LESS SPOKEN LANGUAGES & THE
POLITICS OF EUROPEAN
MULTILINGUALISM
Dr Eleni Markou
Coordinator of Less Taught Languages
Modern Language Centre
Other terminology?
Implications?
Official and Spoken Languages of EU Countries
Country
Official & national Languages
Austria
German, Slovene (official in
Carinthia), Croatian & Hungarian
(official in Burgenland)
Dutch 60%, French 40%, German
less than 1%
Bulgarian
Turkish
Greek, Turkish, English
Czech (cestina)
Belgium
Bulgaria
Cyprus
Czech
Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Danish (dansk)
Estonian (eesti keel)
Finnish (suomi) 93.4%, Swedish
5.9%
French (français)
German (Deutsch)
Other spoken Languages
Standard German
Russian, Ukrainian, Finnish
small Sami-& Russianspeaking minorities
Official and Spoken Languages of EU Countries (cont)
Country
Official & national language
Other spoken lang.
Greece
Greek (elliniká, the Koine-Demotic
version)
Turkish (Northern
Greece)
Hungary
Hungarian (magyar)
German, Romanian
Ireland
Irish (Gaeilge), English (generally used),
Italy
Italian (italiano)
Latvia
Latvian (latviesu valoda)
Lithuanian, Russian
Lithuania
Lithuanian (lietuviu kalba)
Polish, Russian
Luxembourg Luxembourgish (LÎtzebuergesch, the
everyday spoken language), French
(administrative language), German
(administrative language)
Malta
Maltese (Malti)
Netherlands Dutch (Nederlands, official language),
Frisian (official language)
Poland
Polish (polski)
English
Official and Spoken Languages of EU Countries (cont)
Country
Official & national language
Other spoken language
Portugal Portuguese (português)
Romania Romanian (romana)
Hungarian, German
Slovakia
Slovak (slovensky jazyk)
Hungarian
Slovenia
Slovenian (slovenski jezik)
Spain
Spanish (español - the Castilian note: Castilian is the official
version) 74%, Catalan 17%,
language nationwide; the other
Galician 7%, Basque 2%
languages are official regionally.
Sweden
Swedish (svenska)
United
English
Kingdom
small Sami- and Finnish-speaking
minorities.
Welsh (about 26% of the
population of Wales), Scottish
form of Gaelic (about 60,000 in
Scotland)
(White Paper on Teaching & Learning, 1996, Office for the
official
publications of the European Communities)
European Projects
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EU policy - to protect and promote regional and minority languages
The EU has a positive policy towards regional and minority languages, enshrined in Article 22 of the
European Charter of Fundamental Rights, which states, “The Union respects cultural, religious and
linguistic diversity”.
In 1992, the European Commission initiated a detailed study of regional and minority language
communities in the EU. As new countries joined the Union, the scope of the study was widened.
(Euromosaic ).
In addition, the European Commission provided support to the ADUM project (2004-05). ADUM
informs people and organisations working to support regional or minority languages about
European funding opportunities.
Other recent projects include CRAMLAP (Celtic, Regional and Minority Languages Abroad Project),
which has undertaken an audit and evaluation of Higher Education provision of Celtic and other
regional and minority languages in Europe, and the Network of European Language Planning
Boards, established to promote co-operation between minority language planning boards in
Europe.
The Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity (NPLD) is a pan-European Network which covers
regional, minority, indigenous, cross-border and smaller national languages to promote linguistic
diversity in Europe. The main focus is providing information about and easy access to a large
network of organisations that can share ideas, information and best practice regarding the
promotion of less widely used languages.
For an overview of regional and minority language projects supported by the European Union, see
the “Regional and Minority” Language Products page.
Since its inception, the EU has put a great emphasis on
multilingualism, and, in line with this policy, it currently
recognizes 21 official languages. While formally all
official languages enjoy the same privileges, they do not
have the same prominence within the EU administration.
According to the European Commission, 62% of its
documents were initially prepared in English, 26 % in
French, and 3.1 % in German in 2004. The remaining
languages accounted for less than 9 % of inputs into EU
Bureaucracy.
The EU recognizes procedural, official and treaty
languages.
• Procedural languages: English, French and German
• Official languages: Czech, Danish, Dutch, English,
Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian,
Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish,
Portuguese, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, and Swedish
and, as of recently, Irish.
• Treaty languages: Luxembourgish, and until recently
Irish.
EU citizens and firms, nonetheless, are entitled
to communicate with the EU in any official or
treaty language. This privilege, however, does
not extend to minority languages such as Welsh,
Catalan, or Basque, even when they have an
official or semi-official status in their own
country.
Information and data
Among the EU15 population (if not
in magnitude then at least in
ordering):
55% speak English, 34 % French,
and 31 % German
Level of the language spoken - EU%
Languages most commonly used in
the EU - %
Statistical conclusions
 The mother tongue of the respondent is in most of the cases one of the official
languages of the country of residence. Mobility inside the EU and immigration
from outside the EU do not have significant impact on the figures.
 50% of the EU citizens speak at least one other language than their mother
tongue. The languages known slightly differ between EU15 and EU10 which
joined the EU in 2004.
 English keeps on growing its share as the most widely spoken foreign language.
Both French and German have also slightly increased their share compared to the
situation in 2001.
 When looking at the overall situation within the EU, English remains the most
widely used language, followed by German and French. Compared to the
situation in 2001, the enlargement of the EU has brought Polish and Russian into
the list.
 The level of foreign languages spoken tends to be good, according to the
respondents. Considering five most widely used languages spoken as a foreign
language, over half of the respondents rate the level of their skills good or very
good (English 69%, Spanish 65%, German 58%, French 55%, Russian 54%). In all
these languages, the estimate of the level of language skills is higher than what
was observed in 2001.
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