Language, a Question of Security

The world needs a widely accepted international language. If we in the EU decide on one such that is easy to learn the rest of the world will follow; in part because of the large international importance of the EU and in part because of the difficulties inherent in the English language, such as for instance a variety of pronunciations. Unity is strength. There are many examples of why the world needs a common international language. Some examples:

1994 the car and passenger ferry Estonia sunk in the Baltic Sea, and 859 persons were drowned. The Swedish board for psychological defense (SPF) was able to identify several weak areas of communication at the rescue site after the time of the accident, weaknesses that caused unnecessary danger and impeded the work of the rescuers. The rescue work was led in three languages; English, Finnish and Swedish. The language difficulties between f.e.g. the Swedish and the Finnish helicopter pilots were significant, which presented further danger for their crews. Interviews made by SPF with the helicopter pilots revealed that these were unable to communicate fully in English, and that the Swedish pilots did not understand when the conversations were held in Finnish. This is a further argument in support of Esperanto. You probably understand this, but it is questionable whether our politicians will, or act as if they understand, even if that is so. That is why we ordinary people have to act in this question and demand that our politicians act. It might be your life on the line next time.

Numerous incidents have occurred on the Swedish coasts, such as ships colliding because the captains on the foreign ships had an insufficient knowledge of English.

Due to repeated incidents, such as collisions, in conjunction to the building of the Sound-Bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen, the Danish coast guard was forced to hire a Russian-speaking interpreter.

In March 2001, a train accident in Belgium cost eight lives. The accident occurred on the border between the Flemish speaking and French speaking areas of Belgium. The Flemish district chief in Leuven was unable to understand a warning issued four minutes before the accident by his French speaking colleague in Wavre, according to the Flemish newspaper De Morgen.

In October 2002 the anti-terror drill Euratox was held in France, bringing together 2000 participants from six EU-countries. Great co-operation difficulties were experienced as the participants spoke different languages.

The number of catastrophes that have repercussions on an international scale are likely to increase in an increasingly mobile world. That rescue personnel under psychologically taxing conditions should be able to communicate in a difficult language like English is NOT a realistic demand. Will the EU politicians take their responsibility in this question? No, of course they will not – if you do not demand them to.

Life or Death

The EU has begun to put together a Crisis force of 60 000 people. Should not everyone in such a unit be able to communicate well in one language? The English phrases remembered from school are insufficient under extreme conditions; it is not likely that there is time to look up words in a dictionary. It may be a question of Life or Death and Europe’s safety. Previous drills of different sorts have shown that the language problem has impeded the work at hand.

Christer Ekberg, the Head of the Swedish Intelligence Service, states that international organized crime is steadily gaining a stronger position inside the EU and that the EU's attempts to put a stop to it through co-operation is made more difficult by the language barriers, according to the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenska Dagbladet (May 23rd 2003).

Transition to Esperanto will make matters more difficult for the international crime syndicates. Is this an argument to convince our politicians to eliminate the language barriers? No, no one is likely to believe that.

© Hans Malv, 2004