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European Day of Languages

Updated Monday 26th September 2016

Happy European Day of Languages! Find out more about why we should celebrate language learning.

Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Council of Europe, Strasbourg www.coe.int/EDL

Happy European Day of Languages!

Did you know that there are between 6000 and 7000 languages in the world? Or that, in Europe alone there are about 286 living languages, spoken by a population of approximately 736 million people?

The EU has 24 official and working languages: (European Commission, 2015)

Bulgarian Estonian Irish Portuguese
Croatian Finnish Italian Romanian
Czech French Latvian Slovak
Danish German Lithuanian Slovenian
Dutch Greek Maltese Spanish
English Hungarian Polish Swedish

In addition, there are other national, regional or minority languages (such as Catalan, Welsh or Occitan, for instance) as well as the languages of peoples who have migrated to Europe and that still preserve their heritage languages (such as Chinese, Bengali or Urdu).

The European Day of Languages has been held on 26th September annually since 2001. Many schools, cultural institutes, and universities - including the Open University - take part in a celebration of the linguistic diversity of Europe. We can rejoice in the fact that more than half of Europeans (54%) can hold a conversation in at least one additional language, 25% can speak at least two additional languages, and one in ten can speak at least three. (Eurobarometer, 2012)

But if you are one of the other 46% of people who only speaks one language, don’t worry… as Mexican author Carlos Fuentes once said, “monolingualism is a curable disease”! If you want some great ideas about how to kick-start your language learning journey, let Lindsay Dow explain why she studies languages at the Open University, and watch more videos on her YouTube channel to find out why she is a great advocate for language learning and plurilingualism.

But why learn another language? Well, if Lindsay’s enthusiasm isn’t convincing enough, think of learning another language as a way to understand other ways of living, and how it can enable better intercultural understanding. Multilingualism contributes to the key European values of democracy, equality, transparency and competitiveness. Or, if you prefer more practical benefits, learning a language makes travelling, working and studying in other countries so much more rewarding and enjoyable!

Here on OpenLearn you will find articles, videos, free courses and other resources about language learning. So, what are you waiting for?

Explore more about languages

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Join in at our events

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What can learning languages do for you?

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Try our language courses for free!

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Study with the Open University

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For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?