Posted by: Snake Oil Baron | March 26, 2009

A Funny Sort of Failure

The Economist has run an interesting piece which claims to describe the “adverse” side-effects of the domination of the English language across Europe.

The article discusses how the big news publishers of various European nations have been jumping in with English language versions of their publications as a way of expanding their market share and attractiveness to advertisers. It also discusses how E.U. and other international meetings have a tendency to use the language that leaves out the fewest even if it is not the one which more participants speak as a first language and that usually gives English the advantage. It also discusses how English is the clear winner among the young for second language learning.

So what is the problem for English speakers? The Economist seems to feel that it is a major disadvantage because it clearly reduces the incentive for English speakers to be bilingual or trilingual as everyone in Europe is supposed to be. They provide as an example that it is hard for an English speaker to inflict sub par French on a room full of people who speak fluent English. The other “adverse” side-effect of English uber-alles is that Anglo-Saxon thinking will have to compete in the English speaking political debate happening across Europe and the world. But then, Anglo-Saxon thinking (assuming that phase means something like free-markets and low government intervention) has not been popular in England or in Europe for ages and and the article also mentions that the British are not that interested in European media anyway, even if it is English. So I see little harm to be done to “Anglo-Saxon thinking” by opening the political discussion in between European nations. In fact, as Eastern and Central European nations relate some of their experiences under communism and stories about French labour unions and German labour laws spread around Europe, maybe they will start to learn why Anglo-Saxons have become so Anglo-Saxony in the first place. Though that certainly won’t happen overnight.

Well, if living in a world where everyone speaks your language is a failure then Britain is continuing its failure in Algeria. Britain has set the goal of training one thousand Algerians as English teachers by 2010.  Algerians who can speak English have better employment opportunities and businesses who might want to relocate their will have a pool of potential employees to draw from with a valuable skill in international markets.

And the French are witnessing this failure of native English speakers to keep their language under control as its young people become more accepting of the English language. Interestingly, one of the means of entrance of the language is from North African immigrant communities many of whom are fans of American hip-hop and the rest of French youth culture picks up the English slang and sayings via cultural osmosis.

It seems as if native English speakers are in a bad way. If this continues we might become the only monolingual speakers on the planet.



  1. Salut!
    Not only You!
    Hmmm interesting what will happen whit English language when,west world population,culture will go down? Arabian maybe start learn and song Allah Akhbar! or Chinese,Portugal……..

  2. Looks like I missed this comment for some time. Sorry. The West might have some more life left in it yet even if other societies share the power and wealth. But even assuming that the West goes belly up, it does not necessarily mean that English would go with it. Latin was used as the language of learning, religion and such, long after Rome fell and no one spoke it as a native language anymore. The benefits of having a common language across industries, fields of study and between governments is so great and English is already so intrenched in that position that even if America, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and most Commonwealth nations were to be plucked from the earth, people would still use English to communicate between airplanes and airports, and in boardroom meetings.

    I could be wrong but… No I couldn’t be wrong. That’s not my style.

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