English sans England

Stratford On Avon, United Kingdom: The long, winding Avon flows through Stratford with its small bridges, flower gardens, punts and chaps inboaters. You can see the Holy Trinity Church spire in the background. 23798-sdc17111

Brexit? Ah, the Anglophobes in the European continent, especially Germans, are rubbing their hands and saying ‘Gimme Five!’

Why? You might ask. The reason is clear: to get a job in the bureaus in Brussels, you had to have English as your mother tongue because all the Eurocrats used English, making other languages useless in daily life. And now is the right time to bid the speakers of the Queen’s English goodbye since they want to cross the English Channel and turn their back on the old Continent.

Achtung, halt! What about the Maltese, the Irish Sturgeon’s Scots? The Maltese never uttered a word about an exit, and the Scots want to remain in the EU, even after the Brexit. The Scots are thrifty and clever in this respect. English is spoken in all the former British colonies along with 4,6 million Irish and 430,000 Maltese.

How many people speak the Teutonic language? A good 100 million have Deutsch as their mother-tongue. German is also spoken in Austria, Switzerland and North Tyrole. But there was no budging in Brussels: the official languages had to be English and French.

What was the reason? Well, Germany’s bureaucrats in Brussels did nothing to promote German as an official EU language. Those who were sent to Brussels knew English and were delighted to speak with native speakers in English, and brushed aside their own lingo.

Did you know that over 70% of Germans don’t like anglesized words? Germans from 18 to 29 years who were interviewed were of the opinion: ‘We have to watch out that our language isn’t diluted with all these English words.’ But when you come to think of it, the anglisized words and expressions exist in the Teutonic tongue since a long time: webcam, laptop, notebook, kiddie contest, history-channel, Yes, Minister, My Fair Lady, Hallo Dolly, Niightscreen, die große Promi challenge-I can do that and lots of ‘show acts.’ The German titles of Hollywood films sound terrible in German versions. Ms. Rowling would be groaning if they’d Germanised her main protagonist to Harald Topfer. It is a well-known fact that people in the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries speak better English than the Germans. This is mainly because the films are viewed in the original versions, no the people get to know the different accents and expressions. In Germany you’re forced by the German TV channels to hear Harry Potter, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Meryl Streep speak German. The translation industry has grown immensely. If a foreign item reaches Germans it has to be Germanised. This keeps the Germans happy and you still have people speaking English with the verb at the end of the sentence or mistaking words: ‘May I become a steak, please.’ To become means ‘werden.’ The British butcher raises his eyebrows and wonders: ‘Now, why does does this lovely blonde lady from the Continent want to end as a steak?’ If a German says ‘Mist’ it means animal droppings or manure. To the British ‘mist’ is just a light fog in the hills. A mist in the English sense of the word would be ‘Nebel’ or ‘Dunst.’ The German word ‘ordinär’ means crude or vulgar as in ‘Sein nicht ordinär.’ The English word ordinary means normal or usual.


The only real chance of proclaiming German as an EU language of some importance was when the East Bloc countries fell one after the other. In those days, the people in countries like the Balkans, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Poland were extremely interested in the German language, but the officials in Germany didn’t react. Bonn, which was the capital then, just kept mum. The chance was gone. The official language vacuum was filled by the aggressive expansive politics of the English and French cultural institutes displaced the German lobby. This went so far that even the Slovenian delegation, which was negotiating their entry in the EU, was asked by the European Commission’s president Delors to only use English or French. The Slovenians had wanted to negotiate in German. The German representative pretended he hadn’t heard a word about this language issue during the application process.

This reminds me of a Freiburger German biologist who insisted on using the abbreviation for desoxyribonucleic acid DNS, instead of the English DNA. There is an international union of biochemists which sets rules on how biochemical terminology should be used. Acid means ‘Säure’ in German. Acidity is, however, called ‘Azidität.’

It is encouraging to note that German is catching on in Poland after the political changes in Eastern Europe and in some Balkan states as well. One hears people in Asia and Latin America, in the USA are showing a growing interest.

Jean Claude Junker, the Commission’s president from Luxemburg, saw the language problem in the EU and spoke in German and French at the European Parliament.

English became the dominant language due to the greatness of the British Empire and the political, cultural, economic and military power Britain’s ally, namely the USA. English was spoken by the dominating powers Britain and the USA in Europe. The reason why German was phased out in the East and South-East European countries was that Britain joined the European Union. What remained was the Anglo-Saxon language imperialism, in the form of a programme to achieve goals in political, military and cultural matters.

Can you imagine the plight of 27 European nations when they don’t use a common language for daily communication? Language has always been an important instrument for power. In the former Soviet states, Russian was the first official language, much like French in the North African colonies and English in the British Empire’s colonies in Africa, Caribbean islands,, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Before the British East India Company arrived in India, a vast subcontinent with many ethnicities, tribes and religions and languages, there was strife among the people of Hindustan. The British found allies among the Indians and carried out a dive-and-rule policy effectively. One of the positive aspects of British colonialism was the introduction of English as the administrative language. Thus the people from Western India could talk in a foreign tongue with those from the East as well as those from the north and south. The British established an aristocracy based on the English language.

After the Indian independence there have been a lot of debates, discussions and strikes on Indian’s many languages but one language has connected the Indian within the country and the outside world, and that is English.

The Brits have left India and what has remained is a conserved English language and culture, which reminds me of the Germans who lived in Romania’s Sieben Burgen. They lived their ancient German lives and wrote in the Sütterlin script and when they were finally allowed to move to the country of their longing, namely Germany, they realised that Germany had become modern, prosperous, and there were workers from all parts of the world brought after the World War II when a lot of Germans mean had died, lost or invalids. The so-called ‘guest-workers’ came from Italy, Sicily, Greece and Turkey to runs the factories, mills and machines that were important for the economic and industrial development of the country. The elderly generation felt lost in this modern world. But their children and grandchildren became whiz-kids and easily adapted to mobiles, laptops, designer clothes and what-have-yous of the west.

It is interesting to note that even though the Federal President of Germany demanded more than often that Brussels should send the drafts of laws, rules and regulations passed by the EU should be sent in the German language, nothing of the sort was undertaken by the offices in Brussels. If, and when, the drafts ever came they arrived too late, with the result that the German side weren’t directly involved in the important law-making process. This means that the EU did, and still does, nothing to expedite matters, unless the demand comes from the German government. When tenders are invited from European contractors, the German version reaches the concerned contractors in East Germany too late. The East Germans were obliged to learn Russian at school.

Such things don’t happen in Switzerland because the Swiss children are taught the country’s three main languages (German, Italian and French) at school and dialects at home. As long as Brussels sticks to its English and French formula as the administrative languages, it will have lots of unnecessary problems.

Solution? Brussels should be inspired by Switzerland. Use German, French and Italian in its bureaucratic undertakings in everyday life.

Auf wiedersehen, au revoir, ciao!


More by :  Satis Shroff

Top | Analysis

Views: 3511      Comments: 1

Comment After reading the article, I am left with the impression that English will continue as the main language of the EU along with French even after Britain's exit. There is nothing wrong except it is a little weird. :-)

P. Rao
26-Nov-2016 22:33 PM

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