European Day of Languages 2013

September 27, 2013 by totalityservices

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The first European Day of Languages was held on 6th December 2001 during the European Year of Languages, which had been jointly organised by the EU and the Council of Europe.  At the end of the event that year, the Council of Europe proclaimed that a European Day of Languages should be celebrated every year, on the 6th of September.

 

So, what is the European Day of Languages really? How is it celebrated? What are the possible positive impacts for Europeans?

The European Day of Languages (EDL) aims to increase awareness of Europe’s rich linguistic and cultural diversity; to encourage Europeans to learn other European languages in and out of school, and to promote the intercultural understanding between European countries and plurilingualism throughout the continent.

 

During the celebration, a number of different activities are organised across Europe, they include activities for children such as linguistic radio and television programmes, as well as language classes and conferences. Other organisations conduct food tasting, plays, storytelling and quizzes, which are usually open to the public.

 

Learning a language is a very important tool to be able to gain a better understanding of the cultural and linguistic diversity of people, and thus, establishing the EDL is a good way to emphasize that. While belonging to a linguistic diverse community is a challenge, maintaining multilingualism is an advantage enabling people to achieve their potential in both the professional and personal aspects of their lives.

 

Each language has its own individual identity and connection to its people’s culture and history, and celebrating the EDL creates an efficient opportunity to understand the culture and history of each community.

Traditionally, the EDL means having the opportunity to learn and understand European languages, but the Council of Europe pointed out that learning a language or celebrating this event should not only be about European languages, but understanding other foreign languages as well.

 

So what about the UK’s contributions to this very laudable initiative? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, the day passes by almost unnoticed. No significant events appear to be planned. This closely mirrors what happened (or rather failed to happen) in 2011 and 2012. A few schools held language-themed assemblies, and a few libraries organised modest exhibitions.

 

This is clearly a case of an opportunity missed, then, for a country that ‘boasts’ one of the lowest proficiency rates in foreign languages in the EU already. A 2011 EU-wide study, for instance, found that, while the proportion of pupils attaining the level of ‘independent user’ in their first foreign language was pleasingly high in some countries (over 80% in Malta and Sweden), it was almost non-existent in England (only 9%!!).

 

Judging by the response to the European Day of Languages in the UK, this is not likely to change any time soon, au contraire.

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