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Linguistic Diversity

What is it about?

The harmonious co-existence of many languages in Europe is a powerful symbol of the EU's aspiration to be united in diversity, one of the cornerstones of the European project.

Languages define personal identities, but are also part of a shared inheritance. They can serve as a bridge to other people and open access to other countries and cultures, promoting mutual understanding. A successful multilingualism policy can strengthen the life chances of citizens: it may increase their employability, facilitate access to services and rights, and contribute to solidarity through enhanced intercultural dialogue and social cohesion.

The EU now has 500 million citizens, 28 Member States, 3 alphabets and 24 official languages, some of them with a worldwide coverage. Some 60 other languages are also part of the EU's heritage and are spoken in specific regions or by specific groups. In addition, immigrants have brought a wide range of languages with them; it is estimated that at least 175 nationalities are now present within the EU’s borders.

Linguistic diversity is enshrined in Article 22 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights ("The Union respects cultural, religious and linguistic diversity"), and in Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union ("It shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced.").

What is being done?

Every year on the European Day of Languages, 26 September, the EU joins forces with the Council of Europe, the European Centre for Modern Languages, language institutions and citizens around Europe to promote linguistic diversity and language learning through events and happenings.

EU Education programmes have always provided and will continue to support funding for language learning projects. The Lifelong Learning programme 2007-2013 had a dedicated strand for language learning and linguistic diversity. It supported networks that contribute to the development of language policies as well as multilateral projects that developed language learning materials and made them available to large audiences. Selection results, compendia, studies, etc. can be consulted here.

In the current Erasmus + programme (2014-2020) promoting language learning and linguistic diversity is one of the overarching priorities.

The EU culture programme Creative Europe supports literary translation with the aim to give more people access to literary works and to maintain the cultural linguistic diversity in the EU.