September 26th is the annual European day of languages.
The first-ever European Day of Languages took place on 26 September 2001 and was a flagship event of the European Year of Languages 2001 organised by the Council of Europe and the European Union.
Citizens of member states across the EU participated, and since then, more languages have been added as the EU has expanded. So successful was the event that the Council of Europe decided to make the event an annual one.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the European Commissioner for Education and Culture, in a joint statement at the launch of the European Year of Languages, said:
“Everybody deserves the chance to benefit from the cultural and economic advantages language skills can bring. Learning languages also helps to develop tolerance and understanding between people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds”.
The aim of the day is to:
- To celebrate the diversity of languages and cultures within Europe.
- To encourage language learning at any age.
- To promote intercultural understanding.
- To diversify the range of languages learnt.
The day is celebrated across Europe with a range of events, including classes for all ages and abilities, conferences, cultural exchanges, activities for children and TV & radio events.
Language diversity in Europe
Europe is extraordinarily linguistically diverse, with more than 200 indigenous languages, 24 official languages (as recognised by the European Union) and 60 more regional or minority languages - and this doesn't include languages spoken by people from outside the continent who have migrated to Europe.
Most European languages are Indo-European in origin and are descended from a singly prehistoric language. Most academics agree that this proto-language was spread across western Europe by a particular culture that initially settled north of the Black Sea. This theory is named the 'Kurgan theory' and is named after their practice of building burial mounds to commemorate their dead - Kurgan is Russian for 'burial mound'.
As people moved across the continents, their language branched into the diverse array of language families we recognise today: Celtic languages, Germanic languages, Slavic languages, Indo-Aryan languages, Hellenic languages and more.
This spread is reckoned to have taken place over almost 3000 years as humanity spread and adapted to its new environments.
Clearly, such history and diversity are worth celebrating. To that end, the Council of Europe has set up a website containing a wide variety of tools, games, activities, documents and resources to foster the enjoyment of languages and encourage their learning. you can visit the website here.
You can view a list of events in the UK here.
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