Now that everyone’s out of the ditch and Brexit is getting done what are the implications for the continuation of English as an official language of the EU? Back in the day Dutch, French, German and Italian were all identified as official EU working languages and with us no longer being in the club they don’t need to pander to our lack of multi-linguistic ability. Or do they?
In order to formally remove the English language there would have to be a unanimous vote of the remaining twenty-seven countries within the European Parliament in favour of doing so, and this is just not going to happen. Irrespective of our diminished standing within Europe, English is spoken as either an official first or adopted second language in more than seventy countries worldwide. And even as the British Empire and influence declined, the US ramped-up its influence to help extend ours. In post-colonial India, our language was supposed to be phased out post-independence in favour of Hindi. However, as it transpires, not everyone within the Indian subcontinent either spoke Hindi, or more importantly, wanted to do so, and the growth of English continued unabated. More recently, despite the return of the colony to mainland China in the late 90s, the language retains its official status within Hong Kong.
So, Brexiters and remoaners alike, united in our fear of having to learn a foreign language, sleep easy in your beds as there’s no pressing need to sign-up to your local linguistic college course anytime soon. English will not cease to be the central, core language of the EU as all EU member states are able to converse, communicate and conduct everyday business using it. Every cloud has a silver lining! The position of English, as the de facto global lingua franca, a language used for communication between people who do not share a native official language, is assured.
Mind, there’s little room for complacency as the decline of the previously all-conquering, all-powerful Roman Empire perhaps indicates: once upon a time, throughout the ancient world Latin was everyone’s second language but no-one’s first…