‘Time for counteroffensive’ French launch war on English language ‘completely crushed’

Brexit: 'No way' UK can have passporting outside EU says Beaune

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French right-wing author and commentator Éric Zemmour told CNEWS this week he believes the English language has “crushed” French and called for a boycott of English in the EU post-Brexit. Mr Zemmour argued that now the UK has left the Brussels bloc and only two countries remain in the EU with their first language as English, it is time to recall French as the EU’s official language.

He said: “English has completely crushed other languages, especially French.

“Indeed if the British had not left, if Brexit hadn’t happened, we would not be having this discussion.

“English was accepted by everyone, including the French.

“Now that the UK is gone, there are now only two English speaking countries: Malta and Ireland.

“Not that many compared to the entire EU population.

“I think this is the time to launch a counter-offensive in favour of French, to recall that French was the original language of EU institutions, that English shouldn’t have replaced it and that there is no reason to speak English now that the English are gone.”

It is not the first time a Frenchman has called for French to become the EU’s official language.

French minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune said that “it will be difficult for people to understand why we would prefer to use broken English after Brexit”, after the UK finally signed a trade deal with the bloc.

Rather, said the politician, “let’s get used to speaking our languages again.”

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In 2018, a senior French official left the room because the European council decided to draw up the multi-year draft budget in English.

However, the European Union seems to have clear ideas on the issue: “Even after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, English remains the official language of Ireland and Malta,” reads the website dedicated to the 24 official languages of the EU.

In fact, immediately after the 2016 referendum, it was made clear that any changes to the linguistic regime of the institutions would have to go through the scrutiny of the European Council by unanimous vote, among other things.

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It should be noted, however, that of the 27 member states only Ireland speaks English, while Malta recognises it as a co-official language.

Another fact that must not be overlooked is demographics: together these two countries reach just over five million inhabitants compared to the 450 million of the European Union.

According to the latest data from Eurostat, English is by far the most studied foreign language in upper secondary education in the EU.

More than 87 percent of pupils studied English in upper secondary school in 2018.

English is followed by French (19 percent), German and Spanish (both amounting to around 18 percent).

Also in 2018 – the last year for which official data are available – in all EU member states over 65 percent of students in upper secondary education studied English as a foreign language.

This testifies that, at least so far, English has been considered an international passport to have access to the labour market, even in the Brussels Eurobubble.

The most likely scenario, however, is that English will remain as the lingua franca of the union to communicate within the offices and thus work.

However, English is not pure British English, but rather a language contaminated with national accents and different words.

It is an English that comes from the technical jargon of the European Union and from those who use it even though they are not native speakers.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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