Monday, March 07, 2005

Lingua Franca

OK, this is one post on the new series "I quote myself" (to be sung on the melody of "I touch myself" from the Divinyls). Orginally posted in europa.musica:

I am always astonished, when I hear appeals for romantic linguistic nationalism from people whose mother tongue is French. After all, it was La Grande Nation, which most ruthlessly extinguished anything else but French from its territory. And for good reasons, even if the means were less than laudable at the time: Speaking French rather than brezhoneg, langue d'oc, Provençal, Euskara will open many employment opportunities, and speaking French will enable you to fully exercise your citizenship.

If Europe is to be democratized, it needs, just like France, a lingua franca, which realistically speaking can only be English. To introduce the lingua franca through the market seems to me much less invasive than through government regulations (which I would also welcome).

Today too many Europeans, I am thinking here particularly of the "big" nations, hear far *too much* of "their tongue" in music. France, with its aggressive cultural policies is, of course, a special case, bringing us audial atrocities like Celine Dion or Lorie, or at best bland pop like Kate Ryan's or Air's. (OK, I give you Daft Punk). At the same time, the fabulous Miss Kitten from Grenoble is hidden away, as she does not fit the French language bill.

France is by no means the only offender, though. Look at the German charts: Overpopulated with Schnappis, Yvonne Catterfelds, Fanta 4s, Peter Heppners and Helmut Lottis, who still cry foul and demand a "Quote des Grauens" (a "horror quota," i.e., a quota for German music).

Excuse my French, but I consider particularly music not a national cultural endeavor. I grew up in West Germany with the Pet Shop Boys, New Order, and the Cure rather than Udo Lindenberg, BAP, or Nicole. Most important trends in contemporary popular music have originated in the United States, thus, it is quiete natural that English is the lingua franca among many musicians.

If you want to sing in a language different from English: Go ahead, music easily crosses language borders (see, e.g., the success of last year's Haiducii), but if you rather sing in English: Why not? A good exercise for becoming fluent in English, which all Europeans should become.

Therefore: Spassiba, hvala, kiitos, tänan, ευχαριστώ, bedankt: Vive l'esprit français! Auf Wiedersehen, Kulturnation: Parlez et chantez en anglais.

PS: If you like to hear other languages more often: Stop the stupid dubbing! Last week I watched an Icelandic movie (Nói albínói) on the BBC. If the British with their ignorance of foreign languages are able to read subtitles, why wouldn't French, Germans, and Italians?


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