Mind your language! Experts urge Brussels to create new ‘Euro-English’ for post-Brexit EU

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Some furious French MEPs have demanded English be ditched in the corridors of power in Brussels and Strasbourg where it is still used in official EU communications and remains widely accepted as the standard second language across the Continent. And a leading linguistics expert is now calling for a whole new language to be created for use across the bloc.

They don’t want a model that will help them communicate with a professor in Sweden

Jeremy Gardner

Marko Modiano, a professor of English at the University of Gävle in Sweden, told Politico’s EU Confidential podcast: “It’s time for the people in mainland Europe who have English as a second language to determine the future of English for the European Union.”

Prof Modiano said the EU should take the lead in defining and promoting Euro-English – a new language complete with its own “punctuation, spelling, some grammar, and some vocabulary”.

He said a sort of Euro-English which night not always sound correct to a native speaker is already developing and should be embraced.

He said: “A slip of the tongue made by a French person is not a mistake, but just as valid a version of English as that ringing out on the streets of Kent.

“It’s not a question of whether or not Euro English exists. It’s a question of how we respond to the fact that it is evolving.

“Someone is going to have to step forward and say, ‘OK, let’s break our ties with the tyranny of British English and the tyranny of American English’ and instead say ‘we are competent second-language speakers. This is our language’.”

But many linguists say French is not coming back as the EU’s dominant language and multilingualism is not a practical way to communicate across the Continent.

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Jeremy Gardner, former senior translator at the European Court of Auditors, said there was no need to create a new model, and warned that diverging from the English used in the United Kingdom and Ireland could be damaging.

He said: “It’s a question of democracy because the European citizen wants to, can and does speak in English.

“If the EU, which it could do, imposed any other language as its main official working language it would lose its main line of communication to the European citizen.”

Mr Gardner said children and other learners across the Continent wanted to learn a form of English that is recognised by native speakers.

He said: “They don’t want a model that will help them communicate with a professor in Sweden.

Rytis Martikonis, the top civil servant at the Commission’s translation department, said: “We have to be realistic and in a sense acknowledge that the languages that are being used in the institutions are by definition less pure than the languages spoken in the middle of Paris, Madrid or Helsinki.”

Another EU official said: “Languages are rooted in culture, and we have no plans to use an artificial common language, whether that be Esperanto or a new international version of English.”

The dominance of English in Brussels has always enraged the French who have launched an informal campaign to reverse the Anglo-Saxon takeover now Britain has left the EU.

Last month France’s Europe Minister Clément Beaune urged Europeans to stop speaking “broken English” in a post-Brexit world and fight instead for “linguistic diversity”.

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And French right-wing commentator Éric Zemmour said the English language has “crushed” French and called for a boycott of English in the EU post-Brexit.

Mr Zemmour argued that now the UK has left the Brussels bloc and only two countries remain in the EU with their first language as English, it was time to recall French as the EU’s official language.

He said: “I think this is the time to launch a counter-offensive in favour of French, to recall that French was the original language of EU institutions, that English shouldn’t have replaced it and that there is no reason to speak English now that the English are gone.”

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