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Brussels, 23 September 2010

European Day of Languages highlights benefits of multilingualism for small businesses

It is estimated that 11% of small and medium-sized businesses lose contracts due to a lack language skills. The cost of these missed opportunities can run into millions of euro and threaten jobs. This year’s European Day of Languages, which takes place on and around 26 September, will focus on languages for business. On 24 September, Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will address a conference in Brussels on ‘Languages for SMEs’ and meet representatives of European businesses whose language skills have translated into profits. With its 23 official languages and over 40 regional and minority languages, the EU forms a unique multilingual community of countries and people. The European Day of Languages was launched in 2001 to celebrate this diversity and to highlight the importance of languages in our private and professional lives.

Europeans are increasingly aware of the difference that foreign language skills can make in their lives. As well as being a practical asset for an individual’s personal development, languages mean more business for companies, giving them a competitive edge and opening up export markets. Improving the overall level of language skills in Europe will also contribute to our Europe 2020 strategy for smart and inclusive growth and multilingualism is a crucial part of our flagship initiatives Youth on the Move and the Agenda for New Skills and Jobs, said Commissioner Vassiliou.

Around 150 entrepreneurs, business organisations and representatives of national and local administrations will participate in the Commission event on ‘Languages for SMEs’. Following the opening, Commissioner Vassiliou will take part in a round table debate on languages, competitiveness and employability.

The event will hear how Finnish company Golla grew from a small workshop to a global player, producing funky bags for mobile phones, laptops and other devices, with sales in over 100 countries. Entrepreneur Franz Huber will explain how his team's linguistic abilities helped him expand his family map-publishing business from Germany to China. Latvian firm Stenders, which specialises in bath and body cosmetics, will tell how language skills helped it to reap 85% of its profits from exports.

The Commission's Lifelong Learning Programme provides €50 million a year to support language activities and projects.

Its focus on languages for SMEs is based, in part, on the conclusions of a 2007 study on the effects on the European economy of shortages of foreign language skills in enterprise. In a sample of nearly 2000 businesses, 11% of respondents said they had lost contracts – worth millions of euros in many cases - as a result of a lack of language skills. (See: )

Media can register for the 'Languages for SMEs' conference by sending an e-mail to The event will also be streamed live at:

Events in Member States

The Commission is also organising events in all EU countries. In Berlin, primary school pupils will take part in multilingual performances to present the different languages and countries of Europe; in London, the Commission Representation is encouraging bloggers to write in a different language; in Paris, the 'Maison de l'Europe' will host a round table on multilingualism and enterprise; Madrid will hold a conference on "translating and interpreting against exclusion"; in Pisa and Lucca, Italian Minister of European Affairs Andrea Ronchi and author/semiologist Umberto Eco will discuss the contribution of languages to European integration; Warsaw will screen over a dozen European movies in their original language versions.

Other events include a multilingual rap concert in Denmark, special radio broadcasts in Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania, an online language contest in the Czech Republic, storytelling in Finland, and language fairs in Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.

For a full list of events, see:

The Commission is also launching an on-line language quiz its website (see and a contest entitled ‘My Favourite Foreign Language Story’ to highlight how languages can open doors in private and professional life. The authors of the best stories will be invited to Brussels for an award ceremony around Europe Day in May 2011. See:

More information

Commissioner Vassiliou's website:

Website on multilingualism

Commission’s Representations in the Member States:

Commission Directorate-General for Translation:

Commission Directorate-General for Interpretation:

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