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The European Day of Languages

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Today, September 26, is the European Day of Languages. Started at the end of the European Year of Languages in 2001, the day is meant to celebrate the diversity of languages and cultures across the European continent. The day’s objectives are:

  1. Alerting the public to the importance of language learning and diversifying the range of languages learnt in order to increase plurilingualism and intercultural understanding;
  2. Promoting the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe, which must be preserved and fostered;
  3. Encouraging lifelong language learning in and out of school, whether for study purposes, for professional needs, for purposes of mobility or for pleasure and exchanges.

According to the European Center for Modern Languages, the most commonly spoken languages in Europe are Russian, German, English, French, and Italian. But beyond those, hundreds of other languages are also spoken: “London, for example, has more than 300 languages spoken as a home language. Most other larger cities, particularly in western Europe, easily have 100-200 languages spoken as mother tongues by their school populations.” You can walk through any European city and encounter speakers of Arabic, Mandarin, Tagalog, and Yoruba, among hundreds of others.

Europe is also home to hundreds of indigenous languages, and local languages that, as time goes on, have fewer and fewer speakers. We’ve written before about the danger of language extinction, and what it means for culture. We’ve noted that “in Europe alone, there are 640 languages currently in danger of extinction, with another 228 no longer spoken.” Days such as the European Day of Languages are meant to raise awareness about this issue, and encourage governments, communities, and organizations to work together to preserve language and cultural heritage. Some of Europe’s endangered languages include Romani (spoken across the continent), Sámi (spoken in Scandanavia), Corsican, and Scottish Gaelic.

Should you find yourself in Europe on September 26th, try to find an event celebrating the European Day of Languages. The European Center for Modern Languages lists events across the continent. Many schools plan activities for their students, but companies, museums, and towns also organize events for their local communities to take part in as well. Which events and languages speak to you? Let us know over on our Facebook or Twitter.


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