dinsdag 9 februari 2016

European Parliament: what do they do for languages?

It's quite difficult to find out what the European Parliament does for improving multilingualism throughout the European Union (EU). It's easier to discover how many official languages there are: 24. The latest addition is Croatian, thanks to the latest country that became a member of the EU.

 © European Union 2015 - source:EP
A quick check on the Parliament's audiovisual library on the word 'language' results in a few videos and loads of pictures of conferences, meetings and so on. Anyway, one can argue that removing taxes on trade between Japan and the EU is good for language exchange. So is the Erasmus programme, as well as the Schengen agreement, so Europeans can move freely to another EU country.

One very interesting initiative though, is the so-called European Parliament Intergroup for Minorities, National Communities and Languages. Which is a very long title for some Parliamentarians joining NGO's to promote the issues of minorities. It exists since 1983, meets every month and has even a Facebook page. Check out the interview below with the chair of that group. According to him, one third of European citizens speak a minority language. Mind as well his Spanish accent in English - I personally love Spanish speaking English.

Another interesting point is the official EU languages: some non-official languages are more spoken than some official languages. Check them out (numbers are approximate speakers in the EU, not necessarily native ones, Turkish, Arabic and Tamil not included, source):

Bold ones are official EU languages:

  1. Maltese (400 000) 
  2. Luxembourgish (400 000)
  3. Basque (600 000)
  4. Welsh (750 000)
  5. Irish (1 000 000) 
  6. Estonian (1 200 000)
  7. Russian (1 500 000)
  8. Latvian (2 000 000) 
  9. Galician (2 400 000)
  10. Slovenian (2 500 000) 
  11. Lithuanian (3 000 000)
  12. Slovak (5 200 000)
  13. Finnish (5 400 000) 
  14. Danish (5 500 000)
  15. Croatian (7 000 000) 
  16. Catalan (9 000 000)

Very strange that Catalan is not an official language. That can only fuel the Catalans' hunger for independence. And the Maltese made quite a good deal with Europe, they managed to make their language official while there's 6 other languages with more speakers that didn't manage!

Also check out this study - a lot of data about Europeans and their languages.