Languages of the European Union

Languages of the European Union

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The languages of the European Union are language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

s used by people within the member states of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

. They include the twenty-three official language
Official language
An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a...

s of the European Union along with a range of others. The EU asserts that it is in favour of linguistic diversity and currently has a European Commissioner for Multilingualism, Androulla Vassiliou
Androulla Vassiliou
Androulla Vassiliou is a Cypriot and European politician who was the European Commissioner for Health, confirmed by the European Council on 3 March 2008...

.

In the European Union, language policy
Language policy
Many countries have a language policy designed to favour or discourage the use of a particular language or set of languages. Although nations historically have used language policies most often to promote one official language at the expense of others, many countries now have policies designed to...

 is the responsibility of member states and EU does not have a common language policy; European Union institutions play a supporting role in this field, based on the principle of "subsidiarity
Subsidiarity
Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which...

", they promote a European dimension in the member states' language policies. The EU encourages all its citizens to be multilingual
Multilingualism
Multilingualism is the act of using, or promoting the use of, multiple languages, either by an individual speaker or by a community of speakers. Multilingual speakers outnumber monolingual speakers in the world's population. Multilingualism is becoming a social phenomenon governed by the needs of...

; specifically, it encourages them to be able to speak two languages in addition to their mother tongue. Though the EU has very limited influence in this area as the content of educational systems is the responsibility of individual member states, a number of EU funding programmes actively promote language learning and linguistic diversity.

The most widely spoken mother tongue in the EU is German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, while 51% of adults can understand English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

.

French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 is an official language
Official language
An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a...

 common to the three cities that are political centres
Location of European Union institutions
The governing institutions of the European Union are not concentrated in a single capital city; they are instead spread across three cities with other EU agencies and bodies based further away...

 of the Union: Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 (Belgium
Languages of Belgium
The Kingdom of Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. A number of non-official, minority languages and dialects are spoken as well.-Dutch:...

), Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

 (France
Language policy in France
France has one official language, the French language. The French government does not regulate the choice of language in publications by individuals but the use of French is required by law in commercial and workplace communications...

) and Luxembourg city (Luxembourg
Languages of Luxembourg
The linguistic situation in Luxembourg is characterised by the practice and the recognition of three official languages: French and German and the national language Luxembourgish established in law in 1984...

), while Catalan
Catalan language
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...

, Galician
Galician language
Galician is a language of the Western Ibero-Romance branch, spoken in Galicia, an autonomous community located in northwestern Spain, where it is co-official with Castilian Spanish, as well as in border zones of the neighbouring territories of Asturias and Castile and León.Modern Galician and...

 and Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 are the most widely used non-recognized languages in the EU.

Official EU languages



, the official language
Official language
An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a...

s of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, as stipulated in the latest amendment of Regulation No 1 determining the languages to be used by the European Economic Community of 1958, are:
Language Official in (de jure or de facto) Since
Bulgarian
Bulgarian language
Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, a member of the Slavic linguistic group.Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language, demonstrates several linguistic characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages such as the elimination of case declension, the...

 Kingdom of Bulgaria 2007
Czech
Czech language
Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers; it is the majority language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide. The language was known as Bohemian in English until the late 19th century...

 Czech Republic
 Slovakia1
2004
Danish
Danish language
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

 Denmark
 Germany2
1973
Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 Belgium
 Netherlands
1958
English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 Republic of Ireland
 Malta
 United Kingdom
1973
Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

 Estonia 2004
Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

 Finland 1995
French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 Belgium
 Early Modern France
 Italy3
 Luxembourg
1958
German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 Austria
 Belgium
 Germany
 Italy
 Luxembourg
1958
Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 Cyprus
 Greece
 Italy6
1981
Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

 Hungary
 Kingdom of Romania8
 Slovakia1
 Slovenia9
2004
Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 Republic of Ireland
 United Kingdom10
2007
Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 Italy
 Slovenia11
1958
Latvian
Latvian language
Latvian is the official state language of Latvia. It is also sometimes referred to as Lettish. There are about 1.4 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and about 150,000 abroad. The Latvian language has a relatively large number of non-native speakers, atypical for a small language...

 Latvia 2004
Lithuanian
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

 Lithuania 2004
Maltese
Maltese language
Maltese is the national language of Malta, and a co-official language of the country alongside English,while also serving as an official language of the European Union, the only Semitic language so distinguished. Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic...

 Malta 2004
Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

 Poland 2004
Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 Portugal 1986
Romanian
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

 Kingdom of Romania 2007
Slovak
Slovak language
Slovak , is an Indo-European language that belongs to the West Slavic languages .Slovak is the official language of Slovakia, where it is spoken by 5 million people...

 Slovakia
 Czech Republic
2004
Slovene  Slovenia
 Austria12
 Italy13
2004
Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 Spain 1986
Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

 Sweden
 Finland14
1995


The number of member states exceeds the number of official languages, as several national languages are shared by two or more countries in the EU. Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

, English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, and Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

 are all official languages at the national level in multiple countries (see table above). In addition, Czech
Czech language
Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers; it is the majority language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide. The language was known as Bohemian in English until the late 19th century...

, Danish
Danish language
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

, Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

, Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

, Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

, Slovak
Slovak language
Slovak , is an Indo-European language that belongs to the West Slavic languages .Slovak is the official language of Slovakia, where it is spoken by 5 million people...

, and Slovene are official languages in multiple EU countries at the regional level.

Furthermore, not all national languages have been accorded the status of official EU languages. These include Luxembourgish
Luxembourgish language
Luxembourgish is a High German language spoken mainly in Luxembourg. About 320,000 people worldwide speak Luxembourgish.-Language family:...

, an official language of Luxembourg since 1984, and Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

, an official language of Cyprus.

All languages of the EU are also working language
Working language
A working language is a language that is given a unique legal status in a supra-national company, society, state or other body or organization as its primary mean of communication...

s. Documents which a member state or a person subject to the jurisdiction of a member state sends to institutions of the Community may be drafted in any one of the official languages selected by the sender. The reply is drafted in the same language. Regulations and other documents of general application are drafted in the twenty-three official languages. The Official Journal of the European Union
Official Journal of the European Union
The Official Journal of the European Union is the official gazette of record for the European Union . It is published every working day in all of the official languages of the member states. Only legal acts published in the Official Journal are binding.It was first published on 30 December 1952 as...

 is published in the twenty-three official languages.

Legislation and documents of major public importance or interest are produced in all twenty-three official languages, but that accounts for a minority of the institutions′ work. Other documents—e.g. communications with the national authorities, decisions addressed to particular individuals or entities and correspondence—are translated only into the languages needed. For internal purposes the EU institutions are allowed by law to choose their own language arrangements. The European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

, for example, conducts its internal business in three languages, English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, and German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 (sometimes called "procedural languages"), and goes fully multilingual only for public information and communication purposes. The European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

, on the other hand, has Members who need working documents in their own languages, so its document flow is fully multilingual from the outset. Non-institutional EU bodies
Institutions of the European Union
The European Union is governed by seven institutions. Article 13 of Treaty on European Union lists them in the following order: the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European...

 are not legally obliged to make language arrangement for all the 23 languages (Kik v. OHIM
Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market
The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market , or OHIM is the trademark and designs registry for the internal market of the European Union. It is based in Alicante, Spain, and its president is António Campinos.- Task :...

, Case C-361/01, 2003 ECJ
European Court of Justice
The Court can sit in plenary session, as a Grand Chamber of 13 judges, or in chambers of three or five judges. Plenary sitting are now very rare, and the court mostly sits in chambers of three or five judges...

 I-8283).

According to the EU′s English language website, the cost of maintaining the institutions′ policy of multilingualism—i.e. the cost of translation and interpretation—was €1123 million in 2005, which is 1% of the annual general budget of the EU, or €2.28 per person per year.

Maltese


Although Maltese
Maltese language
Maltese is the national language of Malta, and a co-official language of the country alongside English,while also serving as an official language of the European Union, the only Semitic language so distinguished. Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic...

 is an official language, the Council set up a transitional period of three years from May 1, 2004, during which the institutions were not obliged to draft all acts in Maltese. It was agreed that the Council could extend this transitional period by an additional year, but decided not to. All new acts of the institutions were required to be adopted and published in Maltese from April 30, 2007.

Irish


When Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 joined the EEC
European Economic Community
The European Economic Community The European Economic Community (EEC) The European Economic Community (EEC) (also known as the Common Market in the English-speaking world, renamed the European Community (EC) in 1993The information in this article primarily covers the EEC's time as an independent...

 (now the EU
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

) in 1973, Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 was accorded "Treaty Language" status. This meant that the founding EU Treaty
Treaty of Rome
The Treaty of Rome, officially the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, was an international agreement that led to the founding of the European Economic Community on 1 January 1958. It was signed on 25 March 1957 by Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany...

 was restated in Irish. Irish was also listed in that Treaty and all subsequent EU Treaties as one of the authentic languages of the Treaties. As a Treaty Language, Irish was an official procedural language of the European Court of Justice
European Court of Justice
The Court can sit in plenary session, as a Grand Chamber of 13 judges, or in chambers of three or five judges. Plenary sitting are now very rare, and the court mostly sits in chambers of three or five judges...

. It was also possible to correspond in written Irish with the EU Institutions.

However, despite being the first official language of the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 and having been accorded minority-language status in the UK region of Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, Irish was not made an official working language of the EU until January 1, 2007. On that date an EU Council Regulation making Irish an official working language of the EU came into effect. This followed a unanimous decision on June 13, 2005, by EU foreign ministers that Irish would be made the 21st official language of the EU. However, a derogation stipulates that not all documents have to be translated into Irish as is the case with the other official languages.

The new Regulation means that legislation approved by both the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

 and the Council of Ministers
Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union is the institution in the legislature of the European Union representing the executives of member states, the other legislative body being the European Parliament. The Council is composed of twenty-seven national ministers...

 will now be translated into Irish, and interpretation from Irish will be available at European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

 plenary sessions and some Council meetings. The cost of translation, interpretation, publication and legal services involved in making Irish an official EU language is estimated at just under €3.5 million a year. The derogation will be reviewed after four years and every five years thereafter.
Irish is the only official language of the Union that is not the most widely spoken language in any Member State. According to the 2006 Irish census figures, there are 1.66 million people with some ability to speak Irish in Ireland out of a population of 4.24 million, though only 538,500 use Irish on a daily basis (counting those who use it mainly in the education system), and just over 72,000 use Irish as a daily language outside the education system.

Language families


The vast majority of the official languages of the European Union belong to the Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 family
Language family
A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor, called the proto-language of that family. The term 'family' comes from the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a...

, the three dominant subfamilies being the Germanic
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

, Romance
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

, and Slavic
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

. Germanic languages are spoken in central and northern areas of the EU and include Danish, Dutch, English, German, and Swedish. Romance languages are spoken in western and southern regions and include French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish. The Slavic languages are to be found in the central and eastern regions and include Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, Slovak, and Slovene. The Baltic languages
Baltic languages
The Baltic languages are a group of related languages belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family and spoken mainly in areas extending east and southeast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe...

, Latvian and Lithuanian; the Celtic
Celtic languages
The Celtic languages are descended from Proto-Celtic, or "Common Celtic"; a branch of the greater Indo-European language family...

 language, Irish; and Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 are also Indo-European. Outside the Indo-European family, Estonian, Finnish, and Hungarian are Uralic languages
Uralic languages
The Uralic languages constitute a language family of some three dozen languages spoken by approximately 25 million people. The healthiest Uralic languages in terms of the number of native speakers are Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Mari and Udmurt...

 while Maltese is the only Afroasiatic language with official status in the EU.

Alphabet


Nearly all official EU languages are written in the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

. The exceptions are Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, which is written with the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

, and Bulgarian
Bulgarian language
Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, a member of the Slavic linguistic group.Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language, demonstrates several linguistic characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages such as the elimination of case declension, the...

, which is written in the Cyrillic alphabet
Cyrillic alphabet
The Cyrillic script or azbuka is an alphabetic writing system developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century AD at the Preslav Literary School...

. The current design of euro banknotes
Euro banknotes
Euro banknotes are the banknotes of the euro, the currency of the eurozone and have been in circulation since 2002. They are issued by the national central banks of the euro area or the European Central Bank...

 has the word euro written in both the Latin and Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

s; the Cyrillic spelling may be added if Bulgaria adopts the euro as its currency (see Linguistic issues concerning the euro
Linguistic issues concerning the euro
Several linguistic issues have arisen in relation to the spelling of the words euro and cent in the many languages of the member states of the European Union, as well as in relation to grammar and the formation of plurals....

).

Similar languages


Due to the similarity between Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin to the extent that they are mutually intelligible across the region it was proposed that only one joint language be accepted as an official EU language as opposed to four separate ones (as in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991, more commonly referred to as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or ICTY, is a...

) in order to reduce translation costs. However in negotiations with Croatia it was accepted that Croatian would become a separate official EU language. This however may be reviewed as other Western Balkan states join.

No official recognition


According to the Euromosaic study, some regional
Regional language
A regional language is a language spoken in an area of a nation state, whether it be a small area, a federal state or province, or some wider area....

 or minority language
Minority language
A minority language is a language spoken by a minority of the population of a territory. Such people are termed linguistic minorities or language minorities.-International politics:...

s spoken within the EU do not have official recognition at EU level. Some of them may have some official status within the member state and count many more speakers than some of the lesser-used official languages. The official languages of EU are in bold.

In the list, constructed language
Constructed language
A planned or constructed language—known colloquially as a conlang—is a language whose phonology, grammar, and/or vocabulary has been consciously devised by an individual or group, instead of having evolved naturally...

s or what member states deem as mere dialect
Dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

s of an official language of member states are not included. It should be noted that many of these alleged dialects are widely viewed by linguists as separate languages. These include Scots
Scots language
Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster . It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language variety spoken in most of the western Highlands and in the Hebrides.Since there are no universally accepted...

—the Germanic language descended from Old English, not the Celtic language known as Scots Gaelic—and several Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 spoken in Italy, such as Lombard, Ligurian, Piedmontese
Piedmontese language
Piedmontese is a Romance language spoken by over 2 million people in Piedmont, northwest Italy. It is geographically and linguistically included in the Northern Italian group . It is part of the wider western group of Romance languages, including French, Occitan, and Catalan.Many European and...

, Sardinian
Sardinian language
Sardinian is a Romance language spoken and written on most of the island of Sardinia . It is considered the most conservative of the Romance languages in terms of phonology and is noted for its Paleosardinian substratum....

, Venetian
Venetian language
Venetian or Venetan is a Romance language spoken as a native language by over two million people, mostly in the Veneto region of Italy, where of five million inhabitants almost all can understand it. It is sometimes spoken and often well understood outside Veneto, in Trentino, Friuli, Venezia...

, Neapolitan
Neapolitan language
Neapolitan is the language of the city and region of Naples , and Campania. On October 14, 2008 a law by the Region of Campania stated that the Neapolitan language had to be protected....

, and Sicilian
Sicilian language
Sicilian is a Romance language. Its dialects make up the Extreme-Southern Italian language group, which are spoken on the island of Sicily and its satellite islands; in southern and central Calabria ; in the southern parts of Apulia, the Salento ; and Campania, on the Italian mainland, where it is...

.

Languages of Spain's autonomous regions


The Spanish governments have sought to give some official status in the EU for the languages of the Autonomous communities of Spain
Autonomous communities of Spain
An autonomous community In other languages of Spain:*Catalan/Valencian .*Galician .*Basque . The second article of the constitution recognizes the rights of "nationalities and regions" to self-government and declares the "indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation".Political power in Spain is...

, Catalan
Catalan language
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...

, Galician
Galician language
Galician is a language of the Western Ibero-Romance branch, spoken in Galicia, an autonomous community located in northwestern Spain, where it is co-official with Castilian Spanish, as well as in border zones of the neighbouring territories of Asturias and Castile and León.Modern Galician and...

 and Basque
Basque language
Basque is the ancestral language of the Basque people, who inhabit the Basque Country, a region spanning an area in northeastern Spain and southwestern France. It is spoken by 25.7% of Basques in all territories...

. The 667th Council Meeting of the Council of the European Union
Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union is the institution in the legislature of the European Union representing the executives of member states, the other legislative body being the European Parliament. The Council is composed of twenty-seven national ministers...

 in Luxembourg on June 13, 2005, decided to authorise limited use at EU level of languages recognized by member states other than the official working languages. The Council granted recognition to "languages other than the languages referred to in Council Regulation No 1/1958 whose status is recognized by the Constitution of a Member State on all or part of its territory or the use of which as a national language is authorized by law." The official use of such languages will be authorized on the basis of an administrative arrangement concluded between the Council and the requesting member state.

Although Basque, Catalan, and Galician are not nation-wide official languages in Spain, as co-official languages in the respective regions—pursuant to Spanish constitution, among other documents—they are eligible to benefit from official use in EU institutions under the terms of the June 13, 2005, resolution of the Council of the European Union. The Spanish government has assented to the provisions in respect of these languages.

The status of Catalan, spoken by over 9 million EU citizens (1.8% of the total), has been the subject of particular debate. On December 11, 1990, the use of Catalan was the subject of a European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

 Resolution (resolution A3-169/90 on languages in the [European] Community and the situation of Catalan [ OJ
Official Journal of the European Union
The Official Journal of the European Union is the official gazette of record for the European Union . It is published every working day in all of the official languages of the member states. Only legal acts published in the Official Journal are binding.It was first published on 30 December 1952 as...

-C19, January 28, 1991]).

On November 16, 2005, the President Peter Straub
Peter Straub (politician)
Peter Karl Otto Straub is a politician from Germany, and served as president of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union from 2004 to 2006.-Background and family life:...

 of the Committee of the Regions
Committee of the Regions
The Committee of the Regions is European Union's assembly of local and regional representatives that provides sub-national authorities with a direct voice within the EU's institutional framework....

 signed an agreement with the Spanish Ambassador to the EU, Carlos Sagües Bastarreche, approving the use of Spanish regional languages in an EU institution for the first time in a meeting on that day, with interpretation provided by European Commission interpreters.

On July 3, 2006, the European Parliament’s Bureau approved a proposal by the Spanish State to allow citizens to address the European Parliament in Basque, Catalan and Galician, two months after its initial rejection.

On November 30, 2006, the European Ombudsman
European Ombudsman
The European Ombudsman is an ombudsman for the European Union, based in the Salvador de Madariaga Building in Strasbourg.-History:...

, Nikiforos Diamandouros
Nikiforos Diamandouros
Nikiforos P. Diamandouros is a Greek academic who was the first National Ombudsman of Greece from 1998 to 2003 and has been European Ombudsman since April 2003. He was re-elected as European Ombudsman in 2010....

, and the Spanish ambassador in the EU, Carlos Bastarreche, signed an agreement in Brussels to allow Spanish citizens to address complaints to the European Ombudsman in Basque, Catalan, and Galician, all three co-official languages in Spain. According to the agreement, a translation body, which will be set up and financed by the Spanish government, will be responsible for translating complaints submitted in these languages. In turn, it will translate the Ombudsman′s decisions from Spanish into the language of the complainant. Until such a body is established the agreement will not become effective.

Luxembourgish and Turkish


Luxembourgish
Luxembourgish language
Luxembourgish is a High German language spoken mainly in Luxembourg. About 320,000 people worldwide speak Luxembourgish.-Language family:...

 (Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...

) and Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

 (Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

) are the only two national languages that are not official languages of the EU. Neither Luxembourg nor Cyprus have yet used the provision from the June 13, 2005, resolution provision to benefit from use in official EU institutions.

United Kingdom minority languages


In response to a written parliamentary question tabled following the June 13, 2005, resolution on official use of regional languages, the U.K. Minister for Europe, Douglas Alexander
Douglas Alexander
Douglas Garven Alexander is a British Labour Party politician, who is currently the Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the shadow cabinet of Ed Miliband. He has held cabinet posts under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, including Secretary of State for Scotland and...

, stated on June 29, 2005, that "The Government have no current plans to make similar provisions for UK languages."

Romani


The Romani (Roma, or formerly 'gypsy') people, numbering over two million people in the EU, speak the Romani language
Romani language
Romani or Romany, Gypsy or Gipsy is any of several languages of the Romani people. They are Indic, sometimes classified in the "Central" or "Northwestern" zone, and sometimes treated as a branch of their own....

, which is not official in any EU member state or polity. Moreover, Romani
Romani language
Romani or Romany, Gypsy or Gipsy is any of several languages of the Romani people. They are Indic, sometimes classified in the "Central" or "Northwestern" zone, and sometimes treated as a branch of their own....

 mass media and educational institution presences are near-negligible.

Russian


Though not an official language of the European Union, Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 is widely spoken in some of the new member states of EU that were formerly part of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. Russian is the native language of about 1.6 million Baltic Russians
Baltic Russians
The term Baltic Russians is usually used to refer to the Russian-speaking communities in the Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.The term "Baltic Russians" does not imply a separate ethnic subcategory among the Russians. It came into use in the context of discussions of their fate after...

 residing in Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

, Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

, and Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

, as well as a sizeable community of about 3.5 million in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. Russian is also understood by majority of the ethnic Latvians, Estonians, and Lithuanians, since, as official language of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, it was a compulsory subject in those countries during the Soviet era. However, since the fall of the Soviet Union, the ability to speak Russian has been rapidly declining among younger ethnic Latvians, Estonians, and Lithuanians. It is the eighth-most spoken language in the EU and about 7% of all EU citizens speak or understand Russian to some extent.

Sami languages


In Finland, the Sami languages
Sami languages
Sami or Saami is a general name for a group of Uralic languages spoken by the Sami people in parts of northern Finland, Norway, Sweden and extreme northwestern Russia, in Northern Europe. Sami is frequently and erroneously believed to be a single language. Several names are used for the Sami...

 Northern Sami
Northern Sami
Northern or North Sami is the most widely spoken of all Sami languages. The speaking area of Northern Sami covers the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland...

 (ca. 2000 speakers), Skolt Sami
Skolt Sami
Skolt Sami is a Uralic, Sami language spoken by approximately 400 speakers in Finland, mainly in Sevettijärvi, and approximately 20–30 speakers of the Njuõˊttjäuˊrr dialect in an area surrounding Lake Lovozero in Russia. Skolt Sami used to also be spoken on the Neiden area of Norway,...

 (400) and Inari Sami (300) have limited local recognition in certain municipalities of Finnish Lapland. Furthermore, legistlation specifically concerning the Sami must be translated to these languages. Bilinguality with Finnish is universal, though.

Three different Sami languages are spoken in Sweden, but "Sami language" (undifferentiated) is recognized as an official minority languages of Sweden
Minority languages of Sweden
In 1999, the Minority Language Committee of Sweden formally declared five minority languages of Sweden: Finnish, Sami language, Romani, Yiddish, and Meänkieli ....

, and is co-official with Swedish in four municipalities in Norrbotten County
Norrbotten County
Norrbotten County is the northernmost county or län of Sweden. It borders Västerbotten County to the southwest, the Gulf of Bothnia to the southeast. It also borders the counties of Nordland and Troms in Norway to the northwest, and Lapland Province in Finland to the northeast.The name...

 (Swedish Lapland).

Latin


For several centuries, Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 was the lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 for administrative and scholarly purposes in a large part of what is now the European Union. Therefore, several institutions use Latin in their logos and domain name
Domain name
A domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control in the Internet. Domain names are formed by the rules and procedures of the Domain Name System ....

s, instead of listing their names in all the official languages. For example, the Court of Justice has its website at http://curia.europa.eu/. The Court of Auditors uses Curia Rationum in its logo. The Council of the European Union has its website at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/ and its logo showing Consilium. The motto of the European Union
Motto of the European Union
United in diversity is the official motto of the European Union . Its translations in the other 22 languages of the EU have equal standing. The Latin version, In varietate concordia is also used as a compromise...

 has a Latin version at an early stage of conception: “In varietate concordia”.

Esperanto


Esperanto
Esperanto
is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Its name derives from Doktoro Esperanto , the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, the Unua Libro, in 1887...

 has no official status in any member state. The European party Europe – Democracy – Esperanto seeks to establish the artificial language as an official second language
Second language
A second language or L2 is any language learned after the first language or mother tongue. Some languages, often called auxiliary languages, are used primarily as second languages or lingua francas ....

 in the EU.

Migrant languages


A wide variety of languages from other parts of the world are spoken by immigrant communities in EU countries. Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

 is spoken as a first language by an estimated 1% of the population in Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 and the western part of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, and by 1% in the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. Other widely-used migrant languages include Berber which is spoken by about 1% of the population of both the Netherlands and Belgium and by many Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 migrants in Spain and Germany. Maghreb Arabic
Maghreb Arabic
Maghrebi Arabic or Darija is a cover term for the varieties of Arabic spoken in the Maghreb, including Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya. In Algeria, colloquial Maghrebi Arabic was taught as a separate subject under French colonization, and some textbooks exist. Speakers of Maghrebi Arabic call...

 is spoken by migrants in France and Italy. Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

, Urdu
Urdu
Urdu is a register of the Hindustani language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia. It belongs to the Indo-European family. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. It is also widely spoken in some regions of India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and an...

, Bengali
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

, Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

, and Punjabi
Punjabi language
Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by inhabitants of the historical Punjab region . For Sikhs, the Punjabi language stands as the official language in which all ceremonies take place. In Pakistan, Punjabi is the most widely spoken language...

 are spoken by immigrants from the Indian sub-continent in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. Balkan languages
Balkan languages
This is a list of languages spoken in regions ruled by Balkan countries. With the exception of several Turkic languages, Hungarian, and Circassian, all of them belong to the Indo-European family...

 are spoken in many parts of the EU by migrants and refugee
Refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

s who have left the region as a result of the recent wars
Yugoslav wars
The Yugoslav Wars were a series of wars, fought throughout the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995. The wars were complex: characterized by bitter ethnic conflicts among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia, mostly between Serbs on the one side and Croats and Bosniaks on the other; but also...

 and unrest there.

There are large Chinese
Overseas Chinese
Overseas Chinese are people of Chinese birth or descent who live outside the Greater China Area . People of partial Chinese ancestry living outside the Greater China Area may also consider themselves Overseas Chinese....

 communities in France, the U.K.
British Chinese
British Chinese , including British-born Chinese are people of Chinese ancestry who were born in, or have migrated to, the United Kingdom. They are part of the Chinese diaspora, or overseas Chinese...

, Spain
Chinese people in Spain
Chinese people in Spain form the ninth-largest non-European Union foreign community in Spain. , official figures showed 145,425 Chinese citizens residing in Spain; however, this figure does not include people with origins in other Overseas Chinese communities, nor Spanish citizens of Chinese origin...

, Italy
Chinese people in Italy
The community of Chinese people in Italy has grown rapidly in the past ten years. Official statistics indicate there are at least 144,885 Chinese citizens in Italy, although these figures do not account for illegal immigration, former Chinese citizens who have acquired Italian nationality, or...

, and other countries. Some countries have Chinatowns. Old and recent Chinese migrants speak various Chinese dialects, notably Cantonese and other southern Chinese tongues. However, Mandarin is becoming increasingly more prevalent due to the opening of the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

.

There are many Russian-speaking immigrants
Russian diaspora
The term Russian diaspora refers to the global community of ethnic Russians, usually more specifically those who maintain some kind of connection, even if ephemeral, to the land of their ancestors and maintain their feeling of Russian national identity within a local community.The term "Russian...

 in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

.

Many immigrant communities in the EU have been in place for several generations now and their members are bilingual, at ease both in the local language and in that of their community. http://europa.eu/comm/publications/booklets/move/45/en.pdf

Knowledge


After January 1, 2007, Romanian and Bulgarian languages ​​also became language of the European Union with a weighting of 5% and 2%

At 18% of the total number of speakers, German is the most widely spoken mother tongue, while English is the most widely spoken language at 51%. 100% of Hungarians, 100% of Portuguese, and 99.5% of Greeks speak their state language as their mother tongue.

The knowledge of foreign languages varies considerably in the specific countries, as the table below shows. The five most spoken second or foreign languages in the EU are English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

, and Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

, followed by Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

. In the table, boxes coloured light blue mean that the language is an official language of the country, while the main language spoken in the country is coloured dark blue.


Knowledge of languages to a conversational level other than as a mother tongue
Country
 (EU27)
English German French Spanish Italian Russian Polish
58% 4% 10% 4% 8% 2% 0%
59% 27% 48%1 6% 3% 0% 0%
23% 12% 9% 6% 1% 35% 0%
76% 5% 12% 2% 1% 2% 0%
24% 28% 2% 0% 1% 20% 3%
86% 58% 12% 5% 1% 1% 0%
46% 22% 1% 0% 0% 66%2 0%
63% 18% 3% 2% 1% 2% 0%
36% 8% 6% 13% 5% 0% 0%
56% 9% 15% 4% 3% 7% 1%
48% 9% 8% 1% 1% 3% 0%
23% 25% 2% 1% 2% 8% 0%
} || bgcolor="#6680CC" | 5% || 7% || 20% || 4% || 1% || 1% || 1%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 29% || 5% || 14% || 4% || bgcolor="#6680CC" | 1% || 0% || 0%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 39% || 14% || 2% || 1% || 0% || 70%3|| 2%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 32% || 19% || 1% || 0% || 0% || 80% || 15%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 60% || bgcolor="#B2C6FF" | 88% || bgcolor="#B2C6FF" | 90% || 1% || 5% || 0% || 0%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || bgcolor="#B2C6FF" | 88% || 3% || 17% || 3% || 66% || 0% || 0%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 87% || 70% || 29% || 5% || 1% || 0% || 0%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 29% || 19% || 3% || 1% || 1% || 26% || bgcolor="#6680CC" | 0%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 32% || 3% || 24% || 9% || 1% || 0% || 0%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 29% || 6% || 24% || 3% || 4% || 0% || 0%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 32% || 32% || 2% || 1% || 1% || 29% || 4%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 57% || 50% || 4% || 2% || 15% || 2% || 0%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 27% || 2% || 12% || bgcolor="#6680CC" | 10% || 2% || 1% || 0%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 89% || 30% || 11% || 6% || 2% || 1% || 1%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || bgcolor="#6680CC" | 7% || 9% || 23% || 8% || 2% || 1% || 1%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 49% || 34% || 4% || 2% || 14% || 4% || 0%
|-
|style="text-align: left;"| || 17% || 4% || 3% || 0% || 0% || 1% || 0%
|}
* Candidate country      Source: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_243_en.pdf
1 40% native speakers, totalling 88%.
2 About 30 % native speakers, totalling more than 90%
3 More than 30 % native speakers, totalling close to 100%


56% of citizens in the EU member states are able to hold a conversation in one language apart from their mother tongue. This is nine points higher than reported in 2001 among the 15 member states at the time http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb55/eb55_en.pdf. 28% of the respondents state that they speak two foreign languages well enough to have a conversation. Almost half of the respondents—44%—do not know any other language than their mother tongue. Approximately 1 in 5 Europeans can be described as an active language learner (i.e., someone who has recently improved his/her language skills or intends to do so over the following 12 months).

English remains by far the most widely spoken foreign language throughout Europe. 95% of students in the EU study English at secondary level and 38% of EU citizens state that they have sufficient skills in English to have a conversation (excluding citizens of the United Kingdom and Ireland, the two English-speaking countries). 28% of Europeans indicate that they know either French (14%) or German (14%), along with their mother tongue. French is most commonly studied and used in southern Europe, especially in Mediterranean countries, in Germany, Portugal, Romania, the U.K., and Ireland. German, on the other hand, is commonly studied and used in the Benelux countries, in Scandinavia, and in the newer EU member states. Spanish is most commonly studied in France, Italy, Luxembourg, and Portugal. In 19 out of 29 countries polled, English is the most widely known language apart from the mother tongue, this being particularly the case in Sweden (89%), Malta (88%); the Netherlands (87%); and Denmark (86%). 77% of EU citizens believe that children should learn English. English was considered the number one language to learn in all countries where the research was conducted except for the United Kingdom, Ireland and Luxembourg. English, either as a mother tongue or as a second/foreign language, is spoken by 51% of EU citizens, followed by German with 32% and French with 26%.

With the enlargement of the European Union, the balance between French and German is slowly changing. More citizens in the new member states speak German (23% compared with 12% in the EU15) while fewer speak French or Spanish (3% and 1% respectively compared with 16% and 7% among the EU15 group). A notable exception is Romania, where 24% of the population speaks French as a foreign language compared to 6% who speak German as a foreign language. At the same time, the balance is being changed in the opposite direction by growth of the French-speaking population and decrease of the German-speaking population.

Language skills are unevenly distributed both over the geographical area of Europe and over sociodemographic groups. Reasonably good language competences are perceived in relatively small member states with several state languages, lesser used native languages or "language exchange
Language exchange
Tandem language learning is a method of language learning based on mutual language exchange between tandem partners...

" with neighbouring countries. This is the case in Luxembourg, where 92% speak at least two languages. Those who live in southern European countries or countries where one of the major European languages is a state language have a lower likelihood of speaking multiple foreign languages. Only 5% of Turkish, 13% of Irish, 16% of Italians, 17% of Spanish and 18% from the U.K. speak at least two languages apart from their mother tongue.

Free language lessons (26%), flexible language courses that suit one’s schedule (18%), and opportunities to learn languages in a country where it is spoken natively (17%) are cited as the main incentives encouraging language learning. Group lessons with a teacher (20%), language lessons at school (18%), “one-to-one” lessons with a teacher, and long or frequent visits to a country where the language is spoken are considered to be the most suitable ways to learn languages.

Working languages


While documents for and communication with citizens are in every official EU language as a right, day-to-day work in the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

 is based around its three working languages: English, French, and German. Of these English is used most often. The use of English vs. French depends a lot on the unit or directorate. German is rarely used as a true working language in the Commission. Only a few of the Commissioners use a non-English tongue as their working language. This disappoints many in France, and Kristalina Georgieva
Kristalina Georgieva
Kristalina Ivanova Georgieva is a Bulgarian economist and politician, currently serving as European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response in the second college of the Barroso Commission....

, who is from Bulgaria, gained a round of applause when she told Parliament she would learn French while in the Commission. Parliament itself translates its proceedings into all official languages, although the actual spoken language of MEPs is sometimes English, so that fellow MEPs can understand them better than if they had the delayed translation. Committee meetings also often default to the language most understood by those attending instead of listening to the translation.

Policy


The European Union ability for legislative acts and other initiatives on language policy is based legally in the provisions in the Treaties of the European Union
Treaties of the European Union
The Treaties of the European Union are a set of international treaties between the European Union member states which sets out the EU's constitutional basis. They establish the various EU institutions together with their remit, procedures and objectives...

. In the EU, language policy
Language policy
Many countries have a language policy designed to favour or discourage the use of a particular language or set of languages. Although nations historically have used language policies most often to promote one official language at the expense of others, many countries now have policies designed to...

 is the responsibility of member states and the European Union does not have a common "language policy." Based on the principle of "subsidiarity
Subsidiarity
Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which...

," European Union institutions play a supporting role in this field, promoting cooperation between the member states and promoting the European dimension in the member states language policies, particularly through the teaching and dissemination of the languages of the member states (Article 149.2). The rules governing the languages of the institutions of the Community shall, without prejudice to the provisions contained in the Statute of the Court of Justice, be determined by the Council, acting unanimously (Article 290). All languages, in which was originally drawn up or was translated due to enlargement, are legally equally authentic. Every citizen of the Union may write to any of the EU institutions or bodies in one of the these languages and have an answer in the same language (Article 314).

In the Charter of Fundamental Rights, legally binding since its inclusion in the Lisbon Treaty, the EU declares that it respects linguistic diversity (Article 22) and prohibits discrimination on grounds of language (Article 21). Respect for linguistic diversity is a fundamental value of the European Union, in the same way as respect for the person, openness towards other cultures, and tolerance and acceptance of other people.

Initiatives



Beginning with the Lingua programme in 1990, the European Union invests more than €30 million a year (out of a €120 billion EU budget
European Union Budget
The European Union is a union of 27 member states. The Administration of the Union has a parliament, a civil service and a judiciary that is distinct from those of the member states. These arms administer the application of treaties, laws and agreements between the member states and their...

) promoting language learning through the Socrates
Socrates programme
The SOCRATES programme was an educational initiative of the European Commission; 31 countries took part. The initial Socrates programme ran from 1994 until 31 December 1999 when it was replaced by the Socrates II programme on 24 January 2000, which ran until 2006...

and Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci programme
The Leonardo da Vinci programme is a European Commission funding programme focused on the teaching and training needs of those involved in vocational education and training...

programmes in bursaries to enable language teachers to be trained abroad, placing foreign language assistants in schools, funding class exchanges to motivate pupils to learn languages, creating new language courses on CDs and the Internet, and projects that raise awareness of the benefits of language learning.

Through strategic studies, the Commission promotes debate, innovation, and the exchange of good practice. In addition, the mainstream actions of Community programmes which encourage mobility and transnational partnerships motivate participants to learn languages.

Youth exchanges, town twinning
Town twinning
Twin towns and sister cities are two of many terms used to describe the cooperative agreements between towns, cities, and even counties in geographically and politically distinct areas to promote cultural and commercial ties.- Terminology :...

 projects, and the European Voluntary Service
European Voluntary Service
European Voluntary Service is the European Commission's project that allows a young person to become a volunteer in another country for a specified period, normally between 2–12 months...

 also promote multilingualism. Since 1997, the Culture 2000 programme
Culture 2000
Culture 2000 was a 7-year European Union programme, which had among its key objectives to preserve and enhance Europe's cultural heritage. Its duration was between 2000 and 2006, and it had a budget of €236.5 million....

 has financed the translation of around 2,000 literary works from and into European languages.

The new programmes proposed for implementation for the financial perspective
Financial perspective
The financial perspective of the European Union is a seven-year framework for its spending.The origin of this unusual usage of the term "perspective" appears to be non-native English, likely influenced by French or German .-Financial perspective for the 2007/2013 period:On...

 2007-2013 (Culture 2007, Youth in Action, and Lifelong Learning
EU Integrated programme
The Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013 is the European Union programme for education and training. It has succeeded the SOCRATES programme...

) will continue and develop this kind of support.

In addition, the EU provides the main financial support to the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages
European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages
The European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages is a non-governmental organisation that was set up to promote linguistic diversity and languages. It was founded in 1982...

, a non-governmental organization which represents the interests of the over 40 million citizens who belong to a regional and minority language community, and for the Mercator networks of universities active in research on lesser-used languages in Europe. Following a request from the European Parliament, the Commission in 2004 launched a feasibility study on the possible creation of a new EU agency
Agencies of the European Union
An agency of the European Union is a decentralised body of the European Union , which are distinct from the institutions. Agencies are established to accomplish specific tasks. Each agency has its own legal personality...

, the "European Agency for Language Learning and Linguistic Diversity." The study concludes that there are unmet needs in this field, and proposes two options: creating an agency or setting up a European network of "Language Diversity Centres." The Commission believes that a network would be the most appropriate next step and, where possible, should build on existing structures; it will examine the possibility of financing it on a multi-annual basis through the proposed Lifelong Learning programme. Another interesting step would be to translate important public websites, such as the one of the European Central Bank, or Frontex web site also, in at least one other language than English.

Although not an EU treaty, most EU member states have ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages is a European treaty adopted in 1992 under the auspices of the Council of Europe to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe...

.

To encourage language learning, the EU supported the Council of Europe
Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in the areas of legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation...

 initiatives for European Year of Languages 2001 and the annual celebration of European Day of Languages
European Day of Languages
The European Day of Languages is 26 September, as proclaimed by the Council of Europe on 6 December 2001, at the end of the European Year of Languages , which had been jointly organised by the Council of Europe and the European Union...

 on September 26.

To encourage the member states to cooperate and to disseminate best practice the Commission issued a Communication on July 24, 2003, on Promoting Language Learning and Linguistic Diversity: an Action Plan 2004 - 2006 (summary) and a Communication on November 22, 2005, on A New Framework Strategy for Multilingualism (summary).

From November 22, 2004, the European Commissioner for Education and Culture portfolio included an explicit reference to languages and became European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism with Ján Figeľ
Ján Figel
Ján Figeľ is a Slovakian politician, previously European Commissioner for Education, Training & Culture. His area of responsibility also covered sport, youth, and relations with civil society.-Early career:...

 at the post. From 2007 until 2010, the European Commission had a special portfolio on languages, European Commissioner for Multilingualism. The post was held by Leonard Orban
Leonard Orban
Leonard Orban is a Romanian independent technocrat who served as the Commissioner for Multilingualism in the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union . He was responsible for the EU language policy and was the first Romanian Commissioner and the first member of the Commission...

. Since 2010, the portfolio was merged with education and culture, again.

EU devotes a specialised subsite of its "Europa" portal to languages, the EUROPA Languages portal.

See also

  • European languages
  • European Commissioner for Multilingualism
  • Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union
    Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union
    The Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union is an agency of the European Union. Established in 1994, the Translation Centre is located in Luxembourg City....

     (CDT) – Inter-Active Terminology for Europe
    Inter-Active Terminology for Europe
    Inter-Active Terminology for Europe is the inter-institutional terminology database of the European Union. The project was launched in 1999 with the objective of creating a web-based interface for all EU terminology resources so as to make the information more easily available and ensure its...

     (IATE)
  • European Day of Languages
    European Day of Languages
    The European Day of Languages is 26 September, as proclaimed by the Council of Europe on 6 December 2001, at the end of the European Year of Languages , which had been jointly organised by the Council of Europe and the European Union...

    26 September
  • Linguistic issues concerning the euro
    Linguistic issues concerning the euro
    Several linguistic issues have arisen in relation to the spelling of the words euro and cent in the many languages of the member states of the European Union, as well as in relation to grammar and the formation of plurals....

  • English language in Europe
  • German language in Europe
  • Languages of the African Union
    Languages of the African Union
    The languages of the African Union are languages used by citizens within the member states of the AU. The Union has defined all languages of Africa as official, and currently uses Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Swahili...


Further reading


External links


Official EU webpages

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