Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 2nd May 2008 20:52 UTC, submitted by irbis
In the News One of the biggest problems facing the European Union today is the fact that within its borders, 23 languages are spoken. This means that all the important documents have to be translated by a whole army of translators, which costs the taxpayer more than 1 billion Euros a year - and companies trading within the EU spend millions more. The EU-funded TC-STAR project aims to tackle this issue with technology: a system that eats speech in one language, and outputs that same speech in another.
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RE[4]: What's the problem?
by Trenien on Sat 3rd May 2008 13:16 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: What's the problem?"
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Even if I stay very conservative, if I take the UK, Ireland and Malta's population, they add up to about 67 millions. On the other side, taking a low 40% of Belgium's population and that of France, I get 68 millions of people.

I used the same source you did for these numbers: Wikipedia.
To know which language is spoken where:
Languages of Belgium:

Now could someone explain to me how this one million person difference in favor of French ends up in a 1% difference in favor of English?


Nevermind, I already know the answer. From the same article: "Special Eurobarometer 243" of the European Commission with the title "Europeans and their Languages"

I'll also quote: "This is a poll, not a census. 28,694 citizens with a minimum age of 15 were asked in the then 25 member-states as well as in the then future member-states (Bulgaria, Romania) and the candidate countries (Croatia, Turkey) at the time of the survey. Only citizens, not immigrants, were asked."

The same survey says that in a paltry five years, 9% more people are able to hold a conversation in a foreign language. As far as I'm aware, in that timeframe (2001 to 2006), no country has implemented a radically different way of teaching languages (whichever one). That is completely coherent with the fact we're talking feeling here, not facts.
Another point is that the number of surveyed people are the same in each and every country (about a thousand people). Considering, for instance, that France's population is close to six times the size of that of Belgium (and there are more extreme cases), I begin to doubt the value of said survey. One last point to consider is that this has been done at the behest of the European Commission, which is known for its willingness to favor English above any other language...

That said, you misunderstood me in thinking I'd favor teaching French or German in place of English. What I'd like would be for the first foreign language to be taught throughout Europe to be either Esperanto, Interlingua or some such. These are easy to learn, and don't put any country and its citizens above the others. In addition, I feel it absolutely necessary to keep translating any and all EU's documents in every EU's languages. It's the only way Europe can keep at least a semblance of Democracy.

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