The Relative Importance of the European Languages
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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