Art, wine and culture are the weapons being wielded by the French government in a battle to stem a decline in the use of French in Europe.
Paris is offering all three, along with exquisite cuisine and musical soirÃ©es, to the 10 future Commissioners of the new EU member states who have been invited to attend free language courses this summer in Avignon.
English is proving by far the most popular second language in the new eastern European member states, with 69 per cent of officials choosing it as their preferred working language against 18 per cent who choose German and 13 per cent French.
The French are also worried that the number of languages in the new EU will lead to a breakdown of translation services, and delegates will switch to English simply to make themselves understood at conferences.
‘As soon as some Latvian says he can’t speak French, we’ll all have to change to English,’ sighed one French diplomat.
Some 380 combinations of languages will be possible following the accession of the 10 new member states.
The EU has hired 3,500 translators to cope with the added workload, expected to run to 2.4 million pages altogether.
However, finding translators to master unusual combinations such as Slovenian and Finnish is proving understandably difficult. A consultation paper has proposed that English should be used when translators cannot be found, fuelling French concerns that enlargement will help to accelerate the rise of English.0