The EU has 24 official 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
Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Slovak, Slovenian
Bulgarian, Irish, Romanian
Even after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, English remains one of the official languages of Ireland and Malta.
Listen to samples of the EU's official languages
In line with its status as a democratic international organisation, one of the EU's founding principles is multilingualism
This policy aims at
- communicating with its citizens in their own languages
- protecting Europe’s rich linguistic diversity
- promoting language learning in Europe
This approach has no precedent, either among multilingual states or even international organisations.
The principle is anchored in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights
– as an EU national, you have the right to use any of the 24 official languages
to contact the EU institutions, and they are obliged to reply in the same language.
Meetings of the European Council
and the Council of the European Union are interpreted into all official languages. Members of the European Parliament have the right to use any official language when speaking in Parliament
Regional & minority languages
The EU is home to over 60 indigenous regional or minority languages, spoken by some 40 million people. They include Basque, Catalan, Frisian, Saami and Yiddish.
The European Commission
maintains an open dialogue, encouraging linguistic diversity
and putting effort into preserving this heritage. But the legal status of these languages and the extent to which they receive support is determined by national governments.
One significant source of funds for initiatives to protect and promote
the teaching and learning of minority languages is Erasmus+
, an EU programme that encompasses education and training.
The EU's main goal here is ambitious: enabling every EU citizen to communicate in 2 languages other than their mother tongue.
The best way to achieve this would be to introduce children to 2 foreign languages from an early age. Other steps are being taken to help EU countries improve their educational programmes
, to ensure school-leavers have better language skills.
The EU supports language learning to:
- help more people study and work abroad
- help people from different cultures understand one another
- trade effectively across Europe
- boost the language industry (translation and interpreting, language teaching, language technologies, etc.)
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Last published 28/07/2020