Thursday

23rd Nov 2017

Europeans must learn more languages, commissioner says

  • Multilingualism commissioner Leonard Orban celebrating the European day of languages (Photo: European Commission)

Europeans should learn more foreign languages and not think that a "lingua franca" – one language used internationally - is enough, EU commissioner for multilingualism Leonard Orban said on Wednesday (26 September).

Currently, 56 percent of Europeans feel they could have a decent conversation in at least one foreign language, while 28 percent feel comfortable in at least two.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But as many as 44 percent say they do not speak any language besides their mother tongue, according to a European survey published last year.

English is the most learnt foreign language in the European Union (38%), followed by French and German which jointly share second place at 14 percent.

However, both commissioner Orban and Wolfgang Mackiewicz, President of the executive committee of the European Language Council, dismissed claims that learning one language is enough in a multicultural Europe.

"Our aim is to give the European Union, within a reasonable period, a new generation of multilingual citizens. This can be the vivid proof that our motto, ‘united in diversity' is not a utopia", the commissioner said to mark the European day of languages.

The situation is much more diverse than one could think and speaking English is not enough in today's Europe, said Mr Mackiewicz, who was presenting a report on multilingualism drawn up by a group of 11 experts.

"In the 1990s, the EU's language policies focused on individuals (…). Today, it is the European project that needs multilingualism", not just the individuals, Mr Mackiewicz pointed out.

Since the 1990s, the number of languages in the EU has increased from 11 to 23 and this is without counting the hundreds of new dialects now spoken in the 27-member bloc, he emphasised.

The role of minorities

The report makes several suggestions in order to improve language diversity in the EU.

It argues that migration can have very positive aspects as far as intercultural dialogue is concerned.

"All too often, migrants are only seen as a problem (…) What is often overlooked is the fact that migrants constitute a valuable language resource", the report reads.

"By giving value to migrant languages in our midst, we may well enhance migrants' motivation to learn the language of the host community (…) and enable them to become competent mediators between different cultures", it continues.

The media also has a role to play. It can contribute to "pulling down barriers between different communities living in our societies" while subtitled TV programmes rather than dubbed programmes aid language learning.

EU posted workers face hurdles

Negotiations among the EU institutions will start soon, but could be difficult on several issues - like the inclusion of the transport sector or the duration of a posting.

EU overcomes divisions on posted workers

After a 12-hour discussion, EU employment ministers struck a compromise to reform the rules on workers posted in another country. The principle of equal pay for equal work has been adopted but the transport sector will get special treatment.

Investigation

How Romania became an EU workers' rights 'guinea pig'

"We are paid as if we were a country of unqualified workers". Union leaders and labour rights experts reveal, in figures, the catastrophic consequences of the laws that have turned Romania into the country of the working poor.

Opinion

Mind the gap: inequality in our cities

Minimum wages, 'living' wages and a universal basic income are all part of the ongoing mix to find ways to reduce social inequality across the EU.

News in Brief

  1. December euro summit still on, Tusk confirms
  2. EU calls for end to Kenya election crisis
  3. Report: Israeli PM invited to meet EU ministers
  4. French banks close Le Pen accounts
  5. Commission relaxes rules on labelling free range eggs
  6. Commission issues €34m fine over car equipment cartel
  7. Estonian presidency 'delighted' with emissions trading vote
  8. Mladic found guilty of genocide and war crimes

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  2. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  3. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  4. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  6. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  7. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  9. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  10. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  11. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  12. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure

Latest News

  1. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya
  2. Orban stokes up his voters with anti-Soros 'consultation'
  3. Commission warns Italy over high debt level
  4. Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes
  5. Uber may face fines in EU for keeping data breach secret
  6. EU counter-propaganda 'harms' relations, Russia says
  7. The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik
  8. Glyphosate: 1.3 million EU citizens call for ban