Europe thinking about making English its official language


I just returned from an extended business trip to Europe. If you haven't traveled there, you might be surprised to learn that English is the unifying language. Very seldom did I run into a social or business situation where the European with whom I was interacting couldn't communicate in English.

There is a growing trend within European Union nations to make English the official language. How ironic. At a time when U.S. companies are making you "Press 1 for English" and ATMs require choosing from a menu containing Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic, the land of many languages is thinking of making English its multi-country language.

It would benefit the U.S. to embrace English and encourage its citizens to master one language--instead of kowtowing to individuals who refuse to assimilate into this Country.

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Where the heck have you been all this time, Galt? In Europe they've been using English this way for decades.

for decades. The economic dominance of first the British Empire, then the United States, led to this naturally. If China becomes the dominant economic power later in this century, business people will emphasize hiring those who are fluent in Chinese. Knowing Chinese is already a great benefit in getting a job with many international corporations.

English is the official language of NATO but more importantly, international commerce and transportation.

Every pilot needs to know English directions for ICAO standards in order to communicate with Air Traffic Control towers.

I was just in Munich. I never took any German but I had no problem getting around as I could always find someone who could speak English. BTW, Catholic mass in German is quiet poetic.


A lot of this has to do with geography. Because these nations are so close to one another, it seems normal to them to grow up learning a variety of languages. My fraternal grandmother never went to school. Her father taught her and her sisters to read and write. She grew up in a small village near Warsaw, when that part of Poland was controlled by Russia. So, being Jewish, she spoke Yiddish with her family and friends. Many Polish people lived nearby, so she learned Polish as well. Since all official government business was done in Russian, she also was fluent in Russian. Since the Yiddish language evolved mainly from German, she also spoke fluent German. When I was growing up, she spoke English to me, and could express herself fully in English, with a thick accent, of course. Since some Hungarian families lived near her, she spoke a little Hungarian. And, to top it off, her father taught her to read the religious texts of her religion in Hebrew.
Was my grandmother exceptionally bright? Hardly. Being multilingual is normal throughout Europe. You may have heard the joke that goes like this...Q -- What do you call someone who speaks two languages? A -- Bilingual. Q -- What do you call someone who speaks more than two languages? A -- Multilingual. Q -- What do you call someone who speaks only one language? A -- American.
Most Americans expect everyone to learn English, because most of us avoid learning another language as if it were some type of lethal plague. Just keep in mind, as a first language, over 1,000,000,000 people speak one of the Chinese languages. Well over 800,000,000 of these speak the main Chinese language of Mandarin as a first language. And, if we include all of those who also speak a Chinese language as their second language, the total number of Chinese speakers rises to well over 1,300,000,000! There are about 366,000,000 people who speak Hindi as a first language. When we add those who speak Hindi as a second language, this totals about 487,000,000 people. English is third in the world with about 341,000,000 speaking it as a first language, but when we add those who speak English as a second language, the total rises to 508,000,000 people. Spanish has over 300,000,000 who speak it as a first language. The estimates range from about 322,000,000 to 358,000,000. When we add in the second language speakers, Spanish rises to well over 400,000,000 speakers. Next comes Arabic with nearly 300,000,000 speakers. Here's my source for these figures:

There is a strong case to be made for getting more Americans to speak more foreign languages in a world that is ever more intertwined by commerce, communication, and culture. It is nice to travel and have so many people speaking English in other countries. Wouldn't our own tourist industry be enhanced if more foreign visitors were pleasantly surprised to come to America and find many Americans who could speak their first language at least passably well? I still remember selling Italian tourists some American souvenirs when I worked at my father's jewelry store, using Spanish as a common language of communication between us. Knowing more than one language is not un-American. It makes sense in a world which is ever more interactive. In 2012, foreign tourists spent more than $126,000,000,000 in the United States. Several million Americans are employed in our tourism industry.
Mandarin anyone?

Most of what you say I agree with but if Americans learn a 2nd language then which one? Spanish? Ok that helps people in the SW, FL & NY. But what in Minnesota, that doesn't help them, they should be learning Somali due to the large Somali population. How about Michigan, should they learn Arabi, Farsi, or Urdo? Mandarin is not widely spoken, even in the places with high tourism ( I was in Munich recently and they only provided one tourin Mandarin) on the tour bus I took. I would guess NY and SanFran would make the most sense for mandarin.

Being around a lot of Europeans I've found the most common languages spoken are German and American (was shocked to learn this in an Arabic country). I believe this is due to science, health, and banking.


learn ANY other language. If many learned Spanish, that would make sense, not just because those with Spanish speaking backgrounds are the fastest growing, large minority group in America today, but because our bordering nation to the south, Mexico, and most of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean Island nations use Spanish as a primary language. A lot of tourists come to the United States from Spanish speaking countries. (Yes. I know that in Brazil they speak Portuguese, and Brazil is the 5th largest nation in population in the world with nearly 180,000,000 people. But the Portuguese language is close to Spanish.)
If many others learned French, those who come to America from Quebec Province, France, and other French speaking nations could also find someone who speaks their first language, while spending their tourist money here.

Mandarin is not only useful where ethnic Chinese have settled, which includes not only San Francisco, but all of the major cities up and down the West Coast and in Hawaii, as well as larger cities east of the Mississippi like New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. There are "Chinatowns" in all of these cities. Ever more Chinese tourists are coming to America, and Mandarin is becoming more and more important for international trade. The CEO of Alibaba, the world's largest and fastest-growing on-line commercial site, was just interviewed on CNBC this week. He foresees a time in the near future when China becomes a net IMPORTING country, as their middle class increases in size, their incomes and purchasing powers increase, and they demand more goods from around the world. If America has a large cadre of Chinese speaking employees in our large, multi-national corporations, our companies would have an advantage trading with the largest nation in population in the world. Remember, China has over 1,000,000,000 MORE PEOPLE than does the United States, and we have the third largest population in the world!

My main point is, what could it hurt? What's wrong with more Americans learning more foreign languages? Why should the Germans or the French or the Chinese companies have an advantage over American companies in international trade?

I disagree. I don't think it's a case of Americans not wanting to learn another language. I think it's more a case of some expect Americans to use Spanish in day to day life. The issue here is those who come to the US to live should

Like I said, in Germany, there were many people who could speak English and that was helpful. However, I didn't expect any signs to be in English nor did I "expect" people to know English.


We'll have to agree to disagree on this one, Mikey.

Why should Americans kow-tow to a bunch of foreigners, any how? Let THEM learn OUR language!!

BILLION of those foreigners, and about 0.3 billion of us. So they should all learn American English!

See what I mean, Mikey? G-MAN reflects the attitude of many, many Americans when it comes to learning foreign languages. "Ignorance is bliss."

I know all I need to know regarding certain other languages. "You F-E?

link to an article which articulates similar arguments to those I have made here about both the need for more Americans to learn foreign languages, and the lack of incentive for American students to do so.

For what it's worth:

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