Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 16. Nr. März 2006

14.1. Re-Shaping Eastern Communities’ Patterns through the European Union Context
Herausgeberin | Editor | Éditeur: Anca Irinel Teleoacă ( "Lower Danube" University, Galati, Romania)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

In Search of a Unique European Language?

Alina Ganea ("Lower Danube" University of Galaţi, Romania)


Since the 1991 Maastricht summit, the general tendency in Europe has been oriented towards creating the European Union and implementing unique institutions, legislation and currency. When referring to language, we have been witnessing a similar trend in developing "a standard language", mainly based on common lexical units. Our paper aims at pointing to the uniformisation impact that the European integration process may have on other languages.

The EU is intended to be a global village that celebrates diversity, aiming for unifying political and economic policy, respecting at the same time cultural differences. The EU represents an economic and political union established in 1993 after the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty by members of the European Community, which form its core. In establishing the European Union, the treaty expanded the political scope of the European Community, especially in the area of foreign and security policy, and provided for the creation of a central European bank and the adoption of a common currency by the end of the 20th century. The European globalization can be framed both as a promise and a threat. On the one hand, we can think of Europeanization as collaboration, collective processes, hybrid fusions, free exchange of ideas and creations, fertile trans-culturations, the opening of economic, social and political alliances. On the other hand, it is also perceived as leading to cultural and economic imperialism, monopolization by multinational corporations of the marketplace, loss of rich cultural distinctiveness, destruction of local cultures and economies, imposition of dull cultural uniformity. When founding the European Community, it was felt necessary to guarantee the language of every member state an equal status under the European Charter - even though it was evident from the beginning that some languages would be " more equal than others" when it came to the practical day-to-day running of the Community’s affairs. It is perhaps going too far to assert, as does George Steiner, that English seems " to embody for men and women throughout the world - and particularly for the young - the feel of hope, of material advance, of scientific and empirical procedures" (1975, p. 468). For the majority of young Europeans, we might suspect, English is seen rather as the language of MacDonald’s and Hollywood, of quick and relatively cheap gratification with little substance behind it. The ease of learning English, which as any second-language teacher can attest extends only to the most basic, tense-free, idiom-free levels of the language, if anything must reinforce this attitude. Steiner himself speaks of " a thin wash, marvellously fluid, but without adequate base" (1975, p. 470).

Under the circumstances, English, which is already, in some form or another, widely used and understood by people in EU countries, tends to become the European lingua franca (English as lingua franca for Europe - ELFE), its standard use being imposed within the European Union. Despite controversy, English has already assumed the position of a European lingua franca to some extent. According to a Eurobarometer ( survey in 2001, 47% of the citizens of the EU spoke English well enough to take part in a casual conversation. English is also the most commonly second language taught to children in Europe, largely because of the enormous impact of the United States on politics, economics and culture around the world.

Although the first waves of interest in the English language and culture in Europe can be traced back to the 18th century, it had a massive impact after the World War II, and it can be said that English in Europe spread from North to South, which is reflected in the levels of language proficiency and frequency of use. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, English is spreading very fast throughout Eastern Europe. In the latter case, English loanwords were often used with a higher degree of intentionality than in the West. Generally speaking, purist efforts of different ideological persuasions have only had a limited effect in trying to stop the spread of English. Within this anglicized background, Romania has also been contaminated, being infused with a flow of English words and phrases. We have attempted to illustrate this intense intrusion with examples taken from a very popular and widely read economic newspaper, Capital, a political magazine, Cadran Politic, and a fashion magazine, Tabu, that provided us with more material than we would have desired.

As a result of massive lexical borrowing, a large number of European anglicisms have acquired the status of internationalisms. Once adopted in a language, English loanwords often start life of their own, sometimes becoming unintelligible to native speakers of English due to various changes in form or meaning. For instance, there are items adapted to Romanian in form and pronunciation: francizorul (a: 19) (=the franchiser), lider (b: 11) (=leader), schipas (a:58) (=skypass).

If the latter are to some extent absorbed into Romanian, and consequently easier to be digested, those words or mixed combinations sound most striking that insistently occur in the Romanian public discourse, but that are neither necessary nor more informative than their Romanian counterparts. Such words are trend (b: 62), rating (a:27) (a: 50), shift (b:13), a da "go" (b:13)(=to allow starting a process ), puzzle (b:19), caz win-win (b:23)(=a win-win case), comportament like-minded (b:23) (=like-minded behaviour), parking (b:67) , contracte de wholesale (a:21)(=wholesale contracts), gadget (a:21), equity-ul brandului (a;73)(= the equity of the brand), sistem de billing (a:21) (billing system), companii low-cost (a:1) (=low-cost companies), facturi online (a: 23) (=online bills), job (a:64), boom (a:41), team-building (a: 51), piaţa de retail (a:50) (=retail market), top (a:53) speaker (b:11).

Some of these lexical items coexist in the same text with their Romanian equivalent brand/marca (a:73), or mixed phrases extensie de brand în sens larg are given within the text their English correspondent (brand stretching) (a:73), taking care to familiarize the Romanian reader with the English concept, should he come across it again.

In general, if the plural form of these nouns is needed, they take the Romanian form of neutral plural, either marked by a hyphen land-uri din est (=eastern land), business-uri (=pieces of business), deal-uri (a:5) (=deals), or not branduri (a:13)(=brands). In case of nouns marked by a natural gender (mother/father, man/woman), the nouns get the corresponding Romanian feminine or masculine gender: businessmenii (a:3) (=businessmen). Words may also be accompanied by the definite article integrated in the noun, hyphenised or not: topul (a:1) (=the top), business-ul (=the business) (a:19). Sometimes such words enter in combination following the Romanian compounding pattern evoluţia brandului-mamă (73) (=the evolution of the mother-brand) or words change their grammatical category, following the Romanian pattern in deriving adjectives from nouns in the same way: manager (noun) > managerial(adjective) (b: 30).

In trying to establish some lexical areas that seem to have been most exposed to the invasion of anglicisms and also considering the necessity of these borrowings in the adoptive language, we could state the following:

i) there are words or syntagms that are internationally used to refer to recently emerged referents or concepts that invaded our life, mainly belonging to the computer science area and which seem quite awkward if referred to differently: mouse, laptop, PC, site (a:74), click (a:74), software (a:22),eLearning (a:22), , training (a:38), desktop, download, upgrade (which is often used in its nominal form upgradare, following the Romanian pattern of verb nominalization), folder, file, etc. The electronic devices are imported together with their English denominations: home cinema (c:23), sunet surround (c:36) (=surround sound), camera, video, zoom, MP3 player, toaster, etc.

ii) the economy lexicon is infused with English words, referring to business managing (beside the examples already given, we also mention boss, full-time, dealer (a:33), part-time,), sales (discount, hypermarket, shopping, supermarket, showroom, design, brand, mall, stand, banner (a:74)), banking (cash, boom, cash-flow (a:38), card, etc.)

iii) it has already become the rule to refer to films in terms of blockbuster, thriller, romance, or to speak about their making of, or to appreciate the cameraman for his good job. As for music, not only do we rank performers in tops, but we also vote for new entries hoping to become number 1. The Romanian written media has been invaded with a wide range of newspapers and magazines bearing English titles, being not only extensions of famous foreign publications in our country, but also brand new magazines (especially women magazines), conceived and designed by Romanians, and which nevertheless have English titles: One, Manhattan, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health, Star etc. and whose cover girls are soon to become stars.

iv) the fashion area is a victim of anglicization! Items such as tweed (c:10), tighel hand made (c:14)(=hand made seam), look, modeling, trendsetter, catwalk, dressing, slip, baby-doll, vintage, to mention only a few of the words overheard after watching 10 minutes of a fashion show on TV, have become a matter of every day conversation.

v) the different cosmetic products or body care activities are also designed in English terms: scrub, gloss, blush, lifting facial(=facial lifting), peeling, whereas the specialists in the area are the beauty advisors and the make-up artists.

vi) words or phrases defining jobs and ranks are widely used, and seem to have imposed themselves in the company organisation such as account director (a: 73), online sales director (a: 74), staff (a:61), PR (a:61), senior broker (a:52), land consultant (a:52), marketing manager (a:52), managing director (a:1). In order to get a job, one must apply and go to the interview. Both concepts have been taken over by the Romanian language, the former under the form of a loan translation (a aplica), the latter being used as such.

In trying to rank in the above listing, it appears that most legitimate appear those terms referring to non-Romanian realia, since they are culture-bound phrases that seem to render an original flavour hamburger, hotdog, fast-food, walkman, fitness (a:76). J. Lyons argues at this point that referential or social/expressive function is therefore not so much universal as culture-bound (cf. Lyons 1981). They make up a whole arsenal of ready-made English-language terminology that is also highly specific, and are therefore preferred to the native counterparts.

Secondly, words referring to the computer science make up a sort of international code (the computer jargon), to the same extent as English items belonging to the sports, music, dance domains already enjoy an international career.

As for the rest of the examples, it would appear as if the Romanian language does not necessarily demand their frequent use in people’s everyday talk. The general opinion in attempting to explain this tendency is that the Romanian equivalents seem dull, unexpressive for the modern and interesting world we are living in. Knowing and properly using such words is a "must-have" nowadays, which makes you "trendy" and keeps you "on the wave": being "glamorous", having a trendy "lifestyle", owning a car that has successfully passed the "drive test", being "popular" and attending the "high-class", having fashionable "hobbies", a good "job" and reaching a high "rating" on the "retail and wholesale market", being therefore a successful "businessman" with profitable "deals", owning "hifi technology" such as a "laptop", a "mobile", a "DVDplayer" and an "iPod" - this is but a sample of an intensely European connected discourse (and life model highly promoted in Romania nowadays) that we might hear on TV or read in newspaper daily.

More indulgent voices argue that in a world of rapid change and unprecedented technological progress, new words have to be coined on an almost daily basis, most of them coming into being in English-speaking countries, primarily the U.S.A. They even find reasons to account for this phenomenon. English words are shorter than their Romanian equivalents, they are easily recognized and more likely to be understood. However, we consider that the unconscious pro-English reflexes, as an expression of fashion or as a result of over-exposure to English media favor the intrusion and establishment of English words. This phenomenon has become so intense that general dictionaries and even dictionaries of anglicisms or neologisms can hardly follow this pace, so that new editions have to be published within short spans of time in an attempt to keep up to date.

We appreciate that the imperative that has been ruling our political, economical and social life for the last years, i.e. the European integration process, favour the intrusion of anglicisms into Romanian. Although some of them had already invaded Romanian before the prospect of integration was clearly developed, promoting the idea of "citizens of Europe", Romanians feel the urge to adopt a suitable linguistic attitude that should give them a sense of linguistic belonging. Although we do not argue the benefits of Romania’ s integration into the European community, which undoubtedfully is a promising project, we only point out that the adoption of English terms into Romanian only to become better and more successful "citizens of Europe" is a linguistic and cultural process whose consequences have not been clearly thought through.

In a sense, the national no longer serves as the foundation of a given language or a certain culture, nor is it that which can sufficiently define, defend or ground itself through and by it. Instead, we feel increasingly free to choose our cultural experiences and the language in which we express them. It is right to recognize the value of foreign languages in creating international or at least European citizens. But on the other hand it is right to say that languages, if they are going to enrich our culture and become part of it, cannot be simply bought as yet another commodity from the global menu. Globalization can open possibilities, or it can diminish diversity. Can we choose to break out of the native language and prefer the uni-cultural straightjacket of an English-globalized uniformity? And must we?

© Alina Ganea ("Lower Danube" University of Galaţi, Romania)


1. Lyons, John. Language and linguistics: An introduction. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University. 1981

2. Steiner, George. After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. 1975



a: Capital, no. 48, December 2005

b: Cadran politic, Anul III, no 31, November 2005

c: Tabu, no 43, December 2005-January 2006

14.1. Re-Shaping Eastern Communities’ Patterns through the European Union Context

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Alina Ganea ("Lower Danube” University of Galaţi, Romania): In Search of a Unique European Language? In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 16/2005. WWW: ../../../index.htmtrans/16Nr/14_1/ganea16.htm

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