Linguistic implications of the Brexit?

“Hi Europe, thanks for learning English, but we’re outta here.” – Britain

Ok, so will the EU Parliament continue to conduct its business in English? The most commonly spoken second language in Europe, the unofficial lingua franca of the continent is now going to be that of a non-member state*. There’s been actually a push to make English the only official language of the EU prior to this whole mess. I’m guessing that’s out.

What will be the linguistic implications of the Brexit? It’s gonna be a weird to see the EU Parliament argue about this in English at the next session.

(*Yes, Ireland is still a member, and English is spoken there, but you know what I mean.)


I personally hope they will immediately switch to using French (the other official EU working language aside from English) for all business.

(I can just imagine the mighty storm of demand at French language immersion schools - especially from German politicians!)

Is the Duchy of Grand Fenwick not an EU member also?

I don’t understand why the Brexit would change anything here. There is a common misconception that people all over Europe are learning and using English to suit native English speakers. This is not at all true. We are not that important. People use English because it’s the language that suits the largest number of people.


The widespread use of English of course has more to do the with the combined economic and cultural impact of all the English speaking countries around the world – with the US being the 800 pound gorilla. But I’m talking here more from an ideological standpoint. It was mostly England’s influence that made English be one of the three languages used by the EU Parliament itself. Won’t it be a bit odd to see EU Parliament members use English as their common language? It’s a somewhat ironic twist is all I’m saying. Of course I understand the practicalities of it. I guess what I’m saying is relying on English as a lingua franca may not be such a good idea in general.

Britain is not outside of Europe. The referendum does not have any relation with thousands of treatises, these are really the European Union.
Also, English that German or other languages are universal. English is a common language of Europe with Britain or without it.
Likewise, Britain is still in the Union, maybe fore ever because the very deeper links with the continent. The English language is today a language of the continent…, also.

I agree with t_harangi. Yes, English is a very natural choice for a common language in the EU - from a practical point of view. Nevertheless it would seem politically awkward to continue giving quite so much weight to it (at the expense of the other official working language, French) if and when the UK is no longer in the EU.

Sure the Irish Republic would still be in - but in population terms they don’t pack nearly as much punch.

This argument seems to be true if you look on the mother tongue only. But if you include the second and third language, English is still the language which most people in Europe have in common.

What if the Turks join?

That’s a big population (not far under 80 million) with generally low levels of English speakers, isn’t it?

I don’t think anything is going to change. English is still the de facto Lingua Franca of the world and it would be really impractical to get everybody who studied and knows English to switch to another language, as politically awkward as it may be.

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Probably true.

Of course the elephant in the room here is the German language. Quite a few people in (for example) The Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, etc speak it well. (And it may be quite widely spoken as a second language in Turkey too - if they join?)

Personally I still think they should embrace French.

That same argument further supports my view that English will remain the lingua franca (As well as the main working language). German is quite widely spoken, but English is certainly more widely spoken.

My main argument generally echos Colin’s from above.

Well, since we all know the EU parliament is not going to start using Turkish, I wonder what the Turkish would answer if you asked them which language they would like to use. They are not going to answer French or German.

In the end, everyone’s first choice would be their native language, and everyone’s second choice would be English.

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So I had a quick look on Google for statistics. The website is interesting. At first glance of their about page, they seem legit, but who knows. Let’s have a look at the countries you mentioned.

In all three cases, English comes second, though German is usually not so far behind. For Poland, Russian is in third, and German is in forth. Scroll through the rest of the countries on this website and you will see many where German is way down the list. English is always near the top, and in fact comes after the native language/languages of the countries in almost all cases.

“…In all three cases, English comes second, though German is usually not so far behind…”

Right. So when/if English is out of the equation for political reasons…well…?

But of course countries like the Netherlands and Denmark may be about to leave the EU as well, which would alter the whole balance.

(It’s not fair, really, because if all those German Steuerzahler are going to be paying the bills from now on, they should at least get to make people speak their jolly old Sprache!)

Are you proposing a hypothetical situation where English is out of the equation for political reasons? I can’t see this happening in a real situation. But in the hypothetical:

I think we’d see Germanic language speaking countries stick to English, Latin countries would increasingly speak French, and Slavic countries would alternatively study Russian or English, depending on the country’s relationship with Russia.

I think you’re basically right - I think the Martin Schulzes of this world will continue sourly growling at each other in broken English.

It’s just a crying shame that we in the Anglo sphere can’t levy copyright royalties on our language!

(I’m not being 100% serious here, BTW :-D)

A few weeks ago I watched as a Russian gave directions to an immigrant from Central Asia in very broken English, but it worked. English is so firmly embedded in the world, let alone in Europe, as a lingua franca, that it was even used in this way in a Russian suburb, between a Russian and a person from a CIS country.
If by some act of god everyone in the world who spoke English magically forgot it, it would be like the fall of the tower of babble all over again.

I read Martin Schulze’s comments, is he getting much play or is everyone simply ignoring him?


Absolutely. (It’d be quite a lot of fun for language enthusiasts though!)


I think most people in Britain would tell Herr Schulz to take a long walk on a short pier! :slight_smile: