513 people are living in the EU (status quo with twenty-eight member states). After China and India, the third most significant population of the earth. As Europeans, we are living together like in a big family. Sometimes things are getting a little confusing. There are the model students, those who march to a different drummer, the weird uncle we only have to see at the big family meetings, and the favorite Grandma that always gives us some extra pocket money. Twenty-eight member states mean twenty-four languages united under one roof of the European Union – and that does not count the many dialects and geographical differences in languages.
Sometimes the variety of languages turns communication and understanding into a Hercules task. To be honest, from time to time, we ask ourselves how it was possible to align languages in the first place and how many misunderstandings happened in the process? We can not answer this question, but we can point out that the EU, besides having some family disputes, is a symbol of international understanding. It was decorated with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. A fact, that all Europeans can be proud of.
And then the lingual clan joins.
While discussing topics like languages and international understanding, we can not only focus on one political institution as Europe is much more than just the EU. When you talk about the family, you have to include the whole clan. Twenty-four languages are then joined by over 100 minority languages that would cause welding beads on the foreheads of many „who wants to be a millionaire“-participants: Sorbian, Frisian, Breton, Sami – how many of these did you know?
Finally, there are over 700 million people on the continent trying to communicate with each other. Over 90 percent speak Ind-European languages; the most spread being Slavonic, Germanic, and Romanic.
Our EU-Highlight: the European day of Languages
To give languages their earned space, the EU and the Council of Europe have established the European Day of Languages in 2001 to fight a growing lack of speech. Some of the over 200 European languages have become extremely rare and only still exist because few families still speak them and keep them alive. But they are facing extinction. Now on every 26th of September, we celebrate the existence of European languages across borders as an appreciation of cultural goods and to highlight the importance of language skills.
Way too often, conflicts are the outcome of people not being able to speak the same language – figuratively and literally. Therefore we celebrate the day with beautiful images of community and cohesion.