The EU’s impenetrable “Globish” is dead. Long live le Français — or at least “linguistic diversity.”
With Brexit and the EU-U.K. trade deal finally concluded, the EU should stop speaking “a type of broken English, ” Clément Beaune, France’s EU affairs minister said Tuesday. Instead, concrete action is needed to enhance “linguistic diversity,” he told journalists.
“It will be harder for people to understand, after Brexit, that we all stick to a type of broken English,” Beaune said. “Let’s get used to speaking our languages again!”
Addressing reporters in French, Beaune said the EU27 had gotten used to working and holding discussions almost exclusively in English. “I believe we must get out of that,” he said. Like many national officials active in Brussels, Beaune himself speaks good English.
English has long been the EU’s main working language — especially after the last wave of enlargement brought in officials and diplomats from Central and Eastern European countries who had studied the language of Shakespeare rather than that of Voltaire.
However many complain the version used inside the Brussels bubble has developed into a type of “Globish” packed with non-native eccentricities.
With Britain now a non-EU country, there are only two, relatively small, EU members — Ireland and Malta — that still list English as an official language. And they use it alongside Irish and Maltese. For everybody else, English is, at best, a second language.
The use of English has become so widespread in Brussels that several institutions have made behind-the-scenes efforts to streamline costs or improve efficiency by prioritizing an English-only format or adding English to meetings where French was once used exclusively.
French officials, up to the very highest level, have long defended the use of their language in the EU.
Beaune did not explicitly advocate for French to replace English after Brexit. However, he said a post-Brexit Europe “which would work only in one language, would communicate only in one language would be a mistake.”
France will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2022. In preparation, Beaune said, Paris would take “concrete initiatives” to enhance European languages. That will include language training, and making sure the EU institutions are “very vigilant” on language diversity in recruitment processes.
“It’s not a rearguard action or the fight of one single country,” Beaune said. “It is, truly, a fight for European linguistic diversity.”