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Fiedler_Approaches to Fair Linguistic Communication

Fiedler_Approaches to Fair Linguistic Communication

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Published by: Daniel Carrasco Bascuñán on Aug 07, 2010
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European Journal of Language Policy 
2.1 (2010), 1–22 ISSN 1757-6822 (print) 1757-6830 (online)© Liverpool University Press doi:10.3828/ejlp.2010.2
Approaches to air linguisticcommunication
Sabine Fiedler
University o Leipzig, Germany
 The paper ocuses on European language policy. A polity o 27 states with 23 ocial languagesis an enormous challenge. The public discourse o EU politicians stresses the need to maintainall the languages o the EU, or they are an essential component o European identity. The EU’slinguistic reality looks dierent. It is characterised by the ever greater predominance o just onelanguage, English. Recent publications have shown that the hegemony o English has led tosevere disadvantages or non-anglophones in general and in academia in particular. There is agrowing awareness o the dangers emanating rom the dominance o one language over all otherlanguages. Several options or language policy have been presented to fnd air and democraticapproaches to international communication. Their scope includes (1) multilingualism/pluri-lingualism, (2) restriction to receptive skills (e.g. European Intercomprehension), (3) reducedvariants o English, e.g. the model ‘English as a Lingua Franca (ELF)’, (4) initiatives to revivean ancient language (e.g. Latin), and (5) the use o a planned language. The paper gives anintroduction to these approaches and an analysis o the treatment that they receive in theliterature on language policy. It discusses the extent to which they seem to be easible andthe consequences their implementation would have or language learning.
: European language policy, English, multilingualism, English as a Lingua Franca (ELF),planned languages (Esperanto)
Te public discourse o EU politicians stresses “the necessity o maintaining lin-guistic and cultural diversity in Europe” (European Language Council 2001: 3),as this is an essential component o European identity. Te EU’s reality looksdierent. It is characterised by the ever-greater predominance o just one lan-guage, English.Questions o language policy in Europe are a delicate and controversial issue.On the one hand, the existence o a common language, a global lingua ranca,provides a huge advantage to a large number o people – in commerce, politics,tourism, leisure activities, but especially in the sciences. As Mühleisen (2003:
1. A shorter version o this paper was given at the conerence ‘Language Policy and Language Learn-ing: New Paradigms and New Challenges’ (18–20 June 2009, University o Limerick, Ireland). I wouldlike to thank the anonymous
reviewers or very helpul comments on an earlier dra o thisarticle.
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2 Sabine Fiedler
117) points out, “all science is useless i it is not accessible to other members o the discipline. Tis is easier with only one language as a scientic lingua ranca”.On the other hand, the dominance o English is increasingly attracting strongcriticism. Recent publications (e.g. Carli and Ammon 2007; Gnutzmann 2008;Grin 2005) have shown that the dominance o a single language as a medium o international communication leads to communicative inequality. Among otherthings, it results in a reduction o discourse patterns and a tendency towards aunilateral approach to research. Te spread o English avours Anglo-Americanideas and authors. Its prevalent use in the sciences and academia leads to severedisadvantages or non-anglophones, as well as to a devaluation o other oreignlanguages. Furthermore, it provides English-speaking countries with enormousadditional income.Tereore, several options or language policy have been presented to ndair and democratic approaches to international communication. Teir scopeincludes1. dierent variants o multilingualism/plurilingualism2. the restriction to passive language skills (e.g. European Intercomprehension)3. reduced variants o English, such as the model
English as a Lingua Franca
4. initiatives to revive an ancient language (e.g. Latin)5. the use o an articial language.
Tis paper will give an introduction to these approaches and an analysis o thetreatment that they receive in the literature on language policy. It will also dis-cuss the extent to which they seem to be easible and the consequences theirimplementation would have or language learning.
Towards equitable communication
1. Multilingualism/plurilingualism
De jure the EU is based on ‘ull’ multilingualism. According to Article 217, allthe (now 23) languages o the member states are ocial languages o the EU.
2. ‘Non-linguistic’ approaches, such as machine translation or the proposal to set up a system o com-pensation (van Parijs 2007) are not considered in this article.3. ‘Multilingualism’ is mainly used with reerence to languages spoken in a certain area, whereas‘plurilingualism’ (or individual multilingualism) characterises people who are able to speak more thanone language.4. Multilingualism in individual member states, however, is neglected. Catalan, or example, withmore speakers than Danish, does not qualiy as being an ocial EU language (Phillipson 2003).
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Approaches to air linguistic communication 3
De acto there is a linguistic hierarchy with English now at the top. Phillipson(2009: 150) shows the increase in the use o English, presenting the gures setout in able 1 or the language o initial draing o EU texts.
In the practical work o the EU institutions the equal status o the ocial lan-guages is a ction, as even Leonard Orban, Commissioner or Multilingualism,admits:
No matter how much we would like to, we cannot translate everything in all the 23 ociallanguages. We are aced with constraints, depending on the human resources available andthe budget allocated to translation. (2008)
As or individual multilingualism, the plurilingual individual has become thetarget or language education policy: “Every European citizen should havemeaningul communicative competence in at least two other languages in add-ition to his or her mother tongue” (CoEC 2003: 4). Tis ambitious goal wasslightly modied recently. In 2007 a group o intellectuals or intercultural dia-logue, chaired by Amin Maalou, was set up on the initiative o the EuropeanCommission. It proposed that “the European Union should advocate the idea o a personal adoptive language”. Tis language should be reely chosen by every European and it should be “dierent rom his or her language o identity, andalso dierent rom his or her language o international communication” [withthe latter meaning English – S.F.]. Te proposal is a reaction to the growingdominance o English and the tensions that have been caused by it: “Using thisapproach, we would hope to overcome the current rivalry between Englishand the other languages, a rivalry which results in the weakening o the otherlanguages and which is also detrimental to the English language itsel and itsspeakers” (Maalou 2008: 7).Quality and success in the learning o oreign languages vary hugely, but ingeneral one has to admit that competence in several languages will probably berestricted to an elite o the intellectual and gied ew (Bliesener 2003: 96; Phil-
5. Te swing to English is conrmed by Wright’s investigation into English in the European Parlia-ment (2007: 151).
Table 1.
Percentage increase in use o English or initial drating o EU textsFrenchGermanOtherEnglish197060%40%0%0%199638%5%12%46%200426%3%9%62%200614%3%11%72%
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