Brussels, 25 September 2014
European Day of Languages: diversity's in our DNA
A European-themed cocktail bar in Budapest, multilingual concerts in Zagreb and Vilnius, a 'speak' dating session in Prague, a travelling exhibition in Paris featuring translations of Homer's Odyssey and mini-language courses at libraries in Berlin: these are just some of the events planned tomorrow and over the next week to celebrate the annual European Day of Languages and linguistic diversity. European Commission offices in Member States are organising or supporting many other events including the 'LinguaFest' awards in Bucharest, a Shakespearian storytelling session for children in Madrid, a language-based treasure hunt in London and the Drongo festival in Amsterdam. The historic Piazza Ognissanti in Florence will be the setting for an open-air gathering to promote EU-funded initiatives to support language learning such as Erasmus+.
Florence is also the venue for a major conference in the Palazzo Vecchio, organised by the European Commission under the auspices of the Italian Presidency of the EU and in collaboration with Accademia della Crusca, entitled Why languages matter: European and national perspectives on multilingualism. Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Stefania Giannini, Italian Minister of Education, will be among the participants at the event, where experts will discuss how to increase the quality and efficiency of language teaching, as well as how to promote language education in broader skills strategies.
"Multilingualism and linguistic diversity are deeply rooted in the DNA of the European Union. Our languages are inseparable from our cultural heritage and what makes us who we are. The European Day of Languages is an opportunity for the public to discover that languages are fun – and it's never too late to learn. Multilingualism can open doors to job opportunities and new adventures. Erasmus+, the European Union's new programme for education, training, youth and sport, will enable four million people to study, train, teach or volunteer abroad – and improved language skills are one of the big benefits," said Commissioner Vassiliou.
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, which jointly organises the European Day of Languages with the Commission, added: “On 26 September we celebrate Europe’s rich linguistic diversity. Let us take a moment to remember the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery – that language is often the source of misunderstandings. Language can be used as a weapon, as an excuse to discriminate and humiliate. Together we can ensure that languages, rather than being the source of misunderstanding, become the key to intercultural dialogue and mutual respect. To do this, we must challenge existing mindsets and embrace diversity."
The events to mark the European Day of Languages also include professional seminars for teachers and translators in cities including Athens, Berlin, Bratislava, Copenhagen, Dublin, Gdansk, Helsinki, Lisbon, Nicosia, Riga, Stockholm, Tallinn and Vienna.
The European Day of Languages was first organised by the Council of Europe (CoE) in 2001 as part of the European Year of Languages. The European Commission and the CoE's European Centre for Modern Languages take an active part in organising language-related events on and around the day.
The aim of the European Day of Languages is to raise awareness of the languages used in Europe, promote cultural and linguistic diversity and encourage life-long language learning. In the European Union there are 24 official languages, about 60 regional and minority languages, and more than 175 migrant languages.
At least half of the world’s population are bilingual or multilingual, i.e. they speak or understand two or more languages. The European Commission is committed to developing language learning policies across Europe as part of its aim to improve the mastery of language skills in Europe, in particular by teaching at least two foreign languages from a very early age.
Erasmus+ will have a budget of nearly €15 billion, a 40% increase compared to previous spending levels. For the first time, linguistic support for mobility will be made available online free of charge for all participants in long-term mobility (at least two months abroad). The online support will cover English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. These are the languages of instruction or work for more than 90% of all students, trainees, youth volunteers and others who study or train abroad. Participants will be requested to assess their language competences before and after their stay abroad.
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