Will Europe one day get a fourth English speaking country?

If almost everyone in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden speaks English could they join the UK, Ireland and Malta in using it as a national language?


The map above uses dates from Eurobarometer to look at English language fluency across the EU. Frankly it puts us generally monoglot Anglo-Saxons and Celts to shame. Even the fifth of the population who can speak English in the worst performer Hungary looks pretty impressive seen from Britain. The French despite their reputation as linguistic refusniks clock up a very respectable score. And the nine-tenths of Dutch people who can speak English would be astounding but for the near universal fluency in English of people throughout the Netherlands being obvious to anyone who has ever visited. In fact, it is actually marginally higher than the score for Malta where English is an official language!

The question this begs for me is whether we will see English becoming a national or an official language in countries like the Netherlands or Denmark? There is presumably a strong impulse to prevent this happening in order to protect a distinctive cultural identity. However, would this be enough? If practically everyone speaks English and is routinely exposed to it through TV and foreign visitors then the amount of vocabulary flowing in from English must be enormous. And it is surely not beyond the bounds of possibility that without anyone really noticing these languages could become almost a kind of creole? And at that point given the convenience of English how practical would it be to prevent it displacing an indigenous tongue.


Disclaimer: I always welcome constructive criticism. However, as I am not a linguist, I am particularly interested to see if having floated this particular balloon it now gets shot down.


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