Shakespeare is curbing Molière and Goethe in Brussels

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

“French and German are unlikely to survive in Brussels” unless both countries “unite to better assert the importance of their languages,” argues Marc Foglia, the chief editor of the Groupe des Belles Feuilles, a reflection group, in a post on Blogactiv.

The author gives historical reasons for the decline of French, particularly highlighting the enlargements of 1995 (Austria, Sweden, Finland) and of 2004 (which included the ten Eastern newcomers). 

What’s more, in the main European institutions, knowledge of French “is no longer indispensable,” the blogger argues, pointing to estimates that only one third of Brussels-based European civil servants can speak Molière’s language. 

Thus the forthcoming French Presidency wants to defend the use of French “in the name of the diversity of languages in Europe,” says Foglia. He believes the best way to do this is to promote French by traditional means. 

The author points out that the French, and particularly Francophone civil servants, are faced with a “dilemma” as they are expected to use French “as much as possible” while also making sure they are understood, which often requires that they express themselves in English. 

The blogger points to the growing proportion of Commission texts in English, which rose from 45.4% in 2004 to 72% in 2006. This is in sharp contrast to the dramatic decline of the French language, which fell from 40.4% of texts in 1997 to 14% in 2006, he reveals. 

Foglia stresses that unlike the Elysée’s pages under former President Jacques Chirac, they are currently not translated into other languages under President Sarkozy, sending a “worrying sign to our European partners”. 

He concludes that this could be interpreted as implying that France is neglecting its European neighbours by presuming its institutions are of no interest to them. 

Subscribe to our newsletters