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Multilingualism: The language of the European Union

25-09-2019

Some 7 000 languages are spoken globally today. However, half of the world's population shares just six native languages, and some 90 % of all languages may be replaced by dominant ones by the end of the century. The harmonious co-existence of 24 official languages is one of the most distinctive features of the European project. Multilingualism is not only an expression of the EU countries' cultural identities but it also helps preserve democracy, transparency and accountability. No legislation can ...

Some 7 000 languages are spoken globally today. However, half of the world's population shares just six native languages, and some 90 % of all languages may be replaced by dominant ones by the end of the century. The harmonious co-existence of 24 official languages is one of the most distinctive features of the European project. Multilingualism is not only an expression of the EU countries' cultural identities but it also helps preserve democracy, transparency and accountability. No legislation can enter into force until it has been translated into all official languages and published in the Official Journal of the EU. Crucially, the provisions relating to the EU language regime can only be changed by a unanimous vote in the Council of the EU. The EU is committed to promoting language learning but has limited influence over educational and language policies, as these are the responsibility of the individual EU countries. A 2012 poll suggests that a slim majority of Europeans (54 %) can hold a conversation in at least one foreign language, but worryingly, nearly half of all Europeans (46 %) cannot, and only four in 10 pupils attain the basic level of competence allowing them to have a simple conversation in a foreign language. The European Parliament is committed to ensuring the highest possible degree of multilingualism in its work. Based on the 24 official languages that constitute the public face of the EU, the total number of linguistic combinations rises to 552, since each language can be translated into the 23 others. Currently, over 1 000 staff employed in translation and over 500 in interpretation care for the translation and interpretation needs of the 751 Members of the European Parliament. Internally, the EU institutions mostly use just three working languages: English, French and German. The overall cost for delivering translation and interpretation services in the EU institutions is around €1 billion per year, which represents less than 1 % of the EU budget or just over €2 per citizen. Following the success of the European Year of Languages (2001), the Council of Europe designated 26 September as the European Day of Languages.

Remaining 'united in diversity' thanks to multilingualism

21-09-2018

The diversity underpinning the European project is embodied in the harmonious co-existence of 24 official languages. Following the success of the European Year of Languages (2001), the Council of Europe designated 26 September as the European Day of Languages. The European Parliament has consistently acted to support endangered languages and linguistic diversity in the EU, calling on the EU and the Member States to commit resources to their protection and promotion. In May 2018, the European Commission ...

The diversity underpinning the European project is embodied in the harmonious co-existence of 24 official languages. Following the success of the European Year of Languages (2001), the Council of Europe designated 26 September as the European Day of Languages. The European Parliament has consistently acted to support endangered languages and linguistic diversity in the EU, calling on the EU and the Member States to commit resources to their protection and promotion. In May 2018, the European Commission put forward a proposal aimed at improving the teaching and learning of languages.

Language equality in the digital age - Towards a Human Language Project

24-03-2017

The EU is a unique endeavour involving more than 500 million citizens sharing about 80 different languages, and while multilingualism is a key feature, it is also one of the most substantial challenges for the creation of a truly integrated EU. Language barriers have a profound effect on cross-border public services, on fostering a common European identity, on workers’ mobility, and on cross-border e-commerce and trade, in the context of a Digital Single Market. The emergence of new technological ...

The EU is a unique endeavour involving more than 500 million citizens sharing about 80 different languages, and while multilingualism is a key feature, it is also one of the most substantial challenges for the creation of a truly integrated EU. Language barriers have a profound effect on cross-border public services, on fostering a common European identity, on workers’ mobility, and on cross-border e-commerce and trade, in the context of a Digital Single Market. The emergence of new technological approaches, based on increased computational power and access to sizeable amounts of data, are making Human Language Technologies (HLT) a real solution to overcoming language barriers. However, several challenges, such as market fragmentation and unsubstantial and uncoordinated funding strategies, are hindering the European HLT community, including research and industry.

Външен автор

Rafael RIVERA PASTOR, Iclaves S.L. Carlota TARÍN QUIRÓS, Iclaves S.L. Juan Pablo VILLAR GARCÍA, Iclaves S.L. Prof. Toni BADIA CARDÚS, PhD, Universitat Pompeu Fabra Prof. Maite MELERO NOGUÉS, PhD, Universitat Pompeu Fabra