Special Eurobarometer 386 - pure crap!Let’s make first clear that I am an Europeist. Given the continent’s history, I feel that the European Union is the best way to prevent future wars on the continent. Making a single market has also improved the living of the Europeans by breaking down trade barriers and enhancing commerce and competition. But that does mean that I have to swallow all the crap that comes from Brussels.

So I stumbled recently on the European Union Special Eurobarometer 386, “Europeans and their Languages“. It looked promising, so I started reading it until I realized that it is pure bullshit (Sorry for readers that don’t like strong words, but as you will see this expletive is way too weak). It is a perfect example about how stupid bureaucrats spend taxpayer’s money on worthless junk.

Now, those are harsh words. But let me ask you: What is the percentage of people in a major country that you can expect to speak their own language? Who can express them correctly in it? If we discount new immigrants and perhaps a few isolated areas that speak some regional language, obviously it is not 100%. But one would expect it to be close to that figure. Not so: According to the bureaucrats in Brussels, there are at least four major countries in Europe where a foreign languages is spoken far more than their own official language.

You don’t believe it? Well, look at the chart below, taken from the famous report, titled “D48T Languages that you speak well enough in order to be able to have a conversation – TOTAL THREE MOST WIDELY KNOW LANGUAGES (% per country)“. (Click on the image to zoom in)Best known languages in Europe according to the EU

There are really amazing facts in this chart. Let’s see some examples:

  • In Spain, only 16% of the people appear to speak Spanish well enough to have a conversation, vs 25% of people who can do so in English.
  • In the UK, just 10% of the people seem to understand English. French is spoken almost twice as much.
  • In Germany, apparently German is not the official language, as only 10% of the population speak it well enough. The dominant language in that country seems to be English.
  • In Ireland, where the official languages are Irish and English, they total of people who appear to speak those official languages fluently is a measly 28%, of which just 6% speak English.

I also have doubts about Belgium, which has two official languages, namely Flemish (a variant of Dutch) and French. I though the division was around 50/50, but apparently I was wrong. French seems to be a foreign language spoken only by 45% of the people, but Flemish does not even appear on the list of main languages in that country.

Just a mistake? Well, if we continue to page 22 of the report, we encounter this pearl: “For Spanish the biggest increases are in Italy (+7 points to 11%) and Spain (+6 points to 16%).” Excuse me? You are telling us that the (only) official language in Spain (Catalan, Basque & Galician are only official in some Spanish regions) had an increase in from 10% to 16%? It seems that the UK should pay attention and follow suit, so as to increase the knowledge of the official language, Spain is making a lot more progress in making their people understand the official language!

Another pearl can be found on pages 32/33. The text that precedes the chart below states: “However, in a few instances a greater proportion of respondents within a country say that they understand a language well enough to be able to read a newspaper or magazine article.” (Click image to zoom)

I must admit I was not aware that Europe was in such a sorry state: Only 7% of the citizens in Germany are able to understand a newspaper in German and barely 10% of UK citizens can understand a newspaper in English. Again, Spain must be congratulated: Fully 13% of their citizens are able to grasp the meaning of an article in Spanish. But France is really in the shitter: Only 4% of their citizenry is able to read newspapers or magazines in French. Oh, la la… The winner, however, is without any doubt Malta: With two official languages (Maltese and English), fully 74% speak one of the national languages!  (Or at least are able to understand newspapers;)

I leave it to you to find further gaffes, I have only scratched the surface. The problem is that these guys have mixed concepts of foreign language speakers and languages in the different countries. You look at the diagrams, as I have shown in this post, and it seems that people don’t speak their own mother language. Some of the figures could be explained if they referred to people whose mother language is not that of the country in question, but that is not what the accompanying text or the titles of the charts say. Overall, the text is such “bureaucrat-speak” that it is very difficult to decide what the figures refer to. For non-bureaucrats, it is unclear what the report is reporting about.

One final point: The whole study is filled with percentages (of what?). There is not one figure about the actual volume of speakers in one particular language. For example, I read that the mostly spoken mother language is German (16%). I assume this is on the global EU population. But when I read that 18% of the Hungarian population speaks German, am I supposed to find out who many people there in in Hungary, then multiply it by 18% (assuming this figure is correct)? Repeat that for each and every country? How can this report be used for marketing purposes? If I tried to target the EU, how would I know which languages are best for a certain region? Because a 13% in Latvia is very different than 13% in France, Germany or Italy. In the latter examples, it could be interesting to address that market, in the first one it would be a big no-no.

Summarizing: What a waste of taxpayer’s money!

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