Average number of languages spoken by the EU population

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Average number of languages spoken by the EU population

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Redigeret: okt 17, 2014, 6:26pm

Very interesting ... I love the fact that he took percentages into account! I therefore (typically) speak 3.4 languages! Spanish, half recalled French, smatter of German and some 'Murikan. I was always impressed by my German peers when I worked in Munich, often noting three languages in the same sentence.

What do you call someone who speaks 3 languages? "Trilingual" ... And 2? "Bilingual'. One? " "American."

Redigeret: okt 17, 2014, 6:33pm

The study on which that is based is at http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_386_en.pdf

I think that by the criteria of the study I speak three. I can probably still carry on a conversation in French if I have to. Although it might depend on the conversation.

okt 17, 2014, 6:37pm

Yeah, I can really only carry on a conversation in French, especially with a little liquor. My Turkish is more "carry on a specific set of conversations." My Latin and Greek are non-conversational.

I want to see the numbers for US states.

Redigeret: okt 17, 2014, 6:46pm

That would be interesting would it not!!? Louisiana with Cajun (Arcadian) French and Spanish. Penn with "Dutch" (Deutsch). Florida with Spanish (of course) but Brazilian Portuguese as well as Greek (Tarpon). I too find booze a lingual lubricant and learnt what little I speak mostly 'after-hours" with peers and customers.

okt 17, 2014, 6:47pm

>2 John_Vaughan: What do you call someone who speaks 3 languages? "Trilingual" ... And 2? "Bilingual'. One? " "American."

What I find interesting about this survey is that it disproves that. "Just over half of Europeans (54%) are able to hold a conversation in at
least one additional language", "Europeans are slightly less likely to say that they understand any foreign language well enough to be able to use it to communicate online (e.g. using email, Twitter, Facebook etc.), with two fifths (39%) saying that they can use at least one foreign language in this way." Half of Europeans are monolingual.

okt 17, 2014, 6:49pm

>5 John_Vaughan:

You know the county with the largest percentage of native French speakers? It's in Maine.

Redigeret: okt 17, 2014, 6:56pm

... and they (you) still pronounce it as Callis!

okt 17, 2014, 8:53pm

Ha. Yeah.

okt 18, 2014, 1:59am

In related news, being multilingual can apparently protect you from dementia:


The backside, of course, is that you acquire books you don't have time to read in multiple languages.

okt 18, 2014, 2:39am

>10 AndreasJ: Yup! That's me. Aquiring more books than I can read in both English and German.

okt 20, 2014, 11:19am

It would be interesting to know for each of those countries whose inhabitants typically speak more than one language what those other languages would typically be.

okt 20, 2014, 11:28am

Read the PDF referred to in post #3. It has all the details.

Redigeret: okt 20, 2014, 11:35am

There is a lot of that in the report that I linked to in >3 MarthaJeanne:. See page 21 (which the computer calls 23). For example, although Austria has regions with Croatian and/or Slovakian as native languages, neither of those languages had enough speakers to make the top three. (English, French, Italian).

>14 MarthaJeanne: Thank you. I'm glad to know someone else looked at it.

okt 20, 2014, 1:17pm

How come the Slovenes talk so many languages? It's not an inverse size effect, although something like that does seem to be going on, but too many counterexamples.

Redigeret: okt 20, 2014, 1:41pm

>15 wester: Small nations are much more open. Slovenes are often quite fluent in two or three of English, German and Italian and as a bonus get the Southern Slav languages almost for free. Slovenia also profits from the artifact that is both a state and a region. Regions would have been so much better units of analysis, e.g. Hungarian plays no role in Tirol, Austria, while it is crucial in Burgenland, Austria - these findings are mostly averaged out by looking at the whole of Austria (likewise bi- or trilingual areas that happen not to be a state). European nations are too different in size and composition to make any sense as units of analysis.

For political reasons, they consider Czech and Slovakian different languages (and in the next round, Croatian and Serbian). Then English and American would be considered two languages as well. While the survey is thus too generous, it is too strict regarding the mutual intelligibility of languages. Italian and Spanish have an overlap of 80%. One can easily survive and be understood just by speaking Italian in Spain (or Romania). There is even a sub-genre of Swedish-Danish TV series with actors speaking both languages intermixed.

The biggest flaw, however, is ignoring immigrants which produces such funny results that 7% of Germans interviewed use "German" online. This artifact is produced by asking German residents whose mother tongue is not German what foreign language they use online - that is almost all of them, not surprisingly.

okt 20, 2014, 3:16pm

>8 John_Vaughan: Years ago while driving through Calais, Maine en route to New Brunswick, I almost drove off the road laughing after passing a local beauty salon called "The Calais Touch."

okt 20, 2014, 4:50pm

>8 John_Vaughan: >17 Marissa_Doyle:

It's pretty amusing here in the Midwest, too. Some of my favourites:
-- Versailles, OH which rhymes with tails
-- Goethe here in Chicago which has 3 syllables and sounds like "Go With Me"
-- Lima, OH which sounds like an industrial-sized vegetable

I'm sure it's widespread throughout the States.

okt 20, 2014, 4:56pm

>8 John_Vaughan: That is historically how it was pronounced in English. One could assume that they named it after the English city of Calais, and chose to pronounce it as it was then, not like the French did after they conquered it.

Redigeret: okt 20, 2014, 5:12pm

>18 elenchus:, I heard that - Except Lima sounded right to me and I speak Spanish.
>19 prosfilaes: Oh I like that 'the English city of Calais"! So it was for many a century, but do we really know how it was pronounced back then? After 1066 and all that all the educated Brits spoke Norman French anyway! (Sort of Viking with an accent.)

okt 20, 2014, 5:16pm

I found it a little annoying, but not completely surprising, that we got no information on small languages in Europe. No discussion of the role of Sami or Basque or Welsh; the only time anyone of those three got note outside the questions was the fact that Welsh is spoken by 1% of the UK as a home language. (I guess I see that many tables are embedded unsearchable graphics; A++ on accessibility.)

okt 20, 2014, 5:21pm

>20 John_Vaughan: Yes, we know how it was pronounced back then, both through the various ways it's spelled in Shakespeare and the fact that other poets rhymed it with malice and Alice. (A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English, page xlvii.)

okt 20, 2014, 5:21pm

>18 elenchus: Don't forget Marsailles, IL, pronounced Mar-SAILS.

When I lived on that bus route, Goethe was routinely pronounced "GOTH-ee." One day in the 1970s, a bespectacled, artsy young man corrected the bus driver with a loud, firm "GER-teh!"

And let's not forget Devon Avenue, "dih-VONN."


However, French does not get totally jettisoned. For native speakers:

The noise
that annoys
is 'Illinoyz'

okt 20, 2014, 5:53pm

>21 prosfilaes: Much of the EU drive towards more and better language skills is its mission to create a single European labor market. In contrast to the United States, the unemployed tend to stay in non-performing regions, instead of moving to more prospering ones. Apart from the fact that Amazon.com pays miserable wages and employed Neo-Nazis guards, the EU is quite happy with its employing thousands of seasonal Spanish workers to pack and process German Xmas presents in Germany as this clears stuck markets and improves European welfare.

Knowledge of the smaller/exotic languages is probably decreasing labor flexibility as knowing Welsh or Basque will bind people further to the territory. Besides the commendable culture and diversity angle, there is the EU's urge for standardization and selection of a lingua franca where the chief contenders English, German and French are embattled in a futile struggle for (regional) dominance.

okt 22, 2014, 2:56am

>18 elenchus: Interesting! There's a Versailles Street here in Alameda CA, pronounced the same way - Ver-SAILS. It's a perennial argument between "locals" and "newcomers" (the latter defined as "grandparents weren't born here in Alameda"). I've been told that it was named after a person who pronounced it that way, and I've also been told that's nonsense, it's just pronounced phonetically. Didn't know there was a town pronounced the same way...

okt 22, 2014, 12:08pm

There was an old episode of the TV show Hazel where Hazel lost a decorating commission for her employer because she told the home owner her house looked just like pictures she had seen of the Palace of Ver-SAILS. She was so flattered she decided not to redecorate.

okt 22, 2014, 12:24pm

>10 AndreasJ:

The online OED indicates only two instances of this currently irregular use of 'backside', both of them seventeenth century. AndreasJ would be advised not to use this in UK, where it might raise eyebrows, being common usage for what in the US is strangely called 'ass' (I do not refer to the long-eared beast that eats grass).

Surely it has been replaced in this usage by 'downside'?

okt 22, 2014, 2:29pm

27> It's a false friend for Swedish baksida "rear side; downside".

okt 23, 2014, 9:55am

I knew there was a downside for learning Swedish ...