Parlez-vous français? Español? Cymraeg? Thursday (September 26) is the European Day of Languages ― a celebration of linguistic diversity which encourages the continent’s 800 million people to try to learn 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 has four! (German, French, Italian and Romansh, in case 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 to set you on the right track.

Don’t forget that The Day produces weekly translations of our articles in French, German and Spanish. Perfect for vocabulary practice!

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Did you know that the thousands of languages that exist today can be traced back to a much smaller number? This fascinating video explains how. What do our languages say about us? And how might learning another language change your view of the world?


  1. In groups, say “hello” and “goodbye” in as many different languages as you can.
  2. Read this briefing on endangered languages. Then debate with a partner: Should these languages be saved?
  3. 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!