In September, a number of days are dedicated to languages in the EU, which serve to honour the multitude of languages spoken.
Why is language awareness and appreciation so important in the EU?
- Cultural Diversity: The EU is home to over 450 million people, speaking more than 20 official languages. This linguistic diversity is a reflection of the rich cultural diversity that is present, and it’s vital for preserving and celebrating the unique identities of its member states. This is becoming even more pronounced with the number of people seeking refuge in different countries due to war, famine, illness, amongst other reasons. Indeed, the motto of the European Union, coined in 2000, is “United in Diversity”.
- Inclusivity and Accessibility: The EU aims to be inclusive and accessible to all its citizens through its recognition and support of multiple languages. One way of doing so is to have all documents and news bulletins of the EU institutions translated into the official EU languages. This helps in ensuring that everyone can participate fully in the political, social, and economic life of the EU.
- Promotion of Multilingualism: Encouraging citizens to learn and speak multiple languages is a fundamental aspect of EU policy. Multilingualism fosters mutual understanding, facilitates communication, and promotes a sense of European identity.
- Economic Benefits: Proficiency in multiple languages is a significant asset in the job market. In a globalist economy, knowing more languages opens up a wider range of employment opportunities, especially in fields like international business, tourism, and diplomacy.
- Enhanced Communication: With so many languages spoken across the EU, effective communication is essential. The availability of translation and interpretation services in different official languages thus facilitates dialogue between member states, making decision-making processes smoother and more inclusive.
- Preserving Cultural Heritage: Many of Europe’s languages are deeply rooted in its history and are integral to the preservation of cultural heritage. By nurturing and protecting these languages, the EU helps maintain the rich tapestry of European cultures.
- Education and research: A multilingual approach in education encourages a broader understanding of different cultures, history and perspectives. This is particularly important in an increasingly interconnected world, where knowledge and research are often conducted across borders.
- Cultural Exchange and Tourism: Languages are vital for tourism and cultural exchange within the EU. A tourist who can communicate in the local language is more likely to have a positive experience and may be more inclined to return.
- Fostering Social Cohesion: Language is a powerful tool for building bridges between different communities. When people are able to communicate in each other’s languages, it fosters a sense of belonging and unity within the EU.
- Promoting Peace and Understanding: Language barriers can sometimes be a source of misunderstanding of conflict. Thus, promoting multilingualism, the EU aims to bridge these gaps and promote peaceful coexistence among its member states.
- EU Enlargement and Integration: As the EU expands with the gradual integration of candidate countries, embracing linguistic diversity becomes even more critical. Acknowledging the languages of new member states helps to smoothen the process of integration and promotes a sense of belonging for all.
Let’s take a closer look at some significant days in the EU calendar which are related to languages.
Multilingualism Day is an initiative of the European Parliament which has been taking place annually since 2019, with the aim of promoting linguistic diversity and fostering multilingualism among the EU State members and EU citizens.
The European Commission (2007:6) defines multilingualism as “the ability of societies, institutions, groups and individuals to engage, on a regular basis, with more than one language in their day-to-day lives”.
You can read more about the EU’s multilingualism policy here.
Multilingualism Day is usually an opportunity for EU citizens to meet interpreters, translators and other multilingual staff in the European Parliament, either virtually or physically, through the various activities organised.
The 2023 edition was held between 22-23 September and included a number of online workshops which focused on what it is like to work as a language professional at the European Parliament. These workshops were held in the 24 official languages of the EU in order to reach out to as many citizens as possible.
One such event was the Maltese workshop entitled “Translation – Traduttur Verżjoni 2.0”, attended by our in-house translator and content writer, Daniela Briffa. Held entirely in Maltese, this workshop gave a short overview of the directorates responsible for translation and communication of EU information, before moving on to a series of hands-on tasks related to translation. The first task required each participant to translate a News in Brief excerpt into Maltese, followed by a discussion on translation strategies one can use. After a short presentation of internal subtitling rules, a few other tasks were assigned, where participants had to choose the best subtitle out of a series of options.
To close off the workshop, a number of traineeships opportunities were presented, as well as the European House of European History, which opened to the public in May 2017:
The European Day of Languages
Held on 26 September, the European Day of Languages (EDL) aims to raise awareness of the importance of learning languages to increase plurilingualism and intercultural understanding in EU citizens. Indeed, the EU encourages lifelong language learning in and out of school. The European Day of Languages also serves to promote the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe.
The first EDL was celebrated in 2001 during the European Year of Languages, and it has since become an annual event, where people in the EU are encouraged to organise and participate in activities which promote linguistic diversity and the ability to speak other languages. This includes the promotion of languages which are less widely spoken as well as the languages of migrants.
Take a look at some of the activities organised here.
You can also check out EDL activities organised by the European Commission by country.
Some language games have also been developed to increase people’s awareness of different languages and encourage them to broaden their linguistic horizons. Take a look here.
International Translation Day
Held annually on 30 September, International Translation Day recognises translation professionals. It falls on the same day as the feast of St Jerome, the patron saint of translators.
Translation is considered to be extremely important in all European Union Institutions, since all EU citizens have the right to read and understand official communications and EU law in their own language.
Therefore, translation services in the major EU institutions are tasked with the translation of documents to which all citizens have a right of access in all 24 official European languages. This also includes audiovisual material, such as videos and news podcasts, as well as interpreting services during conferences.
In one of its latest articles, the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) publishes some of its success stories for International Translation Day, focusing on how CEF Telecom projects are breaking down language barriers.
CEF Telecom is one of the strands of the Connecting Europe Facility programme (2014-2020) which facilitates cross-border interaction between public administrations, business and citizens. One of its services is the provision of machine translation capabilities (eTranslation), which facilitates multilingualism in all EU Digital Service Infrastructures (DSIs).
Read more here.
Other EU language initiatives and programmes
Since language is such an intrinsic part of human communication, its significance in the European Union cannot be overstated. Thus, apart from honouring languages through dedicated days, the EU also allows citizens all over Europe to do their part by organising and participating in initiatives related to language.
The Online Language Support (OLS) helps Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps participants to enrich their knowledge of the language in which they will work, study or volunteer abroad. It is available for all European Union languages, as well as the official languages of Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps programme countries (Icelandic, Macedonian, Norwegian, Serbian and Turkish).
Moreover, the European Commission encourages citizens to apply for funding for projects which are related to languages in some way or another. For instance, in an educational programme such as Erasmus+, one can not only apply for mobility projects under KA1 which involve language learning, but also for cooperation partnerships under KA2.
You can check out previously funded projects under Erasmus+ on the Project Results Platform.
Horizon Europe and Horizon2020 funded projects have also occasionally featured languages. Check out some of these projects on the CORDIS Platform.
Here at AcrossLimits we have over 22 years of experience in funding, with participating in over 80 successful EU projects to date. We have a dedicated team of experts from a broad range of sectors that can guide proposal writing and help you apply for EU funds. We are also well-connected with industry, academia and public authorities across Europe and beyond, making sure that we can bring together the perfect consortium for your project.
If you have an idea for a language-related project but you would like some guidance in navigating possible funding opportunities, contact AcrossLimits at [email protected].