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The Relative Importance of the European Languages

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  • Chr. Hjorth-Andersen

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Chr. Hjorth-Andersen, 2006. "The Relative Importance of the European Languages," Discussion Papers 06-23, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:0623
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    File URL: http://www.econ.ku.dk/english/research/publications/wp/2006/0623.pdf/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lang Kevin & Siniver Erez, 2009. "The Return to English in a Non-English Speaking Country: Russian Immigrants and Native Israelis in Israel," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-30, November.
    2. Paul W. Miller & Barry R. Chiswick, 2002. "Immigrant earnings: Language skills, linguistic concentrations and the business cycle," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 15(1), pages 31-57.
    3. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2005. "Language Disenfranchisement in the European Union," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(2), pages 273-286, June.
    4. 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 246-288, April.
    5. Jeffrey Church & Ian King, 1993. "Bilingualism and Network Externalities," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 26(2), pages 337-345, May.
    6. Victor Ginsburgh, 2005. "Languages, Genes, and Cultures," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, February.
    7. Berman, Eli & Lang, Kevin & Siniver, Erez, 2003. "Language-skill complementarity: returns to immigrant language acquisition," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 265-290, June.
    8. Albert Saiz & Elena Zoido, 2002. "The returns to speaking a second language," Working Papers 02-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    language; English; German; French;

    JEL classification:

    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General

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