us open links or review sources before commenting :lol: ...or maybe they did, but just didn't want to spoil the fun? 8-) Either way, thank you lysi for calling it out (so I didn't have to!) I was losing hope there for a second!
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Currently, the working/procedural languages of the European Commission are English, French and German.
https://ec.europa.eu/stages/faq/which-a ... mission_en

Given Brexit, however, it looks like Germany and France are now making a push (or testing the waters at least) to deemphasize English, with a proposal to phase it out by 2026.

I find this interesting, especially given the slipping role of French as the language of diplomacy in the last decades. French used to be the de facto language of international affairs. To this day, it shares equal status with English as the working language of the United Nations and the European Union. However, anyone who has spent any time in Geneva or New York (UN) can tell you that the younger generation strongly prefers English as the working language… with some serious eye rolls when a document is distributed only in French. Some younger staff (and even some diplomats!) don’t speak French at all, and aren’t really bother by it either, something unthinkable only a few decades ago.

This move by France (along with Germany) could thus lead to the reemergence of French as the primary international language, at least within Europe. While Germany will remain a working language, I think French will become the dominant one.

The joint proposal, can be found (in French) on the website of the Permanent Representation of the Republic of France to the European Union (Représentation permanente de la France auprès de l'Union européenne). This is sort of like the equivalent of an embassy (but to an international organization rather than a foreign government). I’m guessing the Germans have something published on their site as well.

The text is in the “Déclarations des derniers Conseils des Ministres” section:
https://ue.delegfrance.org/declarations ... s-conseils

What do you think? I guess from the perspective of us, language nerds, this is pretty cool – English has been so dominant, so seeing other major languages recover a bit of prominence is a welcome development imo.

Certainly, this is the first time I see a move away from English… anywhere, in my lifetime. So, that’s kind of exciting.

On the other hand, I wonder how this will affect work. In practical terms, English is dominant. France and Germany certainly have enough power to push for this change, but I imagine there will be a lot of grumbling. In any case, if this goes through a lot of younger staff and even some younger diplomats will be scrambling to improve their French and/or German :lol:
Last edited by Raconteur on Thu Apr 01, 2021 9:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: France and Germany call to phase out English as EU’s working language

Postby Faust » Wed Mar 31, 2021 10:44 pm

Do you think there is a chance the EU would choose a third working language? Maybe Italy could make a push for Italian as they are the third most populous country now and have the third largest EU economy.
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Re: France and Germany call to phase out English as EU’s working language

Postby lysi » Wed Mar 31, 2021 10:44 pm

I'd love for this to happen, or at least a codification of a Standard European English WITH a good spelling reform.

It's probable that nothing will happen though, like usual.
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Re: France and Germany call to phase out English as EU’s working language

Postby Iversen » Wed Mar 31, 2021 11:29 pm

Faust wrote:Do you think there is a chance the EU would choose a third working language? Maybe Italy could make a push for Italian as they are the third most populous country now and have the third largest EU economy.


Not a chance ... It will be French and German and English as if nothing had happened (such as Brexit).
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Re: France and Germany call to phase out English as EU’s working language

Postby Faust » Wed Mar 31, 2021 11:34 pm

Iversen wrote:
Faust wrote:Do you think there is a chance the EU would choose a third working language? Maybe Italy could make a push for Italian as they are the third most populous country now and have the third largest EU economy.


Not a chance ... It will be French and German and English as if nothing had happened (such as Brexit).

My alternative suggestion was going to be Esperanto :D
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Re: France and Germany call to phase out English as EU’s working language

Postby Raconteur » Wed Mar 31, 2021 11:37 pm

Faust wrote:Do you think there is a chance the EU would choose a third working language? Maybe Italy could make a push for Italian as they are the third most populous country now and have the third largest EU economy.
Unfortunately, I don't think so. The proposal doesn't mention replacing English with anything new. So just German and French from now on.

Oh well. I'm learning Italiano, so it would be nice for me :lol:
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Re: France and Germany call to phase out English as EU’s working language

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Thu Apr 01, 2021 12:29 am

They can make the official languages whatever they want, but I’m willing to bet they will discuss the documents in English.
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Re: France and Germany call to phase out English as EU’s working language

Postby Raconteur » Thu Apr 01, 2021 12:56 am

Lawyer&Mom wrote:They can make the official languages whatever they want, but I’m willing to bet they will discuss the documents in English.
Working/procedural languages of the European Commission are not the same as the "official" languages of the EU (there are over 20). Certainly, English will continue to play a role, sanctioned or not. But, designation of working/procedural has real consequences too. After all, EU is a huge bureaucracy, and not just an office space for leaders to hash things out.

Anyway, the linked proposal outlines some of the major changes.
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Re: France and Germany call to phase out English as EU’s working language

Postby EGP » Thu Apr 01, 2021 3:00 am

This is a very timely topic, but I do believe it would be very foolish for many in Europe to denounce English in such a way this month or at least not today since it is today, in 1999, eleven countries in the European Union adopted the Euro as a common currency as the dream of monetary union became reality. It would further take away from this coming together.
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Re: France and Germany call to phase out English as EU’s working language

Postby lowsocks » Thu Apr 01, 2021 4:11 am

Raconteur wrote:The joint proposal, can be found (in French) on the website of the Permanent Representation of the Republic of France to the European Union (Représentation permanente de la France auprès de l'Union européenne). This is sort of like the equivalent of an embassy (but to an international organization rather than a foreign government). I’m guessing the Germans have something published on their site as well.

The text is in the “Déclarations des derniers Conseils des Ministres” section:
https://ue.delegfrance.org/declarations ... s-conseils
Sorry to have to ask, but my French is not very good, and there are many documents on that page. Which document are you referring to? Thanks very much!
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