Re: [langue-fr] L'anglais est-il une langue universelle ?

From: Elliotte Rusty Harold (
Date: Fri Dec 29 2000 - 20:30:21 EST

>"Patrick Andries" <> writes:
>> May I add that this is precisely the reason that makes so many
>> Scandinavians and Dutch unsufferable : they cannot imagine speaking anything
>> else than English to a foreigner (often not even their own language).

I've held my tongue in this flame-fest so far, but I'm afraid I can't
keep silent any longer. Unlike citizens of some larger countries the
Danes and the Dutch have no illusions that the world is going to
speak their language. They willingly accept that the mountain isn't
coming to them, and they're going to have to go to it.

In a world where you can get from any major city to any other in less
than 48 hours (and often a lot less) and where we routinely
communicate with people around the globe from minute-to-minute, the
old European ideal of learning to speak every language you're likely
to come into contact with, even a little, just isn't practical.

In a world that gets smaller every day, we are quite lucky that there
is a lingua franca, even if that lingua franca is English. In
different times and various places, the lingua franca has been Greek,
Latin, Arabic, French, Russian, and other languages; but today it's
English. There are obvious historical and political reasons English
has become the de facto choice, even though other languages would
almost certainly have been better choices from the perspective of
ease of learning and use.

I think Denmark, the Netherlands, and the other Scandinavian
countries have done a very good thing in producing a populace that's
largely fluent in English. If a person speaks the native language (or
in a few cases, languages) of their country plus English, then they
have the basic linguistic tools they need to survive and prosper in
today's world. Anything else is gravy. Learning languages is
important for many reasons, but is it so important that we should
spend our lives doing to it to the detriment or exclusion of music,
art, commerce, science, love, and everything else?

We may get a kick out of learning Dutch before going to the
Netherlands, or Japanese before going to Japan, and that's good; but
we simply can't expect this of every person who visits foreign
countries or needs to talk to foreigners visiting their own country,
whether they're an astronomer or a cab driver. The existence of a
lingua franca means that the world can communicate more easily and
more effectively than it could without one.

Most of the participants on this list are multilingual to some extent
or another. For myself, I can get by in four languages including
French, and I'm one of the less multilingual people here. But let's
face it: we're weird. The average citizen of any country has neither
the time, money, nor interest to learn more than two languages; nor
should they have to.


+-----------------------+------------------------+-------------------+ | Elliotte Rusty Harold | | Writer/Programmer | +-----------------------+------------------------+-------------------+ | The XML Bible (IDG Books, 1999) | | | | | +----------------------------------+---------------------------------+ | Read Cafe au Lait for Java news: | | Read Cafe con Leche for XML news: | +----------------------------------+---------------------------------+

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