Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

Could France really oust English as official EU language?

“Right now UK citizens have the right to live and work in France, and the government cannot require them to speak French in order to do so. Were the UK to leave the EU and not be allowed to join the European Economic Area, it would mean Brits would have to apply for a visa to live in France. And France could easily require language proficiency as a requirement for granting visas.

Though there are 24 ‘official languages’ of the EU, the bloc’s institutions use three ‘working languages’ to conduct everyday business – German, French and English. This is based on the fact that these are the three largest countries in the union.

Were the UK to leave the EU, there would be only two small member states with English as a national language – Ireland and Malta. Together they make up less than 1% of the EU population.

How then could English still be justified as one of the three working languages? France could make a fair case to get rid of it.”

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Languages do matter!


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