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How the dominance of English kills the European debate

Spanishwalker has already argued some months ago that one of the problems of the European blogosphere is the dominance of English. He sees the problem in English being the gatekeeper language between blogging and writing in most other European languages.

In consequence, conversation between Swedish and Spanish bloggers would only take place if they (a) write and read in English or (b) if someone reading either language refers to them (e.g. through lining) in her English-language blog.

But there’s a second problem with English that Spanishwalker doesn’t address: It makes us (whoever “us” may be) focus too much on British debates. Daniel Hannan today blogging the same old story of why the UK would and should not be in the EU is getting 100x more attention than a Polish politician/writer writing about how the future EU agriculture should look like. [Update: A good examples is this fascinating recent Polish blog post (Google translated) on the pros/cons of the Union.]

Instead of discussing the actual problems of European politics – and to the credit of many EU-critics there are many – the dominance of English makes us have the old debates over and over again. All you need to do to understand the perpetuum mobile is to read Nosemonkey’s blog from A to Z (including the comments).

I actually don’t mind the debate about having or not having a referendum in the UK, but it’s plain boring. It’d rather be interested to understand, for the first time, what a Polish, a Romanian, a French and an Estonian farmer (or agriculture policy blogger, to stay in context) have to say about why the EU or EU policies are flawed than to read, for the 1000th time, an exchange about why UK membership in the EU is good, bad, neutral etc.

If we actually were listening to the full debate instead of just promoting blog posts and arguments that are well-known and well-understood, we’d actually be able to see why things are wrong or right. If more people (bloggers for that sake, but also journalists) would just ignore old news and see what’s new news, we’d actually go back to substantive arguing instead of yelling conventional wisdom at each other.

Instead, we leave it to national ministers and their working-level representatives discussing behind closed doors in the EU Council to make those arguments for us and to come to agreements that may be no good for anyone. As long as “the European public” (note: whatever that is) discusses meaningless generalities based on an English-language UK focus while national politicians and administrators turned EU law-makers make or prevent actual politics, those discussions of a European public are meaningless or at least waste of time.

That’s why English as a lingua franca is bad. If we were able to mute the repetitious UK debates, English would be a great tool to have more pan-European debates. But, as long as we can’t mute the UK debate, we’re doomed (note: that’s an exaggeration). So my intention for 2013 is: Ignore UK debates as much as possible, not promote related blog posts on and instead link to other debates instead.

All it needs is a little effort and intelligent search. Happy 2013.

58 Responses to How the dominance of English kills the European debate

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