|Back to Index|
In Europe official languages were imposed to stress national unity. Now the reverse is taking place, and the old chaos is returning in a new form, exacerbated by European legislation favoring regional languages. Spain, Switzerland, Belgium and Britain are resigned to having a multi-language problem, but now France is angry because it has the same problem; French, having lost its international primacy, is even threatened at home. A number of regional languages are demanding parity with the national language.
The grand druid of Brittany, dressed in a white tunic and with a crown of mistletoe, addressed a meeting in breton and accused President Jacques Chirac of excluding Breton citizens from French nationality. He said the druids will ask the new Welsh Assembly and Prince of Wales Charles to give the Bretons Welsh and British citizenship because of their Celtishness. Not mentioned was that, long ago, when to title Prince of Wales was adopted, the English king fooled the Welsh by promising to give them a prince who knew not a word of English. The Welsh got an in-fant (i.e. not yet speaking). The request will leave Charles speechless and dumbfounded, since this will try his command of Welsh.
The expansion of the EU to Scandinavia has exacerbated the madness. Finland, which held the rotating European presidency, said he would not recognize German, the language with the most speakers, as a European language. It is not clear whether the President disliked the Germans, or simply resembled Emperor Charles the Fifth, who said he spoke German only to his horses. The angry Germans and the Austrians boycotted the meeting, whereupon the President reversed himself and added Latin (!) as an official language. It looks as though he was desperately trying to reduce the number of official languages and hoped that the Romance-speaking countries would accept Latin as their joint language. Some hope.
This brings up the similar problem in the Arab world, where classical Arab is in theory the lingua franca, and Indonesia, plagued with 669 local languages, where the nationalist movement created Bahasa Indonesia, similar to the national language of Indonesia. The possible breakup of Indonesia would result in a bedlam prone to petty dictatorships. At the congressional hearings in Washington today on the situation in Indonesia, the East Timor independence representatives spoke in Portuguese (not Brazilian) Portuguese,
Our efficient new webmaster, Astrid Usong, comes from a Christian family which is part Chinese, part Javanese and part Dutch. Incidentally, her grandparents spoke Dutch and think well of the Dutch regime. I have asked her to encourage her relatives to update us on the situation there.
Ronald Hilton - 10/1/99