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Regional Languages

Regional Languages

What is it about?

The European Union has more than 60 indigenous regional and minority languages and up to 40 million people who regularly speak them.

Regional languages, as defined by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, are traditionally used by part of the population in a state, but which are not official state language dialects, migrant languages or artificially created languages.

Many languages are covered by this definition, including those that are majority languages in one country but used by minorities in another, and include languages spoken by groups living in or travelling through Europe, such as Yiddish, and Romani.

What is the EU's Role?

Nearly all regional and minority language communities experience difficulties when it comes to ensuring the survival and development of their languages.

Saami, a family of languages spoken by indigenous people in northern Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Kola Peninsula of Russia, is spoken by only a few hundred people in some communities and is in danger of becoming extinct.

The EU is committed to protecting and promoting regional and minority languages like this, and has conducted a number of studies to tackle this issue.

What has been done so far?

In 2004-2005, the Commission supported the ADUM project, offering funding to people and organisations working to support regional or minority languages.

Other projects include CRAMLAP (Celtic, Regional and Minority Languages Abroad Project), which evaluated how Higher Education supported Celtic and other regional languages and the NPLD (Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity), which promotes linguistic diversity in Europe.