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In addition to the 24 official EU languages, many regional and minority languages are spoken in Europe. The EU strives to protect this linguistic diversity and promote the learning of languages.

Official languages

The flags of the 28 members of the EU © EU

There are currently 24 official EU languages.

The current official EU languages are: 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 official EU languages

As an EU citizen, you may communicate with the EU institutions in any of these languages, and are entitled to receive a reply in the same language. All EU regulations and other legislative documents are published in each of these languages, except for Irish (under a temporary arrangement, only regulations adopted by both the EU Council and the European Parliament are translated into Irish).

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

Languages used on the EUROPA website

The vast amount of information on the web about the EU and all its activities cannot be provided in every official language. The EU offers basic general information about its policies in all languages. Other content is provided in the most widely spoken EU languages.

Regional and minority languages

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

The legal status and support of these languages is in the hands of EU member governments, but the Commission keeps an open dialogue with them, encouraging linguistic diversity to the extent possible. Initiatives to protect and promote minority languages, in particular through teaching and learning, may receive funding through Erasmus+ , the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport.

Language learning

Several multilingual dictionaries on a bookshelf © iStockphoto

Introducing children to foreign languages from an early age can be very beneficial.

One goal of the EU's multilingualism policy is for every European to speak 2 languages in addition to their mother tongue. The most effective way to achieve this would be to introduce children to two foreign languages from an early age. Evidence suggests this may result in faster language learning and more advanced mother tongue skills.

The EU provides support for language learning because:

  • improving the language skills of children, young people and adults will enable more of them to study and/or work in other EU countries, while improving their job prospects overall
  • knowledge of foreign languages facilitates inter cultural understanding, which is essential for living together in a multilingual and multicultural Europe
  • businesses need multilingual staff to be able to trade effectively across Europe
  • the language industry – translation and interpretation, language teaching, language technologies, etc. – is one of the fastest growing areas of the economy.

The most recent EU survey on Europeans and their languages (Eurobarometer 2012) shows that Europeans have a very positive attitude towards multilingualism. 98% consider mastering foreign languages useful for their children's future. 88% think that knowing languages other than their mother tongue is useful for themselves. 72% agree with the EU objective that everybody should learn at least two foreign languages, and 77% think that improving language skills should be a policy priority.





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