Sophie Vandeputte works as a language coordinator at the EUN Office. She speaks four languages - French, English, Dutch and Spanish - and she is in charge of a team dealing with more 20 languages on the EUN Web sites. In this article, Sophie discusses issues related to language learning as a way of appreciating other cultures and minimising cultural stereotypes.
The European Commission is holding a European Day of Languages on 26 September. Hundreds of activities celebrating language diversity and promoting language learning will be held throughout the European Union (EU) on that day. The purpose of the event is to raise people's awareness of the issues surrounding multi-linguality in Europe.
Since the ratification of the Schengen Agreement, people have been able to work, live, study and travel freely around most countries of the EU. This is an important step for the citizens of the EU, and the experience would be improved if they were able to understand each others' languages.
Many people are reluctant to learn a foreign language. They are afraid of making mistakes in public, and learning a language can be a long and difficult process. But learning another language is not only about expressing yourself and being understood in a foreign country. It is also about enriching your life and fostering a deeper understanding of diversity and other people's cultures.
Since the foundation of the Union, the number of official languages has been growing steadily. The EU now has 20 official languages.
The European Day of Languages aims to draw the public's attention to the importance of language learning, to raise awareness of the languages spoken in the EU and to encourage lifelong language learning.