When they want to communicate, Swedes stand in front of Portuguese and Romanians in front of Latvians like unknown beings from distant planets, unable to understand their sounds. Nothing prevents us from community building as effectively as our language. And yet all experience teaches us: language barriers have always been overcome in the history of mankind. Whether it is a question of professional necessity, political pressure or even love: at all times, people have learned foreign languages and thus opened up new worlds for themselves. So how should the European Union deal with its linguistic diversity? How should it preserve this unique cultural stock and at the same time create more closeness between us Europeans?

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Trabant, appointed Professor of Linguistics (C4) at the Institute of Romance Philology of the Free University of Berlin in 1980, visiting professor at Stanford University, at the University of California, Davis, at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris as well as at the Universities of Limoges, Bologna, Brasília and Milan, explains how the repression of Latin turned the European vernacular languages into “fully developed languages” – and how the advance of English can now endanger this unique linguistic diversity.

Enjoy his entire lecture (in German) under this link.