Thursday, May 9, 2013

The EU And Its Languages: Part 1

Since today is Europe Day, the celebration of the EU and Europe, we felt it would be an apt time to celebrate our thirst for language knowledge. Today we'll be looking at how the political entity of the EU has affected languages over the last six decades.

The Treaty of Rome was signed in this room
in the Palazzo dei Conservatori.
Our story begins with the Treaty of Rome and the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957. This helped create the earliest form of what can now be called the EU. The EEC wasn't actually the EU, but many consider it to be the precursor for it. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were the founding nations of the EEC.

If you're even vaguely culturally aware, you will notice that these six countries don't all speak the same language. Belgium's main languages include Flemish and French, while German is used in Germany, Italian in Italy, and French in France. It's also spoken in Luxembourg, where Flemish and Luxembourgish are also used, while Dutch and other languages we mentioned last week for Queen's Day are spoken in the Netherlands.

Four main languages from these countries were assigned official status. These were French, Italian, German and Dutch, three of which would later be considered by marketers as the most important languages in Europe, known as EFIGS (English, French, Italian, German and Spanish).

Charles de Gaulle clearly wasn't a fan
of his British neighbours.
It wasn't until 1973 that more nations joined the EEC. The United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark were added to the roster despite previous vetoes from France's president, Charles de Gaulle. As if the British and the French needed more political tension!

With their accession came English and Danish as official languages. Ireland's native language, Irish, would not be added as an official language until New Year's Day 2007.

The early 80s brought with it horrendous fashion and a galvanised music scene (some of the best and worst music is from this decade), as well as newly democratic states in the Mediterranean such as Spain, Portugal and Greece, all of which lost their dictators in the 70s.

The common agricultural policy was too good for the Mediterranean states to turn down and membership put a huge seal of approval on the fledgling democracies. Spanish, Portuguese and Greek were all added to the ever-growing list of official languages.

Having already covered all the enlargements of the EEC, tomorrow we'll be covering the history following the Maastricht Treaty, which created what we now know as the EU.

Read Part 2.