Parlez-vous français? Español? Cymraeg? Wednesday is the European Day of Languages ― a celebration of linguistic diversity planned each year by the Council of Europe to encourage the continent’s 800 million people to try learning a new language.
The five most widely spoken languages in Europe are Russian, German, English, French and Italian — but the continent is home to 225 indigenous languages. Most of these can be grouped into “families”: English and Dutch are members of the Germanic family, while Spanish and French grew from Latin.
Although we tend to think of European countries as being monolingual, some countries actually have more than one official language… Switzerland even has four! (German, French, Italian and Romansh, if you were wondering.)
Learning a new language leads to countless new opportunities for self-expression, and helps you to see the world through the eyes — and ears — of a different culture. And it has never been so easy. Apps such as Duolingo and Memrise help set you on the right track.
Don’t forget that The Day produces weekly translations of our articles in French, German, Polish and Italian — plus daily articles in Spanish. Perfect for vocabulary practice!
Read Our Stories
Furious backlash slams gender-neutral French
Should all languages be made gender neutral? The French prime minister has cracked down on new non-gendered grammar. But some say revolutionising the language will lead to greater equality.
Emojis are ‘the language of the 21st century’
Yesterday was World Emoji Day. The little yellow faces and symbols are just the latest method of communication invented by humans. But can emojis really be described as a new language?
Trees, beers and tickling: a glossary of joy
A psychologist has created a list of words from around the world that relate to ‘wellbeing’. He hopes that it will enrich our emotional states. Can language really influence us in this way?
Watch this video on how languages change and evolve.
- Write a list of greetings from as many countries in Europe as you can think of and compare them with your classmates.
- Read this briefing on the future of the English language. Then discuss as a class: Would you prefer the world to speak lots of different languages, or one universal language?
- An assignment for the week: in pairs, choose a language that neither of you speak and then research some basic phrases. Aim to be able to have a simple conversation by Friday!