Scientific article

Is ELF more effective and fair than translation? An evaluation of the EU's multilingual regime

Published inInternational journal of applied linguistics, vol. 23, no. 1, p. 93-107
Publication date2013

The management of multilingualism in the European Union (EU) has become an increasingly debated issue. Some argue that ‘English as a lingua franca' (ELF) should help solve many of the attendant challenges. The claim is sometimes made that ELF, as a multilingual way of using English, is no longer dependent upon the practices and representations of native speakers and therefore poses no threat to linguistic diversity or to fairness. In this article, we question the relevance of the concept of ELF from a language policy perspective, showing that the socioeconomic implications of using ELF are no different from those of using English only. We examine the costs associated with alternative language regimes for the EU, showing that a reduction in the direct costs of European multilingualism through the imposition of a single language merely shifts costs towards citizens whose mother tongue is not English, and that re-labelling it as ‘ELF' makes no difference. The use of translation and interpreting, though not free, remains more effective (and at a reasonable cost) than a monolingual regime based on English alone; it also more fair than a monolingual regime which unavoidably privileges native speakers.

  • English as a Lingua Franca
  • European Union
  • Language policy evaluation
  • Multilingualism
  • Language economics
  • EU language regime
Citation (ISO format)
GRIN, François, GAZZOLA, Michele. Is ELF more effective and fair than translation? An evaluation of the EU’s multilingual regime. In: International journal of applied linguistics, 2013, vol. 23, n° 1, p. 93–107. doi: 10.1111/ijal.12014
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Article (Published version)

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