Why is linguistic diversity important (and how the EU works to maintain it)

Despite the increasing dominance of English as the language of business and law in most of the world, and particularly in the European Union, the EU strives to assist the smaller linguistic communities in its territory to prosper.

In this blog post, we will discuss why linguistic diversity is important and what the EU is doing to maintain it

Colourful wooden flowers with messages in different languages

Image source

What is linguistic diversity and why is it important? 

Linguistic diversity describes the differences between different languages and the ways that people communicate with each other. 

Linguistic diversity is important because languages connect people to their histories, families and countries, and therefore it is vital to preserve all languages even if they are only spoken by a few thousand people as is the case with the Cree language.  

How the EU promotes linguistic diversity

The European Parliament’s website states that: “As part of its efforts to promote mobility and intercultural understanding, the EU has designated language learning as an important priority, and funds numerous programmes and projects in this area. Multilingualism, in the EU’s view, is an important element in Europe’s competitiveness. One of the objectives of the EU’s language policy is therefore that every European citizen should master two other languages in addition to their mother tongue.”

To that end, EU institutions have implemented a number of initiatives to protect minority languages by ‘’calling on the Member States to be more attentive to endangered European languages and to commit to the protection and promotion of the diversity of the Union’s linguistic and cultural heritage.” Some of the initiatives are: 

European Indicator of Language Competence

One of these initiatives is the European Indicator of Language Competence. In 2005, the European Commission developed the European Indicator of Language Competence, which measures the overall language competence in all EU Member States. The first report was published in 2011 and concluded that the education system in most Member States needs improvements in order to reach the stated goal of 2 + languages for all EU citizens.

The EU has two language research centres – the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) and the European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning (Mercatur). They aim to achieve excellence in language teaching by assisting Member States with the implementation of best practices and policies for language learning. Mercatur in particular is dedicated to regional and minority languages within the European Union.

Action Programmes: Erasmus+ Programme, the Creative Europe Programme and the European Day of Languages

The European Commission also supports what are referred to as Action Programmes, which include schemes like the Erasmus+ Programme, the Creative Europe Programme and the European Day of Languages. 

PS: Linguists worldwide celebrate International Translation Day every year to celebrate language diversity. Find out more about International Translation Day in our blog. 


Finally, the Commission issues prizes to encourage the maintenance of language diversity throughout the European Union. The European Language Label may be awarded to new teaching methods, especially when they are used in conjunction with regional or minority languages. 

Despite English seemingly ‘’taking over’’ the European Union as the language of business and even academia, there is actually a lot more diversity than one might imagine thanks to the work going on at the European level to provide funding and educational best practices to the EU Member States and their citizens. 

Language diversity is important and we love seeing these initiatives at work!