So Britain is on the way out of the European Union – but is English?
When Jean-Claude Juncker, the multilingual Luxembourger who leads the European commission, stands up to give a speech to the European parliament on Wednesday, he is widely expected to use French and German – but not English.
And when Margaritis Schinas led the commission’s midday briefing on Monday, he opened up in French rather than English. Though Schinas followed up by answering some questions in English, observers on Twitter couldn’t help but ask the question:
This in itself is no sign of a linguistic embargo. Commission spokespeople regularly alternate between French and English; Schinas answered all questions posed in English in that language.
But if the UK leaves EU officials will seek to revive the use of the EU’s other two working languages: French and German.
English is only one of the EU’s 24 official languages, but is by far the most dominant. English has long displaced French as the language of diplomacy, while use of German is non-existent.
But any attempt to say au revoir to English will not be that straightforward. English is the preferred second language of many diplomats from central and eastern Europe.