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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.

Europe's online encyclopaedias: Equal access to knowledge of general interest in a post-truth era?

19-12-2018

The post-truth era – in which emotions trump evidence, while trust in institutions, expertise and mainstream media is declining – is putting our information ecosystem under strain. At a time when information is increasingly being manipulated for ideological and economic purposes, public access to sources of trustworthy general-interest knowledge – such as national online encyclopaedias – can help boost our cognitive resilience. Basic, reliable background information about history, culture, society ...

The post-truth era – in which emotions trump evidence, while trust in institutions, expertise and mainstream media is declining – is putting our information ecosystem under strain. At a time when information is increasingly being manipulated for ideological and economic purposes, public access to sources of trustworthy general-interest knowledge – such as national online encyclopaedias – can help boost our cognitive resilience. Basic, reliable background information about history, culture, society and politics is an essential part of our societies' complex knowledge ecosystem, and an important tool for anyone searching for knowledge, facts or figures.

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.

Legal aspects of EU multilingualism

26-01-2017

The multilingualism of the European Union – with 24 official languages since Croatia's accession – has no precedent, either among multilingual states or even at the level of international organisations. The principle of multilingualism is enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which obliges the European Union to respect linguistic diversity, prohibits discrimination on account of language and provides for the citizen's right to communicate with the institutions in any official language of ...

The multilingualism of the European Union – with 24 official languages since Croatia's accession – has no precedent, either among multilingual states or even at the level of international organisations. The principle of multilingualism is enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which obliges the European Union to respect linguistic diversity, prohibits discrimination on account of language and provides for the citizen's right to communicate with the institutions in any official language of the EU. In legal terms, EU multilingualism falls into three categories: the original (authentic) languages of the Treaties, the official languages of the EU and the working languages of the EU. Furthermore, each institution may create its own internal rules on working languages. The main legal act governing the official and working languages of the Union is Council Regulation No 1 of 1958, which has been amended numerous times. Currently it provides for 24 official and working languages of the EU. This includes Irish. However, a derogation for Irish remains in place until the end of 2021. The rules of procedure of each EU institution lay down detailed rules on multilingualism. The Parliament has opted for 'resource efficient full multilingualism', which means that the resources to be devoted to multilingualism are managed on the basis of users' real needs, measures to make users more aware of their responsibilities and more effective planning of requests for language facilities. The Council has opted for full multilingualism, while the Commission's rule is that any instrument of general application to be adopted by the college must be in all EU official languages. A different approach has been provided for in the rules of procedure of the Court of Justice, where the principle of the 'language of the case' applies for determining both the language of proceedings and the authentic version of the Court's judgment. However, judges and advocates-general may use the official EU language of their choice.

Endangered languages in the EU

20-04-2015

Many languages currently spoken in Europe are endangered and some are at imminent risk of extinction. Though education and language policies remain the competence of Member States, the EU has taken initiatives to promote multilingualism and preserve its linguistic diversity, including measures in support of regional or minority languages. A decline in linguistic diversity has been increasingly acknowledged to entail losses in terms of knowledge and cultural heritage.

Many languages currently spoken in Europe are endangered and some are at imminent risk of extinction. Though education and language policies remain the competence of Member States, the EU has taken initiatives to promote multilingualism and preserve its linguistic diversity, including measures in support of regional or minority languages. A decline in linguistic diversity has been increasingly acknowledged to entail losses in terms of knowledge and cultural heritage.

Endangered Languages and Linguistic Diversity in the European Union

15-03-2013

In the context of the rich diversity of languages that exist in Europe, this paper considers the possible implications of the disappearance of some of these languages and considers what steps need be planned to safeguard their existence and their future.

In the context of the rich diversity of languages that exist in Europe, this paper considers the possible implications of the disappearance of some of these languages and considers what steps need be planned to safeguard their existence and their future.

External author

Meirion Prys Jones

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