Language is one of the greatest assets of humanity. It allows us to exchange ideas, to express feelings and to preserve our culture. Preserving all the national languages contributes to preserving the national identities, as language is not merely a means of communication, but also a bearer of identity.
Languages and lingua francas have always been important for the peoples of Europe. In different historical periods Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Russian and, for a short and strained period, German, had the European hegemony. The two World Wars of the 20th century and the creation of the international system brought a change into this historical pattern, which culminated in the creation of today’s European Union. The EU is based on the principle of democracy and non-discrimination, which means that all its official languages are considered to be equal and there are inherent legal checks that ensure multilingualism.
The linguistic diversity of Europe has both its advantages and disadvantages. The EU is committed to preserving its cultural and linguistic heterogenity, as reflected by its very motto ’United in diversity’ – fittingly translated into all its 24 official languages. This, however raises some practical questions; for it seems that what can be stopped via the legal checks cannot be stopped by the market mechanisms of capitalism. Although in theory all languages are equal in importance, there seem to be firsts among equals. In the history of the European Union it was initially French, but nowadays it is increasingly English, which is now more significant than any language has ever been in history. The prevalence of English can be seen not only in the language learning trends within the member states, but also in the institutions’ language use, which presents a serious dilemma: should we promote linguistic diversity in accordance with the EU’s democratic principles and respect for diversity, or should we rather accept the seemingly inevitable hegemony of the English language in the world and adopt it as a single working language in the EU, making it more efficient and flexible but sacrificing equality? The first part of this paper will examine the language situation in the EU, both with regard to the languages of the peoples within its territory and the languages of its institutions, and will look into the limitations of multilingualism and its possible alternatives. It will analyze the possibility of adopting a simplified version of English called ’Globish’ as a single working language in the EU, comparing it with previous historical attempts to use artificial languages or simplified languages for that purpose in the second part.
After examining Globish, pointing out its strengths and weaknesses, we will argue in this article that it is not suitable for these purposes. To prove my arguments we will analyze its features in detail with special attention to its 1500-word vocabulary and its limitations. During our research we contacted Mr. Jean-Paul Nerrière, inventor of Globish and David Crystal, the world-famous British linguist and author of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. We used linguistic data from several sources to prove that the vocabulary of Globish is not sufficient for the needs of either everyday use or special uses, such as business or legal language. Finally, at the end of this paper we will conclude that Europe will most likely maintain its multilingual policy in the future while the role of English as a global lingua franca will continue to grow.