Polish for Expats

Linguistic diversity in Europe

2010/10/02 17:09:00 Written by 

The European Day of Languages was the celebration of linguistic diversity.  Why?

As a first –  to remind the  Europeans that there are about  225 spoken indigenous languages in Europe.

As a second – to make us aware that in the majority of  Western European capitals there are 100-200 languages spoken, in London, it reached the level about 300.

The Council of Europe and European Union – the initiator of the EDL celebration  – are convinced that: “ linguistic diversity is a tool for achieving greater intercultural understanding and a key element in the rich cultural heritage of our continent, the Council of Europe promotes plurilingualism in the whole of Europe”.

Thanks to the celebration, the attitude towards diversity of languages and cultures are increasingly changing into more and more visible acceptation. Participants and organizers of the language celebration events make us aware that each language reflects its own way of seeing the world, individual identity and value and is the product of its own particular culture and history. From this perspective, all languages are equally adequate as modes of expression for the people who use them. It is proved by the comparisons of the rates at which children learn to speak, that no language is intrinsically more difficult than any other language.

The main purpose of the celebration of   European Day of languages is to encourage 800 million Europeans to learn more languages, at any age, in or out of school.

As 225 European languages is a big choice, it will be easier to find the appropriate language to learn, if we see how they relate to each other.  Most of the languages of Europe have common origins and belong to the large Indo-European language family. Due to the most member-languages and most speakers, they are grouped into three main families:  Germanic, Romance, and Slavic.   However, there are numerous languages in  Europe with a different origin.

  • Languages with Indo-European origin:

The Germanic language family has a northern branch with Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic and Faroese, as well as a western branch with German, Dutch, Frisian, English and Yiddish as its members.

The Romance language family has as its members Romanian, Italian, Corsican, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Occitan, French, Romansh, Ladin and Sardinian.

To the Slavic language family belong languages such as Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, representing the eastern branch,  Polish, Czech, Slovak form a western branch,  and to the south branch belong Sorbian, Slovenian, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian and Bulgarian.

  • Apart from the three main groups, there are smaller ones  within the languages with Indo-European origin:

The Celtic family consists of Irish, Scots Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton, with revival movements under way for Cornish and Manx.

To the Baltic family belong Latvian and Lithuanian.

Separate families with only one member are Greek, Albanian and Armenian.

Basque is an exceptional case because it does not belong to the Indo-European family and its origins are unknown.

  • Other language families, with no Indo-European origin, also have members in Europe:

In the North we have the Uralic languages: Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian;

We find several Sámi languages, as well as other small languages in the northern parts of the Russian Federation such as Ingrian or Karelian.

The Altaic language family has representatives in the Southeast, notably Turkish and Azerbaijani.

The Caucasian family is spoken in a relatively small and compact area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and also comprises about 40 members, among them Georgian, and Abkhaz.

The Afro-Asiatic family includes Maltese, Hebrew and Berber.

All these languages use a small number of alphabetic scripts. Most languages use the Roman (or Latin) alphabet. Russian and some other Slavic languages use Cyrillic. Greek, Yiddish, Armenian and Georgian each have their own script. Non-European languages widely used on European territory include Arabic, Chinese and Hindi, each with its own writing system.

Polish language belongs to the Slavic group and represents its western branch-like  Czech and Slovak. All those languages use the Roman (Latin) alphabet.

(based on Council of Europe resources: http://edl.ecml.at

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