Every year on September 26th, the European Day of Languages is celebrated. But what is it all about? Is it just another date on the calendar or is there more to it?

European Day of Languages 2023

The European Day of Languages (EDL) was first organized on the initiative of the Council of Europe in 2001, on the occasion of the European Year of Languages. Following its great success, the Committee of Ministers decided to make the European Day of Languages an annual event, and since then it has been celebrated every year on 26 September – this year it is the 22nd European Day of Languages!

In this article, we take a closer look at this special day, the many benefits of multilingualism and how it can be promoted in companies.

Table Of Contents

What is the European Day of Languages?

Millions of people in the Council of Europe member states and beyond take part in numerous events on this day. At the heart of the celebrations are, of course, languages, or more precisely, multilingualism. It is a day to celebrate and pay tribute to Europe’s rich variety of languages. The day is meant to encourage people to discover new languages, to recognize and promote the importance of linguistic diversity in Europe, and to deepen intercultural understanding.

But why celebrate languages? The answer lies in the many benefits that multilingualism brings to companies, employees and society – regardless of age: in today’s business world, the importance of multilingualism (in companies) cannot be overstated. The European Day of Languages reminds us that language not only builds cultural bridges, but also brings economic benefits.

But what is “language”?

A Brief History of Human Communication

There are more than 7100 languages in the world – an impressive number! More than 230 languages are spoken in Europe alone, and there are in excess of 2000 across Asia. According to SwissTranslate, the five most spoken native languages in the world are:

  1. Chinese
  2. Spanish
  3. English
  4. Hindi
  5. Arabic

Although many languages may seem to have little to do with each other, there are amazing connections between them because languages influence each other and merge over time, sometimes even creating entirely new languages. Many languages are related, whether through direct influences and shared words, such as Spanish and Portuguese, or through indirect historical influences, such as French and Chinese during the colonial period.

But how did human language evolve? This is closely related to human evolution. The ability to speak evolved from the ability to imitate – so communication did not have to be reinvented in each generation; this evolution was accompanied by cerebral developments such as improved mimicking and motor skills.

According to BMC, language in its present sense has been spoken by humans for a maximum of 125,000 to 40,000 years. However, a precursor language must have existed earlier, as evidenced by fossil finds and reconstructions of Stone Age daily life. Homo erectus probably developed the first independent language, and Homo sapiens neanderthalensis used and developed it. The emergence of language enabled the exchange of information, fostered social skills, and paved the way for trade. According to DW, the world’s oldest languages still spoken today include Tamil (5,000 years old), Chinese (3,300 years old), and Hebrew and Arabic (3,000 years old).

Below, we take a closer look at how multilingualism among employees can be a key competitive advantage for companies.

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