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The Relative Importance of the European Languages

  • Chr. Hjorth-Andersen

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

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    The European Union has introduced a “two foreign languages policy” with little solid knowledge of the consequences. I attempt in this paper to provide some facts for a serious discussion of language policy. In the first part of the paper, I look at the European languages on a world scale, employing the relevant measure GNP rather than the population measure usually preferred by linguists and politicians. The results are quite dramatic as English can be shown to be completely dominant. In the second part of the paper, I look at the relative importance of the European languages in Europe. In order to put the discussion on a firm footing I propose two indices from the linguistic literature, the Greenberg index of communication in a union and the Lieberson index of successful communication between countries. These indices are computed for Europe (25) using Eurobarometer data. In the third part, I look at the likely future linguistic development of Europe, and take a sceptical look at the “two foreign languages policy” as the costs of implementing such a policy for many persons in Europe would seem likely to exceed the benefits.

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    File URL: http://www.econ.ku.dk/english/research/publications/wp/2006/0623.pdf/
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    Paper provided by University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 06-23.

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    Length: 39 pages
    Date of creation: Nov 2006
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:0623
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    1. Eli Berman & Kevin Lang & Erez Siniver, 2000. "Language-Skill Complementarity: Returns to Immigrant Language Acquisition," NBER Working Papers 7737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Shlomo Weber & Victor Ginsburgh, 2004. "Languages Disenfranchisement in the European Union," Working Papers 2004.4, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    3. Chiswick, Barry R & Miller, Paul W, 1995. "The Endogeneity between Language and Earnings: International Analyses," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 246-88, April.
    4. Victor Ginsburgh, 2005. "Languages, genes and cultures," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/1677, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    5. Kevin Lang & Erez Siniver, 2006. "The Return To English In A Non-English Speaking Country: Russian Immigrants And Native Israelis In Israel," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2006-033, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    6. Paul W. Miller & Barry R. Chiswick, 2002. "Immigrant earnings: Language skills, linguistic concentrations and the business cycle," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 31-57.
    7. Albert Saiz & Elena Zoido, 2002. "The returns to speaking a second language," Working Papers 02-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    8. Jeffrey Church & Ian King, 1993. "Bilingualism and Network Externalities," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(2), pages 337-45, May.
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