Native tongue

Published Monday, 27 February 2012
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What was striking about my fact finding trip to Brussels? Leaving aside the briefings about how the Eurozone is tackling the crisis facing it and the views on that subject expressed by the various commentators we met.

What is really surprising for me is the complete domination of English as a medium for communicating.

At every single talk that I attended, at the Ecofin press conference and also at the key briefing by Commissioner Olli Rehn on the EU's economic forecasts, not only were the addresses all in English but from memory all the questions put by journalists were also put in English.

The only times I had to communicate in French were asking for train tickets and enquiring from a porter where an event was being held.

It is striking how one can spend three days in the capital city of a major Continental country and not have to speak in either of its two official languages.

The foreign journalists who attended spoke so fluently that you could easily imagine that several had English as their first language.

And there I was struggling to put a few sentences together in French to ask the way.

The only thing that saves me from total humiliation on this score was the assurance that English is very easy to learn unlike Continental languages.

Or maybe someone was just trying to be kind.

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1 Comments
Fran Barlet in Belfast wrote (903 days ago):
Dear Jamie, I suppose Brussels is a bit of an anomaly in this way. It is so multi-cultural that there is an implicit understanding that speaking English will save people a lot of time. English as Brussels' Esperanto? Mmm. But as soon as you set foot in Paris you will need to go through the 'bonjour, merci, au revoir' right of passage before they gladly switch to English. Otherwise be ready to pay for your impudence!
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Jamie Delargy
Jamie Delargy

Jamie Delargy is UTV's Business Editor with a keen eye on local and global economic issues.

A Cambridge Philosophy graduate, Jamie had a brief spell in teaching before launching his career in journalism. In his spare time he enjoys a spot of tennis and is an avid reader.

His favourite saying is "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

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