EU celebrates language day

The European Parliament is organising an Online Multilingualism Day to celebrate one of the EU’s core values that ensures Parliament is accessible and transparent, with 24 official languages, there are 552 possible language combinations at the European Parliament.

This is the fourth edition of Multilingualism Day, celebrated for the first time at the European Parliament on 30 September 2017. The event coincides with the European Day of Languages on 26 September and the International Translation Day on 30 September.

Multilingualism is one of the European Union’s core values, ensuring that all EU citizens can follow the work of their democratic representatives in any of the EU’s official languages.

The Multilingualism Day will close with a live panel from the Brussels plenary chamber discussing what it takes to make multilingualism a reality.

Multilingualism remains a sensitive issue for the bloc: French journalists covering the European Union affairs have complained to the civil servants about the increasing use of the language of Shakespeare’s in their communication which they presume gives a “competitive advantage” to the anglophone press.

The French section of the Association of European Journalists reminded Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel in a letter dated September 23 that the use of several European languages in the communication of any EU institution is a legal obligation enshrined in founding treaties.

Taking as an example the EU’s proposed Migration Pact unveiled earlier this week, they complained that all communication about it was only released in English.

“No version in any other working language (French or German) was available, more than two hours after the official communication. At the end of the day, only the two-page press release was available in French. This is out of proportion with the constraints of speed inherent to the journalism profession,” they wrote.

“This seems all the more unacceptable to us since this is not an isolated case, but a repeated practice, now almost systematic, especially since your arrival as head of the European Commission,” they added.

They argued that the increasing practice of communicating in only one language makes disinformation easier and that other countries including Russia, China and the US regularly makes official documents available in other languages including French, Spanish and German.

At present English remains the most rapidly growing language with average 15 new words a day, mainly in IT terms. The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use (and 47,156 obsolete words).

However the EU language palette includes not only European languages:the Maltese is descended from Siculo-Arabic, a Semitic language within the Afroasiatic family,that in the course of its history has been influenced by Sicilian and Italian, to a lesser extent French, and more recently English. Today, the core vocabulary is Semitic, with large numbers of loanword, because of the Sicilian influence on Siculo-Arabic, Maltese has many language contact features and is most commonly described as a language with a large number of loanwords.
It is also the only language of Arabic origin that is written in the Latin alphabet. Although Maltese and English are both official languages, Maltese has been recognised as an official language of the European Union when Malta became a member state on 1 May 2004. Around 400 000 people speak Maltese nowadays.

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