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Official EU languages

The European Union currently has 24 official languages. These are:

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

At DG Translation, we mainly translate between those languages, although we can also handle some other languages when needed — for example Russian, Arabic and Chinese.

Why so many?

As a democratic organisation, the EU has to communicate with its citizens in their own language. The same goes for national governments and civil services, businesses and other organisations all over the EU. Europeans have a right to know what is being done in their name. They must also be able to play an active part without having to learn other languages.

The EU institutions pass laws that apply directly to everyone in the EU. Everybody — individuals, organisations and the courts — must be able to understand them, which means they must be available in all official languages.

Using as many national languages as possible makes the EU and its institutions more open and effective.

New members, new languages

Every time new members have joined the EU, they have added to the number of official languages.

Official EU language since...
Dutch, French,
German, Italian
1958
Danish, English
1973
Greek
1981
Portuguese, Spanish
1986
Finnish, Swedish
1995
Czech, Estonian,
Hungarian, Latvian,
Lithuanian, Maltese,
Polish, Slovak,
Slovene
2004
Bulgarian, Irish,
Romanian
2007
Croatian
2013

 

In 1958, the then European Economic Community passed a Regulation naming Dutch, French, German and Italian as its official languages, these being the languages of the first six countries to join the organisation.

Since then, as more countries have become part of the EU, the number of official languages has increased. There are fewer official languages than member countries because some — e.g. Dutch, French, German, Greek — are widely spoken in more than one country. 

Related links

 

EU enlargement
covering all aspects of the EU's expansion
 
 
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