On Tuesday, Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, said that the English language is very dominant in Brussels, especially with the United Kingdom soon to exit the European Union. He promised to fight for wider use of French in the institutions of the European Union and abroad.
According to the Francophonie organisation of French-speaking countries, there are approximately 274 million French speakers globally, making it the fourth most used language on the internet and the fifth most widely spoken language.
French has been long dominant at the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels. However, English has become universal in European institutions, especially since eastern European members were welcomed in the bloc in 2004.
Britain is the second-largest economy in Europe, and by far it is the biggest English-speaking country. It is scheduled to withdraw from the European Union next year.
Macron said: “The situation now is quite paradoxical. English has probably never been as present in Brussels at the time when we are talking about Brexit.”
Quoting the relationship of Europe with French-speaking Africa, Macron stated: “This domination is not inevitable. It’s up to us to set some rules, to be present, and make French the language with whom one has access to a number of opportunities.”
Macron is not like most previous French leaders who usually speak English in public when abroad. He said that this was not a move against the use of English but an act to promote multilingualism.
He said that he was in favour of people in Europe learning two foreign languages and that France would boost its efforts to teach French to European officials.
Macron also revealed some steps to promote the teaching of French overseas, including through its network of French lycees, as a part of a series of measures.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, tweeted that he was “an enthusiastic backer of multilingualism.
In French, he said: “Why would Shakespeare’s language be superior to that of Voltaire?” Juncker told France 5 TV channel. “We are wrong to have become so anglicised.”
However, Juncker continued: “English has become a daily working language within the EU institutions. Brexit won’t change anything to it. Because those who don’t come from the western part of Europe have become used to speaking in English.”