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EU Leader Says English Is Losing Importance ( 711

An anonymous reader writes: Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, opted to deliver a speech in French on Friday morning because he said "English is losing importance" in Europe. He gave the comments, which are unlikely to mend fences after a war of words between Brussels and London over Brexit negotiations, at the "State of the Union" conference in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio -- an annual event for European dignitaries. Juncker said he was opting for French because "slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe and France has elections this Sunday and I want the French people to understand what I am saying about the importance of the EU." He spoke in English.
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EU Leader Says English Is Losing Importance

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:04PM (#54361219)

    Of course someone who speaks French thinks English is "losing importance." They've been asserting that for decades now, because they are delusional. Anybody who ever has needed to deal with software written in France by French companies knows just how arrogant they are about speaking and writing French and only French, even if it means inconveniencing literally everyone else around them.

    • by ctilsie242 ( 4841247 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:07PM (#54361247)

      Some software is pretty good from France. VeraCrypt is a good example of something well made.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by ichthus ( 72442 )
        Was it written in a French-based programming language, or an English one?
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:50PM (#54361647)

          Was it written in a French-based programming language, or an English one?

          Since i am a Greek, when communicating with Barbarians like you i am forced to use a Barbaric language (in my case the -common among Barbarians- language called English) instead of the language of the Gods: Greek!

          But a PROGRAMING language based in French or English (or any other "natural" language)? Does such a thing exist? I always though that the -few- "natural" words used in any programing language can easily be translated in any natural language (and even better: use symbols/ideograms instead!) since the syntax/phrasing is so simple: a mathematic language actually.

          P.S. Sorry for my English... but then again: it is not my fault that you are barbarians and can not communicate in Greece!

          • by cide1 ( 126814 )

            Since i am a Greek, when communicating with Barbarians like you i am forced to use a Barbaric language (in my case the -common among Barbarians- language called English) instead of the language of the Gods: Greek!

            I've known several Greeks over the years, and all of them have said basically this to me at some point.

          • by vux984 ( 928602 )

            I always though that the -few- "natural" words used in any programing language can easily be translated in any natural language

            Perhaps, but aside from the keywords all the standard library function names are in english, all the standard library intellitext documentation is in english; all the comments, constant names, #defines and macro names, are in English.

            If you have the source for the standard libraries, all the internal class and member names, variable names, function names, and even the comments, etc ... are all in English.

            Then all the compiler warnings, and compilation errors, runtime exceptions, etc... in many cases aren't

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:27PM (#54361441)

      He is not really French, he is from Luxembourg where French is one of 3 official languages. This is like calling an Irishman a Brit, or an Englishman. Only 16% of the population are native French speakers, although 96% of the population is fluent in French. The primary native language is Luxembourgish, which is closer to German than French.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      English is not the #1 language in the EU, even before Brexit"

      In accordance with the EU population, the most widely spoken mother tongue is German (16%), followed by Italian and English (13% each), French (12%), then Spanish and Polish (8% each).

      After Brexit, it will be worse. It's true that English is used as a second language by a significant portion of the population, but the same can be said for many other languages, given that much of the population speaks 2 or more languages. Interestingly, the UK is among the lowest ranking countries when it comes to being able to speak in a second language.

      Current EU population is 504 million. The UK is 64 million, of which 88% (56 million) speak

    • tabarnak, les francais francaises connu-pas le vrai francaises quebecois esti. []

      Trop de francaises!

    • I believe that it is a French tradition to declare English to be a dying language on Star Wars Day (May 4) every year. The practice purportedly dates back at least to 1415AD when Charles the VI's inflamatory anti-English language Star Wars Day speech purportedly led directly to the Battle of Agincourt in October of that year and thus to a dramatic change in direction in the Hundred Years War.

      (Charles VI was reportedly exceptionally crazed even for a 15th Century European monarch.)

  • english is go right ahead and believe that
    • Re:what a moron... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:20PM (#54361365)

      english is go right ahead and believe that

      This may be true one day. But my money would be on Chinese, not French, as the successor.

      • Except in the US, where it will be Spanish. Latinos will be bilingual, but most of the rest of the population will be English-only. Makes it easy to have a private conversation in front of unilingual English speakers.
      • Chinese is too difficult for non-native speakers to ever become a glue language that business people would want to learn to speak to other non-native Chinese speakers. Also, almost all Chinese people speak a second language. Younger people English, older people Russian.

        Spanish or German are the only really viable alternatives to English for that use case in most of the world. And what business uses as a glue language is the one that parents will want children to learn in school.

        Chinese is a useful language

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Orgasmatron ( 8103 )

        Arabic, sadly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        But my money would be on Chinese, not French, as the successor.

        My money would be on anything but French as the successor. French has been withering for over a century.

    • Re:what a moron... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @01:02PM (#54361793)

      If you have a speech on the importance of the EU and you want to direct it at a French population who are about to go to the polls, and the outcome of those polls could determine the future of the EU, what's more important? That you speak in English or in French?

      Context, it fucking matters.

      He is anything but a moron.

      • by slew ( 2918 )

        If you have a speech on the importance of the EU and you want to direct it at a French population who are about to go to the polls, and the outcome of those polls could determine the future of the EU, what's more important? That you speak in English or in French?

        Context, it fucking matters.

        He is anything but a moron.

        Well, another observation is that he might simply pandering to the increased sense of *nationalism* that every country seems to be experiencing these days.

        In politics, flattery will get you everywhere and tamping down any chance of a Frexit is probably Juncker's number one goal...

        Of course he isn't a moron, he is a politician which requires the talent to be able to speak out of all sides of one's mouth...

  • by evolutionary ( 933064 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:07PM (#54361251)
    What people may not be aware of, is that computer languages, especially HTML and JavaScript will require people who want to enter the IT field to know at least elementary English. The keywords in HTML tags recognized by all browsers around the word are in English, as is the JavaScript language. While there are some interpreters of compiled languages like C++ in other languages (Chinese for C++ examples exists) the more popular languages have English keyword bases. (see like of non-English based computer languages: [])

    since this is the case, any country wanting "in" on the booming IT industry will have to know some basic English. The English speaking community got the core computer programming/formatting languages out first and as usual, first to publish will have more control it long term.
  • by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:08PM (#54361257)

    Head of the Corner Burger Stand announces "McDonalds is losing importance."

  • English "losing"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davebarnes ( 158106 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:08PM (#54361261)

    How many Chinese speak English compared with Français?
    How many Indians speak English compared with Français?
    How many Japanese speak English compared with Français?

    C’est un homme stupide

    • Arguably more important: what percentage of EU-27 citizens speak French vs English?
      • Far more speak English than French. Far more speak English than German. German and French are almost equal though very differently distributed.

        More speak English than French and German combined.

  • Brexit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:08PM (#54361263)

    Each new day yields another affirmation of the wisdom of UK deplorables.

    • How so? Because the head of the EU in a speech addressed directly to French people a day out of an election decided rightfully that speaking in French is far more important to get his point to the right people?

      I'm still keen to hear what wisdom is on offer from a country who by every recent poll quite drastically regrets their knee jerk decision.

  • He's right? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:17PM (#54361327) Homepage

    Well to be fair, England leaving the EU does indeed make English less important in the EU.

    • LMOL not to people who conduct business.
    • Re:He's right? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by shadowknot ( 853491 ) * on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:38PM (#54361527) Homepage Journal
      You're perhaps right that it makes English less important in the political side of the EU but, as oh_my_080980980 pints out, English will continue to be the language of communication between those who need a common language in the EU as they're not going to magically cease doing business with British businesses or those affiliated with English speaking organizations. I think we can look at the airlines to disprove this chap's point. If you listen to ATC from anywhere in the world it's in English. An Iranian airline flying through Slovakian airspace will communicate with ATC in English, using feet as a measurement unit for altitude. OK, the point about feet is immaterial but it always used to bug me when the Discovery Channel replaced the original narration and translated aircraft altitude into meters, smacked of ignorance and assumption to me.
      • by VAXcat ( 674775 )
        Heh....this reminds me of the old aviation story. At Templehof airport in Berlin, a Lufthansa pilot was struggling to communicate with the Tower in English, which he did not speak very well. In frustration, he announced he was a German Pilot in a German plane in Germany, why did he have to use English to talk to the Tower. A British pilot in a British Airways plane replied on the radio "Because you lost the bloody war!"
    • Re:He's right? (Score:5, Informative)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:44PM (#54361583)

      But does it really? Let's remove the UK from the EU. The remaining population: Are they more likely to speak English or french?

      Outside of France, Belgium and Luxembourg which shared common territories recently enough that the language is adopted in the country who else speaks French:
      Netherlands 29%
      Roumania 17%
      Ireland 17%
      Italy 16%
      Portugal 15%
      Germany 14%
      Austria 11%
      The rest 10%

      So way to go, your speech was not understood by the vast majority of the population. Now let's do the same thing to English.

      Ireland 95%
      Netherlands 90%
      Sweeden 86%
      Denmark 86%
      Austria 70%
      Finland 70%
      Slovenia 59%
      Germany 56%
      Belgium 52%
      I'm not going to list all the rest, but not a single country in the EU has less than 20% proficiency in English.

    • No, not really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:57PM (#54361741)

      For one, English is still the language of the United States who is still and exceedingly important trade and military partner with most of the world. That alone makes English pretty important. Likewise while the UK may be leaving the EU, they'll still be trading with the EU, nothing really changes there.

      However the real importance of English comes not from the nations where it is the primary language, but all the nations where it isn't. The reason is that while English is only the 3rd or 4th most spoken first language it is, by a mile, the most spoken second language in the world. When people from different nations get together to do business, English is generally the language they use. Chinese is not widely spoken in Japan and Japanese is sure as hell not popular in China, but English is a common second language in both and so usually used when companies from the two nations do business.

      In the EU it is even more important as there are a ton of primary languages. If you wanted to do business in the native language of all EU nations you'd need to speak Dutch, French, German (a couple variants thereof), Danish, Irish, Greek, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Hungarian, Greek, Turkish, Czech, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Slovak, Slovene, Bulgarian, Romanian, and Croatian. While you can find people with that kind of language skill, they are very rare and very sought after. Getting one for your firm is unlikely... However English is a popular second language in all those places, so you can do business in that. You can have people from Germany, Croatia, Greece, and Spain all at a table and English is a language they can probably all use whereas the likelihood that they all speak each other's native tongue is pretty low.

      English has become the language of common exchange, and nothing seems to be changing that. Should another language take over for that, French is not likely to be it, much though the French may wish it was.

    • How so?
      Do I now learn slowenian or serbian to talk with girls from there? Or should I learn frensh, and have a funny sexy accent? Or is it better to stick to english as the people from there likely speak english anyway?

      The BREXIT will basically change nothing for the rest of the EU, I doubt we even bother to remove it from the list of official languages to translate legislative texts into.

      The only changes will be:
      a) banking fees for transfering money into and out of the UK
      b) data and speech roaming fees
      c) p

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Qu'est-ce que tu as pu dire à propos de moi, petite chienne?

  • Huh (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Funny, I was just thinking the EU was losing importance...

  • by xession ( 4241115 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:22PM (#54361389)
    This guy must be an idiot. The only language that is spoken by a roughly equivalent number of people in the world is Mandarin Chinese. Unless Junker intends to push for people switching to Mandarin, he should probably just sit down and stop making an ass of himself.

    Its a good thing when there are fewer barriers to communication in the world. English for the most part, won on the global stage as the cross-over language. Short of another World War, I see little likelihood of this ever changing, especially when considering its embedded adoption in the technology sector.
  • A petty if not justifiable or desperate move from EU.
    It's basically on the brink of collapse, and that's not exactly a good thing. If France elects Marine Le Pen and goes for Frexit, EU is basically over. I didn't think they'd make it this obvious, but of course the only move EU has right now is to the ego of the richest countries left.

    • You don't frighten us, English pig dogs. Go and boil your bottoms, you sons of a silly person. I blow my nose at you, so-called "Arthur King," you and all your silly English K-nig-hts.

    • If France elects Marine Le Pen, I think the world is probably over.

      Trump, Le Pen, Kim, and Putin all leaders at the same time?

      The world couldn't handle it.

  • by Parker Lewis ( 999165 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:25PM (#54361415)
    So, if he want to talk about importance, he should speak in German.
  • by david.emery ( 127135 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:30PM (#54361465)

    Don't know if this is true, but it's a damn good story:

    At a NATO military conference, the French admiral was complaining, "Why do we have to speak English at all of these events?"
    The Dutch admiral replied, "Because the British, Canadians, and Americans made sure we don't have to speak German."

  • C'est vrai (Score:4, Funny)

    by pr0nbot ( 313417 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:40PM (#54361541)

    When he realises English is the lingua franca in Europe I shall experience great schadenfreude.

  • He said that English is losing its importance and then gave his speech in French? That sounds like a Monty Python joke.
  • by DatbeDank ( 4580343 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @12:46PM (#54361599)

    I have a lot of French and Russian friends that i've made during my travels. One thing that i've noticed between them is a sort of mild cultural annoyance that their language isn't as dominant like English or even to an extent Spanish.

    The UK was an EU anchor tenant. No amount of EU sour grapes will change that fact. Even without them, everyone will still be wanting to speak English.

  • The EU head honcho says English is losing importance after the UK leaves the EU.

    It's left as an exercise to the reader to determine whether this message is backed by

    a) reality
    b) politics

  • English will be an important language for the next couple hundred years. Chinese recently became an important language to know (within the last 30 years). What English (as a language) is losing isn't important, but dominance. Twenty years ago, you would have heard that EVERYONE should learn English because it's the global language of business. Today, economics has changed and now you can be part of the global market while not knowing English. Moreover, with the (marginally) dominant nationalist/isolationist
  • by fred6666 ( 4718031 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @01:11PM (#54361895)

    is that once the UK leaves, English will no longer be an official language of any UE member country. Ireland declared Irish and Malta declared Maltese as their official language for EU purposes, even if their people speak mostly English.

All seems condemned in the long run to approximate a state akin to Gaussian noise. -- James Martin