This article demonstrates that the European Union's linguistic diversity policy is a barrier to greater popular participation in a European public space. It sets out three political communication models: elite discourse, aggregative democracy and deliberation in a European public space; each has different linguistic requirements. It presents survey evidence showing that Europeans are 'voting with their mouths' for a single lingua franca, resulting in English as a foreign language (EFL) becoming the most widely understood language in the EU and its use on the internet for transnational as well as domestic communication. More than one-third of Europeans now have the basic prerequisites for participation in a European public space: they are internet users and know the lingua franca of Europe, EFL. The EU's linguistic diversity policy is even more a barrier for participation in a global public space in which EFL is now the lingua franca of Asia and other continents. It concludes that knowledge of EFL does not confer soft power on Anglophones but on Europeans using it in interactions with monoglot American and English speakers.