Europe celebrates linguistic diversity
The European Day of Languages, which is celebrated on September 26, aims to promote language education as a means of fostering understanding at the international level. Does it work nowadays?
Imagine that you are standing at a bus stop and a stranger asks you something in a foreign language with a desperate expression on his face. It can be seen that he is not begging for money, but asking for something. Perhaps a port, or transport options? Most open and empathetic types of people will want to help.
In the past, people who did not speak the same language had to communicate with gestures. And it often worked magically. Nowadays, we have applications with various languages installed on our phones, and a sentence in one language is translated into another in a few seconds. And it is also magic.
But that's how human interaction is missed. Is the translation sufficient in the wider context? Is that enough to promote understanding between cultures?
A means of greater mutual understanding
As an idea of the Council of Europe,The European Day of Languages aims to encourage the approximately 700 million Europeans represented by the 46 member countries of the Council to "learn new languages at any age". The Council of Europe is an international organization founded after the Second World War with the aim of advocating for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.
The Day of Languages has been celebrated since 2001 and is due to the Council's conviction that "linguistic diversity is a tool for achieving greater understanding between cultures and a key element in the continent's rich cultural heritage."
"Everyone deserves the chance to profit from the cultural and economic advantages that language learning brings. Learning languages helps to develop tolerance and understanding between people with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds", said the General Secretary of the Council of Europe and the European Commissioner for Education and Culture in a joint statement on the occasion of the European Year of Languages.
Modern times are about global languages?
That was then, this is now.
According to the European Day of Languages website, here are some interesting facts:
1. There are between 6 and 7 thousand different languages in the world distributed among about 7 billion people who are organized in over 190 independent countries.
2. There are about 225 ancient languages in Europe, only 3 percent of the world's total.
3. Most of the languages that exist in the world are spoken in Asia and Africa.
4. At least half of the world's population is bilingual or multilingual, that is, they speak two or more languages.
5. In everyday life, Europeans meet more and more foreign languages. "There is a need to generate more interest in languages among Europeans."
Interestingly, the site states that "bilingualism brings many advantages." It facilitates the learning of additional languages, stimulates the thinking process and enables contacts with other people and cultures."
Inflation and cuts in culture
On the other hand, across the Atlantic, it was announced in September that West Virginia University would be closing its foreign language department. Of course, it is not about Harvard, but it is still a signal that can be found at other American universities and European institutions that cut programs for foreign languages and cultures.
The Associated Press news agency, referring to planned budget cuts, points out that "West Virginia University is proposing to cut 32 programs, including the departments of foreign languages, literature and linguistics, along with graduate and doctoral studies in mathematics, music, English and the like. "
The report further states that other American universities are faced with making similar decisions, but that this is one of the most extreme examples of a renowned university taking such dramatic cuts, especially when it comes to foreign languages.
"In an increasingly globalized world, Americans should expand, not cut, opportunities for their children to learn foreign languages," writes Bénédicte de Montler, cultural attache at the French Embassy in the United States, in the New York Times in 2019.
German among the most common languages
According to the foreign language learning portal "Berlitz", in September 2023 about 135 million people worldwide spoke German as mother tongue, or second functional languageand that makes it the 12th most spoken language in the world, after English, Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish, French and Arabic, among others. The top 20 languages on the list are estimated to be spoken by about 50 percent of the world's population.
The majority of other languages are spoken by only a small group of people, which is why they are endangered languages. In Germany, this is the case with the four main dialects that are among the recognized languages of the country and protected by the European Charter for Minority Languages.
Many other languages are also spoken in Germany by immigrants, who are in good numbers throughout the country.
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Source: Deutsche Welle