English Plays Offense

R. A. Stegemann moogoonghwa at mac.com
Tue Nov 9 13:01:33 UTC 2004

Dear List Members,

This entry is in response to the article provided by Stan Anonby under
the heading "LANGUAGE: Tough Talk" and by Harold F. Schiffman under the
heading "French plays defense". The article is provide after my
signature for your convenience.

Well, I suppose it is safe to say that "more than 250 million" speak
English "as a second language" and "more than 60 million" speak French
as a second language. By placing only a minimum threshold the mind
boggles about what the rest of the world's several billion people are
speaking (Please read "have some knowledge of")  as a second language.
What tickles me in particular about this article is the statement
"across the E.U. (and excluding the U.K.) 92% of students choose to
study English as a foreign language, compared to 33% for French and 13%
for German". Although I have know idea where these figures come from
and would be very eager to learn how they were produced, I find the
word CHOOSE to be a very poor choice of words. It is like saying you
choose to study English, or any other language where universal language
requirements (ULRs) are in place, because you choose to go to school.
Or alternatively, you choose to go to school, because it is required by
law. Indeed, I choose to do some things because the only reasonable
alternative is death, and I am not about to scuttle my entire ship,
because one hold is infested with rats.

What do you think?


R. A. Stegemann
EARTH's Manager and HKLNA-Project Director
EARTH - East Asian Research and Translation in Hong Kong
Tel/Fax: 852 2630 0349

On 8 Nov 2004, at 21:42, Harold F. Schiffman wrote:

> About 380 million people speak English as their primary language and
> more
> than 250 million as a second language, versus 113 million and over 60
> million respectively for French. Despite France's annual $1 billion
> budget
> to promote French internationally, the language ranks 11th in terms of
> number of speakers and is flagging. Though it is still the primary
> language at international institutions like unesco, Interpol and the
> European Court of Justice  and a working tongue at a score of others
> English dominates international diplomacy and business, and is the
> language used on 52% of all websites; just 4.6% are in French. Across
> the
> E.U. (and excluding the U.K.), 92% of students choose to study English
> as
> a foreign language, compared to 33% for French and 13% for German. Even
> French multinationals like Alstom and Vivendi have adopted English as
> the
> workplace vernacular. "This isn't about fighting English, but rather
> the
> use and influence of any language at the cost of all others," says
> conservative legislator Bruno Bourg-Broc, leader of a French
> parliamentary
> group monitoring the language's fortunes at home and abroad. "It's
> about
> safeguarding cultural and linguistic diversity by resisting
> uniformity."
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