The concepts of Euro English

Although the concepts of Euro English (EE) and English as a European lingua franca (EELF) have been part of the discourse of applied (socio-)linguistics and language teaching for more than a decade, it seems quite safe to say that a common understanding of these expressions has not been reached as yet. A similarly pessimistic statement can probably be made with regard to the idea of European identity, which, after all, one would assume to be central to the process of Europeanization within the context of the European Union (EU) although it was not even explicitly referred to in the final – though by now obsolete – version of the European Constitution.

Obviously, we are dealing with three ideologically loaded concepts which in order to become manageable in our discussion, would really need some in-depth historical and systematic clarification. Since, given the time-frame of this paper, such an endeavour is not realistic the article will mainly concentrate on a discussion of EE and EELF from an applied sociolinguistic and pedagogical perspective, also making reference to their possible contribution to European identity, although no detailed discussion of this concept can be given.

Borneman and Fowler view Europeanization as the result of a new kind and intensity of European integration brought about as a reaction to the two world wars and the subsequent cold-war division of East and West (“Europeanization”, 487). In accordance with these authors, the process of Europeanization, in spite of its being instigated and driven by the EU administrations and organisations, must be distinguished from the political body of the EU, neither of which is in a position to replace the nation-states of Europe at present. Nonetheless, the nations “are now being brought into new relations with each other”.

The paper will proceed as follows: following the introduction, it offers some thoughts on plurilingualism in Europe, which in the Common European Framework (CEF) (Council of Europe 2001) is put forward as the Council of Europe’s official language policy statement and favoured approach to language learning, not least because plurilingualism is seen as a viable alternative, if not an antidote to compensate for the widespread use of English in Europe.

Since English is extensively used as a de facto lingua franca in Europe, at least in Continental Europe (and London), the concept of lingua franca and its definition will be dealt further on. Although the term EE (Euro English) in this paper is employed more or less synonymously with EELF, EE seems to suggest that there exists some kind of English with its own characteristic structures and functions; a kind of English that is specifically European in flavour–the phenomenon of linguistic transference from the various European languages has also been identified by some researchers as a marker of Euro-English. The term Euro English also implies, more perhaps than EELF does, that EE could be considered as a linguistic variety in its own right, similar perhaps to English as a Second Language (ESL) varieties such as Singapore or Indian English.

Drawing on the general, reciprocal relationship between language and culture the question that is pursued is whether EELF is possibly reflective of (a) European culture and (b) whether EELF can contribute to establishing a European identity. If the latter should turn out to be the case one might want to ask whether the potential identity creating function of EELF could lead to questioning the European Council’s policy on plurilingualism and the concomitant principle of cultural diversity although, at present, plurilingualism and cultural diversity are seen as the main pillars of official European language policy and of European identity viewed from a linguacultural perspective.