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.
“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, some of which we have already written dedicated articles on, such as the European Master’s in Translation. In addition to the European Master’s in Translation, the EU works 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.
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 to language research centers – 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 through 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.
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. The Creative Europe Programme supports the translation of books and manuscripts (although the calls for bids are only available to publishing houses). The creation of the European Day of Languages followed the European Year of Languages which the Commission sponsored in 2001. Every year on 26 September, events are arranged to promote language learning throughout the European Union.
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. Juvenes Translatores is awarded to a 17-year-old European Union citizen annually, to promote interest in language study and improvement, as well.
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 as we have established with previous posts – cultural awareness, and cognitive maintenance are boosted when we dedicate time and resources to studying languages. And in an area as large and diverse as the European Union, we will never run out of opportunities to translate and learn from each other no matter what the context.