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Will All Europeans Speak English?

As English words continue to creep into other European languages DW-WORLD readers voice their views on whether English may one day become the first language of all Europeans.

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Is English really set to overtake Europe?

The following comments reflect the views of our readers as received so far. If you would like to have your say on this our another issue, please click on our feedback button below. Not all reader comments will be automatically published. DW-WORLD reserves the right to edit for length and appropriateness of content.

I do not think that English will ever become the first language of all of Europe. However, I do fear that other languages will, in a sense, become debased further if the trend is allowed to continue. There is simply no excuse to use English expressions where perfectly good words exist in the native tongue. A great deal of blame for the current state of affairs must be placed on the print media, who have shown a total lack of responsibility in this respect. It is really appalling to read the FAZ ( Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), for example, or Der Spiegel, and I would imagine that the 'popular' press is even worse. -- Dr. Jack Bremer

No language is static. English appears to have formed as a German "creole" or "pidgin" spoken with a lisp. Over the years it has been very successful at borrowing from other languages. Now if we could just simplify the spelling.… -- Janaburg

The beauty of English is that it accepts new words from many languages for example sushi, jodhpurs and pajamas. I guess we could say "raw fish" but then isn't fish a German word. Or how about sleeping clothes? I find the European complaints fairly amusing. I was born in Austria and German is my first language. I visit relatives in Graz and speak German in shops, and on the street, but everyone wants to speak English. As an American it is very difficult to practice a language you are trying to learn when everywhere we go people WANT to speak English. My daughter is spending the year in Prague teaching in a pre-school. The parents pay more than the average salary earned in the country so that their children can be taught by a native English speaker. A language is a living organism, it needs to grow and evolve or it will disappear altogether. -- Tanja Scarborough

English will not become the first language in Europe but it will become the second language to most. For example, look at India: it has so many languages, so many scripts. The only way one can get around at most places is English (and Hindi as well). However, the regional languages do survive, so does English. It would appear that Europeans will have to become bilingual (except the English themselves): their native language and English. -- Alok Patnaik, Canada

The increasing use of English is all but an inevitability. Instead of complaining endlessly, why don't speakers of foreign languages seek to add to the list of foreign words/phrases we all use, e.g. cul-de-sac, yacht, bungalow, amok, rendezvous, ante-post, quid pro quo, vox pop and zeitgeist. I particularly like schadenfreude and 'ear worm' for when you can't get a song out of your head, both of which are German in origin! -- Matthew R. Illsley

In my opinion English will be the language of Europeans during the following decades. It will be a fact that stronger commercial and social relationships will encourage the usage of English, specifically within the new members. Although Italians, Germans and the French are worried as a consequence of the expansion of English language, we have to acknowledge that this phenomenon is almost inevitable. For example, if I analyze my situation as an Argentine citizen interested in other languages, I should recognize that English is the only alternative taking into consideration different situations: a) Commercial influence of the language; b) Importance of the language in business issues; c) Number of possibilities that I will have to use the foreign language. German is only spoken in Germany; French in France and other colonies of Africa, Portuguese in Portugal and Brazil and so on. It is clear that English is a world wide language, not only considering people who manage it as a mother language but also who use it as a second one. The case of the majority of South African people is an excellent example. In conclusion, I firmly believe that English will gain more influence in the following decades, especially in emerging markets, such as countries who have recently joined the European Union. -- Carlos A. Ferretti

I live in both Europe and the US, but I have spent most of the past few years in Europe. I'm now back in the US. I don't understand the problem. This whole argument was moot from the beginning. It is clear that all the languages of the European continent remain important to those people who speak them. After the mother tongue everything else is forever doomed to being a second language. How can English therefore take over an entire continent, which has traditionally been very much multi-lingual? I do not believe that governments should try to legislate over in what language people choose to communicate. A language on its own cannot speak. German is the mother tongue of Germany, and whatever language a German child learns next is, as has been known for many generations now, the second language. Finally, I bow to you multi-linguals of the world, particularly those people that can speak 4 or 5 different tongues. -- Don Lilly

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  • Date 14.12.2004
  • Author DW Staff (ncy/gb)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/5zGV
  • Date 14.12.2004
  • Author DW Staff (ncy/gb)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/5zGV