Linguistic Diversity

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.

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 respect for the 'rights of persons belonging to minorities' constitutes one of the founding values of the European Union. Furthermore, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU prohibits discrimination based on membership of a national minority and provides for the respect by the Union of cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.

However, the Commission has no general powers as regards minorities. In particular, the Commission has no competence over matters concerning the definition of what is a national minority, the recognition of the status of minorities, their self-determination and autonomy or the regime governing the use of regional or minority languages, which fall under the responsibility of the Member States.").

What is being done?

Every year on 26 September, the European Day of Languages, the European Commission 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 contributing to the development of language policies as well as multilateral projects developing language learning materials, making them available to large audiences.

In the current Erasmus + programme (2014-2020) promoting language learning and linguistic diversity is one of the overarching priorities. All languages can be supported through projects and strategic partnerships, co-funded by Erasmus+. Examples of language projects can be found in the Project result database.

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