Re: OT: Linguae franca

From: Antoine Leca (
Date: Tue Jan 02 2001 - 12:24:59 EST

Last century, Michael Everson wrote:
> Ar 17:52 -0800 2000-12-29, scríobh Elliotte Rusty Harold:
> >The average citizen of any country has neither
> >the time, money, nor interest to learn more than two languages;

Assuming that some countries have only one language in day-to-day use,
the average citizen of these countries has neither the time, money,
nor interest to learn more than one language.

> >nor should they have to.

I cannot see why.
To be precise, I cannot see why there should be any limit at 2, and not
beyond or before.

> MOST Europeans are bilingual to some degree

Unfortunately, I cannot concur with Michael. My experience is rather
that (in France and Castillian Spain, I do not know about the other
places enough), they are basically monolingual; and when some of them
are bilingual, the second one is a regional language not to be used
with the administrations, which is often declining in use.
However, if we apply this scheme to English vs. the present "national"
languages, I do not see any trend here to promote English as the
language to use for the relations with the administrations etc.,
while the "national" language will be more confined to the "familial"
sphere. I agree this a possible evolution, and I should add that
I would highly dislike such an evolution. But all the signs I see
here is that this possibility will be actively fighted, at least by
the French government (cf. the 1992 reform of art.2 of the constitution).
This obviously has a cost, which is exceptionaly high when it comes
at the European institutions' level.

True, when the education level goes higher, the number of "foreign"
(as opposed to the regional ones) languages a person is understanding
raises accordingly. And of course, the education level is inversely
correlated with the age, so young people speak more languages than
their elders, every other things being equal.

By the way, in another message Paul Keinanen wrote:
> Pupils in schools are required to learn one or two foreign languages,
> of which English has usually been the first one. However, nowadays
> more and more parents put their children to classes with more "exotic"
> language (typically French, German, Spanish or Russian) as the first
> foreign language and English as the second foreign language by
> motivating that the children will learn English from the media
> pressure anyway :-).

We did (and probably still do) have a similar trend in France. One
of the major motivation was that the average level of the pupils in
these "exotic" classes is a bit higher, and as a result a number of
"well informed" parents (read: teachers, upper middle class, etc.)
did that in a attempt to get a stronger hand to their heirds.
According to a paper I read several years ago, it did work very well
in the 80's.
In an attempt to get back to the topic of this list, may I wish that
similarly in the 00's, the conceptors of softwares will first design
their future applications with i18n (and perhaps Unicode) in mind,
in order to promote them more easily to the mighty level of the
"killer app"!

Yet, the result is certainly not what I call bilingual. There is
a joke here in France about the pityful result of the average French
person (myself included) which, when he detects a foreigner trying to
use French with a strong accent, switch to use English (often bad and
not easy to understand), while keeping using French will certainly
be much easier to understand (I found it is often if not always, much
easier to understand a foreign language than to speak it correctly).

Writing that, I must beg your pardon to speak and write a so bad
English; however, I assume a French post of mine will be much more less
easier to understand in an international forum (as opposed to the
situation I just described!)


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