The European Union is now, with its 27 State members, at its biggest. With the creation of common institutions and the euro, the Union is a great power. However, the number of members, which is always increasing, leads to the following question: does Europe need a “common” language?
Nowadays no one can ignore that the prevailing language is, without any doubt, English. Both professionally and culturally, it is now impossible to avoid this language. As a result, English is considered to be the international language of reference, and everyone (or almost) has to speak it (or jabber away). Should we therefore consider that English could rightfully be the main language of an institution such as the European Union? Its opponents are numerous: why should we favor the language of one nation, and thus create “sub-nations”? Would it mean that a non English-speaking European would be disadvantaged compared to an inhabitant of a country with a questionable Europhilia?
The debate is lively, and as yet, no agreement has been found. Whereas some are happy about the undeniable dominance of English, already spread in our habits, others are indignant about its dictatorship and its omnipresence as it is a symbol of the power of one nation. Some idealists have proposed Latin as a common European language. Lain has been incorrectly considered as a dead and buried language for a very long time, and is now only taught to curious intellectuals (yet it is still the official language of the Vatican). However, we have to highlight the fact that Latin gave birth to many European languages and thus represents a common ancestry, linguistically and culturally. During its presidency at the head of Europe in 2006, Finland even decided to publish its newsletters in Latin as well. So, could Latin be the solution? This seems out of the question, particularly as those who have studied it, will confirm that Latin is a very complex language.
Supporters of Esperanto are only too happy to confirm the difficulties of learning Latin. Esperanto is a “constructed” language, and was created about 120 years ago by a Polish doctor hoping to create a universal language. It has many advantages: learning it is very easy (you would need only 3 months to learn to speak it correctly and its grammar has no exceptions), its vocabulary is mainly inspired by Indo-European languages, and above all things it is entirely “neutral” and does not represent any supremacy of any power. Spoken by approximately 2 million people around the world today, Esperanto could be the answer to the lack of a common language in Europe.
The project of finding an “official” language for the European Union remains an ideal. Indeed, English undoubtedly dominates the EU, and learning a new language in order to develop a better understanding and to favor neutrality is likely to raise a few eyebrows. The question is, does Europe really need a common language? Translation is a fastidious task, but adapting to a new language would be even more difficult.