European Day of Languages

Surfing the net, I came across this fantastic article on the Guardian’s website. As a linguist, languages are obviously close to my heart and I wanted to share this with everyone because it is such a great initiative. In fact I can’t believe I didn’t know about this before now.

On 26th September, the European Centre for Modern Languages celebrates the European Day of Languages.
The European Day of Languages has been celebrated on this date since 2001 and its purpose is to encourage people living in the European Union to learn another language. Europe is one of the most linguistically-diverse continents on the planet and I think it is really important that we learn languages so as to be able to communicate with our neighbours. Obviously this isn’t limited to Europeans!

Unfortunately in the UK, the number of language students is dwindling. Only 12,500 students took an A-Level in French this year, fewer than 5000 students studied German and Spanish saw a slight decline in numbers too.
I think learning languages is so important – we can travel to anywhere in the world and, contrary to common myth, not everyone speaks English… By learning French, for example, you can converse not only with people in France, but also with people from Africa and Canada. Many people go to the Seychelles for a perfect, tropical holiday – guess what? French is an official language there! Mauritius is a member of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) too – think of how much more you could discover about these islands while on holiday if you could speak a little French!

I know that learning a language can seem really daunting and sometimes too difficult but I urge you to try and learn a little bit of the local language if you do go on holiday where English is not the common tongue. Non-English speakers are always really surprised if you can converse a little and (from my experience) are often more willing to help you, if they know you have taken some interest in their language. In 2008, Michael and I went to France and we stayed somewhere really rural and visited a little castle in the back end of nowhere. The guy who lived there didn’t speak any English and Michael (at the time) didn’t speak much French (that doesn’t mean he didn’t impress the Frenchman though!). I stepped in and interpreted. As a result we got a tour of the castle and the private quarters that nobody else was allowed to see. We learnt a lot and had a great time! The guy even joked with us about the time that English soldiers marched in and razed part of the castle to the ground. In fact, now I think back to that tour, the English were responsible for much of the rebuilding of the castle…

Let me know if you are learning a language – how are you finding it?
What are your opinions on language-learning?

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2 responses to “European Day of Languages

  1. I learned French and German at school, but because I never used it I’ve lost the skill now. My son speaks three languages fluently and I’m really proud of him. 🙂

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