September 26th : European Day of Languages

September 25, 2016

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By Liliane Nakad

What is it about?

The European Day of Languages is an event that takes place every year on the 26th of September to celebrate the linguistic diversity of the European continent.

Did you know that there are more than 200 European languages, of which 24 are official EU languages and about 60 regional or “minority” languages?


The European Day of Languages is an initiative of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. It was marked for the first time on the 26th of September 2001 (The European Year of Languages) and has since become an annual tradition.


Throughout Europe, 800 million Europeans represented in the Council of Europe’s 47 member states are encouraged to learn more languages, at any age, in and out of school.

Stemming from its conviction that linguistic diversity is an essential tool for achieving greater intercultural understanding and a key element in the rich cultural heritage of the European continent, the Council of Europe promotes multilingualism in the whole of Europe.

It is also an opportunity to

  • Raise awareness about the wide variety of languagesin Europe
  • Promote cultural linguistic diversity,
  • Encourage people of all ages to learn languages– knowing more than one language makes it easier to find a job and helps businesses grow.

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What is multilingualism and why is it so important nowadays?


According to the survey “Europeans and their languages” 56% of Europeans speak languages other than their mother tongue, however 44% only speak their native language.


With greater numbers of immigrants and refugees especially since 2012, European cities have become more multilingual. In London for example there are some 300 spoken languages, such as English, French, Chinese, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Bengali, Turkish, Kurdish, Berber, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi to name a few.

The European Union adheres to a policy of multilingualism, both in its institutional departments and as an aim for its citizens. At the 2002 EU summit in Barcelona, it set a target for children to learn at least two foreign languages from an early age.

Multilingualism for the EU is linked to worker mobility and the European economy. The European Union spends more than €30 million a year promoting language learning and linguistic diversity through different programs, a policy that began in 1990.


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