New Flemish Alliance: French is insignificant, English should be taught instead

Thursday, April 07, 2011

De Morgen today has an interview with Vic Van Aelst, who is proposing that English be taught instead of French in Flanders (the Dutch/Flemish-speaking part of Belgium). Part of the article:
French has completely lost its status as a world language. It has become a minor language: 1.5 percent of the world population speaks the language, and about as many know some of the language. That still makes just 3 percent. In no civilized country, even in Italy, does anyone understand you when you start talking in French.

He doesn't see why his proposal to have English taught in Flanders instead of French should be a provocation aimed at French speakers. "Have they learned Dutch in the past two centuries? They provoke us, honest Flemings, because they refuse to learn our language...they reap what they have sown. My making this proposal is not the fault of the Flemings, but of the Francophones.
So how correct is this number? 1.5 percent as a mother tongue is about right, which works out to about 90 million. The number of French speakers in the world is currently about 220 million, or approximately 3.7%. That number only takes into account those that can also read and write the language though, so the true number is probably around 4% of the world population.

On using French in Italy: true, one can't just go to Italy and begin talking in French. Italian, however, is the most similar major Romance language to French, with a lexical similarity of 0.89, so a Dutch speaker with only English as a background will have no advantage at all in learning and understanding Italian, while one with a French background will do much better in Italy. Verb conjugation of course is quite different (Italian is pro-drop while French is not), but in terms of vocabulary much of the time Italian just looks like stretched-out and properly pronounced French. Or rather, French looks like what would happen if you took a Germanic people in France and had them replace their language with Italian...which is almost exactly what happened there.

From here:

French is essentially an attempt by the Dutch to speak a Romance language.

--Danny Wier

Now what would a combined French/Dutch auxlang look like, I wonder?


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