17 October 2005

17.10.05. One language for Europe: Not everyone agrees

Editor’s note: After a somewhat spirited reaction to my piece here on President Chirac and his Three Bitter Pills to Save Europe for France, I had several friends get on to me about the President's proposal to wipe out the language mess in the institutions of the EU and save a billion euros each year by making English the only working language of the Union. Martin Strid of Sweden (his English is by the way better than that of the average US college graduate) wrote the following strong comment:

" My problem with your language proposal is that while it would give you the privilege of native universal access, it would turn me into a second class citizen. That is against my nature, my self-esteem and my belief in democracy. As an argument, that is quite sufficient to turn your proposal down. However, there is more to be said.

Last week, for three days, the inadequacy of English for inter-European oral communication was demonstrated to me beyond exhaustion. Even by people who have been using your language at a professional level for tens of years.

Your proposal would also leave the Anglo-Saxon world in the mental poverty of one-language-only-ness, which is detrimental to intelligence and broadness of mind."

Serious stuff and arguments which I take not lightly at all, not least since I have spent my entire life in a multi-lingual environment and have in my day to day life been consistently observant of what gets understood when we cross language lines, and what not. And the implications for mental impoverishment are certainly part of the whole box of Pandora. Let me not comment on this any further other than to pass on to you the following which Martin added to his note


A world where everyone understands one another is a better world

Revised June 2005.

This document deals with language difficulties within the EU, the UN and the world at large and the importance of reaching an agreement over which language should be used for international communication. Additionally, the document addresses the reasons for why it is important to preserve and protect “small” languages. This has to be done to save many of them from extinction.

The UN has six and the EU twenty official languages, which is both difficult to manoeuvre and expensive.

My name is Hans Malv and I am a medical doctor. I have written this document on my own initiative and am thus not working for an organisation or pressure group. Nor have I received any compensation for writing this piece. Why then have I written it? My reason for doing so is my belief in the importance of communication between all people who share this planet, even if they belong to different linguistic areas.

My address is:
Lugna gatan 12
SE-211 60 Malmö

If you want to write me a letter, please write in English, but I can’t promise you an answer.

”The boundaries of my language are the boundaries of my world.” Ludwig Wittgenstein.

We can decrease the costs of the EU by 500 million pounds or 800million USD. In the long run we will be able to decrease the cost of the UN by comparable amounts. The money can be used where it is better needed. A more peaceful world follows as a bonus.

This concerns your world. You have a responsibility here.

In a few years it may suffice to learn two languages; one’s mother tongue and a language for the rest of the world. Knowing two languages will be enough to be able to speak to and understand all other people. 2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2

A Russian and a Japanese

Which language should a Pole or a Greek use to speak to each other, or say a Russian and a Japanese person? If they use English their intellectual exchange will be greatly limited, since English is such a complicated language with a wide vocabulary that it requires ten years of study by those gifted in language to be able to use it without effort. Indeed, why should they speak to each other in English when a much better alternative exists?

The international dialogue of today is performed in a multiplicity of languages, rather than in a single language, despite the fact that international co-operation continues to rise in importance. Which language would you promote?

Large numbers of people across the world will refuse to accept your choice of language regardless of what that choice may be.

What is the solution? The solution is the easily acquired language Esperanto that several million have already learnt. But there are also other solutions.

Read on, for your own sake and for the sake of humanity and you will see that there is a solution for the language problems of the EU, the UN and indeed the world. We should take care of the languages of the world, large as well as small, preserve them and protect them, or we will be all the poorer for losing them.

A better world

If all children and adolescents around the world were to begin to learn Esperanto today, they would be able to communicate freely with each other in a few years time. The youth of today are the adults of tomorrow. We can give them a better world to live in, a world without language barriers.

Do you accept that millions of children around the EU and the rest of the world are forced to spend a large portion of their school years studying your language (English) or other foreign languages that most students will never master? Would you not spare coming generations from this, given that there is a far superior alternative?

A large part of the world’s population suffers from a difficult and very expensive disability – a communication disability.

Esperanto is very easy to learn to speak and read. All words are pronounced as they are spelled. The grammar is simple and has no exceptions. Read on and you will find out how we are to solve the language problems of the EU and the world. You can make a great contribution.

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