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European Day of Languages European Day of Languages
by The Ovi Team
2017-09-26 06:24:50
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September 26th; there have never been more opportunities to work or study in a different European country - but lack of language competence prevents many people from taking advantage of them. Globalisation and patterns of business ownership mean that citizens increasingly need foreign language skills to work effectively within their own countries. English alone is no longer enough. Europe is rich in languages - there are over 200 European languages and many more spoken by citizens whose family origin is from other continents. This is an important resource to be recognised, used and cherished.

Language learning brings benefits to young and old - you are never too old to learn a language and to enjoy the opportunities it opens up. Even if you only know a few words of the language of the country that you visit (for example on holiday), this enables you to make new friends and contacts. Learning other peoples' languages is a way of helping us to understand each other better and overcome our cultural differences.

Language skills are a necessity and a right for EVERYONE – that is one of the main messages of the European Day of Languages.

The overall objectives are to raise awareness of:
-Europe’s rich linguistic diversity, which must be preserved and enhanced;
-the need to diversify the range of languages people learn (to include less widely used languages), which results in plurilingualism;
-the need for people to develop some degree of proficiency in two languages or more to be able to play their full part in democratic citizenship in Europe.
… the Committee of Ministers decided to declare a European Day of Languages to be celebrated on 26th September each year. The Committee recommended that the Day be organised in a decentralised and flexible manner according to the wishes and resources of member states, which would thus enable them to better define their own approaches, and that the Council of Europe propose a common theme each year. The Committee of Ministers invites the European Union to join the Council of Europe in this initiative. It is to be hoped that the Day will be celebrated with the co-operation of all relevant partners.

Decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg (776th meeting – 6 December 2001)

Ten facts

1. There are between 6000 and 7000 languages in the world - spoken by six billion people divided into 189 independent states.

2. There are about 225 indigenous languages in Europe - roughly 3% of the world’s total.

3. Most of the world’s languages are spoken in Asia and Africa.
 
4. At least half of the world’s population are bilingual or plurilingual, i.e. they speak two or more languages.

5. In their daily lives Europeans increasingly come across foreign languages. There is a need to generate a greater interest in languages among European citizens.

6. Many languages have 50,000 words or more, but individual speakers normally know and use only a fraction of the total vocabulary: in everyday conversation people use the same few hundred words.

7. Languages are constantly in contact with each other and affect each other in many ways: English borrowed words and expressions from many other languages in the past, European languages are now borrowing many words from English.

8. In its first year a baby utters a wide range of vocal sounds; at around one year the first understandable words are uttered; at around three years complex sentences are formed; at five years a child possesses several thousand words.

9. The mother tongue is usually the language one knows best and uses most. But there can be “perfect bilinguals” who speak two languages equally well. Normally, however, bilinguals display no perfect balance between their two languages.

10. Bilingualism brings with it many benefits: it makes the learning of additional languages easier, enhances the thinking process and fosters contacts with other people and their cultures.



   
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Emanuel Paparella2016-09-26 10:17:12
Indeed, languages are vitally important as instruments of cultural communication and understanding among the people of the world, but there is another transcendent dimension to them that goes beyond utility and pragmatic concerns. That dimensions was elucidated by Ivan Illich, a great advocate for intercultural communication. He gifted us with a great insight. It is found in his book Tools for Conviviality. He wrote there that foreign languages ought to be pursued not so much to communicate with those native to them, but rather, so that we may listen to the particular silences found in the background of all languages, and thereby retrieve the original cultural humus from which they sprang. Notice the metaphor of the germinating seed in tandem with that of the historical journey, back to origins. To reduce languages to mere instrumentality is to forget that it is language that humanizes us and keeps us human and that the degradation of language is the first sign of a declining civilization.


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