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The EU's multilingualism policy has 2 facets:

  • striving to protect Europe's rich linguistic diversity
  • promoting language learning.

What are the EU's official languages?

There are currently 24: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish.

Listen to samples of the EU's official languages

As an EU citizen, you have the right to use any of these languages in correspondence with the EU institutions, which have to reply in the same language. EU regulations and other legislative texts are published in all official languages except Irish (only regulations adopted by both the EU Council and the European Parliament are currently translated into Irish).

In the European Parliament, the people's elected representatives also have the right to speak in any of the EU's official languages.

The EUROPA website – what languages?

The EU provides general information about its policies in all its official languages. More specialised content is provided in the most widely spoken EU languages.

Regional & minority languages

The EU is home to over 60 indigenous regional or minority languages, spoken by some 40 million people. They include Basque, Catalan, Frisian, Saami, Welsh and Yiddish.

While it is national governments that determine these languages' legal status and the extent to which they receive support, the European Commission maintains an open dialogue, encouraging linguistic diversity to the extent possible.

Erasmus+ , a new EU programme that encompasses education and training, is a potential source of funds for initiatives to protect and promote the teaching and learning of minority languages.

Language learning

One of the EU's multilingualism goals is for every European to speak 2 languages in addition to their mother tongue. The best way to achieve this would be to introduce children to 2 foreign languages from an early age. Evidence suggests this may speed up language learning - and boost mother tongue skills too.

The EU supports language learning because:

  • better language skills enable more people to study and/or work abroad, and improve their job prospects
  • speaking other languages helps people from different cultures understand one another - essential in a multilingual, multicultural Europe
  • to trade effectively across Europe, businesses need multilingual staff
  • the language industry – translation and interpretation, language teaching, language technologies, etc. – is among the fastest growing areas of the economy.

The 2012 Eurobarometer survey on Europeans and their languagespdf(8 MB) Choose translations of the previous link  revealed very positive attitudes to multilingualism:

  • 98% say mastering foreign languages will benefit their children.
  • 88% think that knowing languages other than their mother tongue is very useful.
  • 72% agree with the EU goal of at least 2 foreign languages for everyone.
  • 77% say improving language skills should be a policy priority.

Better language learning outcomes

The working group on languages in education and training focused on this issue from 2011 to 2013. Its comparative analysis resulted in a 2014 report on innovative, scientifically proven methods of speeding up language learningpdf(2 MB) Choose translations of the previous link , which examines:

  • content & language integrated learning (CLIL).
  • computer-assisted language learning (CALL).