Study: Language excludes many in EU

Jan. 31, 2012 at 3:23 PM
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DALLAS, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A majority of European Union citizens are marginalized because they do not speak English, the language most EU official business is conducted in, a study says.

Shlomo Weber of Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Victor Ginsburgh of the Free University of Brussels say that for the EU's non-English speakers, their native languages are of limited use in the union's political, legal, communal and business spheres.

That means they have limited access to EU laws, rules, regulations and debates in the governing body, they said.

"Language is the proxy for engagement. People identify strongly with their language, which is integral to culture and traditions," Weber said in an SMU release Tuesday. "Language is so explosive; language is so close to how you feel."

Previous studies have found 90 percent of the EU's official documents are drafted in English and later translated to other languages, mostly French and sometimes German.

However, nearly two-thirds of EU citizens don't speak or understand English, while 75 percent don't readily speak or understand German and 80 percent don't speak or understand French, Weber and Ginsburgh found.

"With globalization, people feel like they've been left on the side of the road," Weber said. "If your culture, your rights, your past haven't been respected, how can you feel like a full member of society?"

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