I find here an article on the use of English within EU institutions.

It says: "our publications need to be comprehensible for their target audience, which is largely British and Irish, and should therefore follow a standard that reflects usage in the United Kingdom and Ireland" (page 4).

Is it true that the target audience is UK and Irish native speakers? Is it not English the lingua franca of Europe and therefore is it not the non-British (and non-Irish) audience which is the larger target?

Is there an academic guidance at EU level concerning the use of English as European lingua franca?

(That is: is Euro-English to be more than subject for jokes like this one?)

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    The target audience is obviously UK & Ireland, since the rest of the English-speaking world cannot be expected to read EU documents. Equally, I would expect Spanish versions of these documents to be consistent with the language used in Spain, the member country, rather than any South or Central American variants. – Terpsichore Apr 8 '14 at 15:24
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    The 'target audience' doesn't mean the only people who will read it. It's reasonable to make the target audience for English documents native British and Irish, while admitting that other nationalities my read the documents also. – DJClayworth Apr 8 '14 at 18:40

I am working for an international organisation which includes most of Europe, but also some other major Anglophone countries (most notably the US). Although effectively all communication happens in English (and de facto in AmE), if one were to propose the actual adoption of English as a lingua franca within the organisation, countries like France and Germany might (threaten to) quit the organisation, and the mere mention of "one lingua franca" might spell the end of existence of the host country (Belgium).

Now, within the EU, language is a very fickle point, and it should always be approached with extreme caution. The list of languages into which every official EU document has to be translated is longer than one would expect, and I am quite certain that the majority of EU citizens outside the UK and Ireland would not expect to (have to) read an EU document in English.

If you are really adventurous, travel to France and propose the idea that the French representatives to the EU are a target audience for the English publications.

Warning that adventurous proposal is not meant to be actually executed!

Edit: sneaking a peek at your profile I notice you are in France already. You might want to give the idea a try - just be very careful. Interestingly enough, even if you would convince France (and I doubt it!), there are plenty of other countries that will refuse to give up their right to be addressed in their own language. The policy of the EU is to accommodate for those wishes, and thus, the English versions of documents will mostly be read by the people in the UK and Ireland.

Hence, it is likely that the form of English used in those publications will indeed (largely) follow the rules of British English.

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    I am not authorised to translate into Frisian. I am sorry. Well, I'm not capable either. I can do French, Dutch or Greek for you... – oerkelens Apr 8 '14 at 15:29
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    @cipricus Ask the UN what lingua Franca they use … French and English are both used. Also, Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin, and Russian. – David M Apr 8 '14 at 15:34
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    Pragmatically English may be used - but I think it unwise for propose any actual written rules or guidelines to this extent to be created (at least for the coming decades). And when used pragmatically, I think few people can really be bothered if their English document is in BrE or AmE :) – oerkelens Apr 8 '14 at 15:35
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    @cipricus I know plenty of non-native English speakers whose English is better than the average English person. – DJClayworth Apr 8 '14 at 18:38
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    @cipricus; There is a well-known phenomenon where the very perfection of your English betrays that you are not a native speaker. – Tim Lymington Jul 1 '14 at 9:30

I work for various educational institutions in Germany and, therefore, within the EU. I can confirm that British English is the preferred variety of English used within the 28 EU member states.

When using the European Commission's website, http://ec.europa.eu/translation/english/english_en.htm, the translation information into English corresponds exclusively to the British culture, rather than to the American culture.

Using the IATE, the terminology database of the European Union,


you will also receive answers corresponding to the British culture. For example, if you want to translate the German word "Gymnasium" into English, you get "grammar school". In the UK, "grammar school" is the equivalent of "Gymnasium" in Germany, which is a college-preparatory high school. But in the US "grammar school" is another name for "elementary school" or "primary school". This can be very confusing.

The list goes on and on.

It is understandable that the European Union uses the variety of English that its members use, which is the English of the UK and Ireland. When it comes to international business, though, North American English is much more common.

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