Is The English Language Losing Importance In Europe?

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also chose to deliver his speech in French because he wanted the French people to know the importance of the EU.

EU commission President Jean-Claude Juncker — AFP/Getty Images
May 05, 2017 at 4:00 PM ET

Ahead of the final round of France’s presidential election and the pending Brexit negotiations with the United Kingdom, the president of the European Commission decided to give a speech in Italy on Friday in French instead of English. His reasoning: the English language isn’t what it used to be.

“Slowly but surely, English is losing importance in Europe,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, who added that he also wanted to speak in French because of the upcoming election.

Juncker, who said the comment with a smile, described Brexit as “a tragedy.” According to the BBC, he added that while the European Union would negotiate with the U.K. in “full transparency,” Juncker made it clear who is breaking up with who. 

“[T]here should be no doubt whatsoever about the idea that it is the EU that is abandoning the U.K.,” he said. “It is the opposite in fact. It is the U.K. that is abandoning the EU.”

Despite his preference to speak in French on Friday, it’s likely it’ll take more than Brexit for English, the most widely spoken language in the EU, to lose its importance. According to the BBC, the English language still dwarfs French, with as many as 400 million speaking “mother-tongue” English compared to around 220 million for those who speak “mother-tongue” French.