There are over 6000 languages spoken in the world. Behind each one there lies a rich and unique culture. In Europe among the approximately 225 indigenous languages, the most widespread both in terms of native speakers and geography is Russian with 150 million speakers, followed by German with 95 million, Turkish with 80 million, and English and French both with 65 million native speakers. Most countries also have some minority or regional languages, with the Russian Federation on top where, depending on the criteria, there are 130-200 languages spoken. Some of these languages have obtained official status, such as Basque, Galician and Catalan in Spain. Due to the influence of migrants and refugees from all over the world, Europe has become multilingual and multicultural with cities such as London, where more than 300 languages are spoken as home language.
The European Year of Languages in 2001 was organized by the Council of Europe and the European Union and involved millions of people across 45 participating countries. Its main activities celebrated linguistic diversity and promoted language learning. On the closing event the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to declare the European Day of Languages to be celebrated on 26th September each year. Its main goal is to promote, preserve and foster the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe. The European Commission is committed to developing language learning policies across Europe to improve the mastery of language skills.
On the occasion of the day, a huge range of events are organised across the continent: radio programmes, conferences, language classes, talks. If you examine the schedule you can find ‘speak’ dating in Prague, multilingual rap concert in Zagreb, language cafés or European-themed bars all over the continent. There are also professional seminars for translators and language teachers in cities such as Vienna, Berlin, Nicosia, Helsinki or Lisbon.
If you can’t participate in any of these events, on the official website you can find a lot of language-related things from trivia games and language facts to tongue twisters. Take a look at it, or participate in the programmes organised by your community and enrich your knowledge.
Language learning brings benefits to everyone regardless their age. We are never too old to learn a language and open a door to new adventures and opportunities. It helps us to understand each other better and overcome cultural differences.