The Status of English in the EU

October 9, 2019 10:29 am

English is the most widely spoken foreign language in the European Union (EU). It therefore serves as the working language in the European Commission followed by French and German, albeit all the languages of the European Union are official. The English spoken in the EU institution is based on the British standard English, given that the UK has been the only country in the EU whose native language is English.

The European Commission entails a diversified staff from all over Europe leading to promotion of multilingualism. Working with people from different countries across Europe has generated linguist hybridity, where a new variety of English, that is, “Euro English” has emerged. Linguistics acknowledge and appreciate the varieties of English worldwide, other than the standard ones. Therefore, in this case, the emergence of “Euro English” has to be valued as it contributes to linguistic mosaic fostering English language to develop further.

The European Union has developed its own English style guide to its authors and translators with the aim of maintaining consistency. The handbook provides the staff with the accepted linguistic conventions like the punctuation, capitalisation, abbreviations and foreign imports among others. It encourages English that is clear, reader-friendly and accessible to everyone. This variety of English gives the European Union as a whole, a unique identity by creating their own terminology. The invention of terms may arise as a result of the social, economic or political status of the countries within the EU countries. For instance, the case of Brexit, which began in July 2016 has resulted in creation of terminology related to it.  In fact, the House of Commons library briefing has compiled a Brexit Glossary.  The Glossary includes terms such as Exit day, article 50, backstop, divorce bill, malthouse compromise and many others. Talking of Brexit leads to the question, whether English will still remain the most used working language in the European Union institutions. There are mixed opinions regarding this. Some scholars argue that the European institutions will use their own variety of English while others argue that English will no longer be the official language of the European Union.


Gadd E, McGuinness T, Dawson J, et al. Brexit Glossary. Commons Library briefing – UK Parliament. Published June 5, 2019. Accessed September 20, 2019.

European Commission. English Study Guide: A Handbook for Authors and Translators. 2019;8. Accessed 20,2019.

Horner K, Weber JJ. Introducing Multilingualism A Social Approach. Milton: Taylor and Francis; 2017.

Modiano M. English in a post‐Brexit European Union. Wiley Online Library. Published September 19, 2017. Accessed September 20, 2019.

Written by Edna Muliro: She is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Language and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural context in Luxembourg University. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Arts (English, Linguistics, literature and cultures comparative linguistics in German and French). She speaks Swahili, English, German and French.


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