In the news recently, it came as a surprise when reports stated more and more people within the European Union (EU) were taking Chinese-language proficiency tests. With this in mind, we thought it was important to understand just what is happening when it comes to the European Union and language today.

Brief Overview

The European Union is a social and political union of 28 countries and member-states. It was formed over five decades ago and contains 7% of the human population of the entire planet. With all these countries talking to each other, it’s not surprising that a translation team is needed. Of course there has to be. Within the EU, there are 24 languages. Each of these have to be translated and interpreted by professionals to ensure a harmonious professional, cultural and diplomatic relationship with one another.

Official Languages of the EU

The term ‘official’ is often mentioned within the EU when it comes to languages. Back in 1958, the first official and working languages were voted as being German, Dutch, French and Italian. Additions have been made over the years as more counties (and their languages) join the EU.

Of course, in theory this works fine. In practise, it’s a different matter altogether. English, for example, has become unofficially accepted as an EU working language for obvious reasons. It’s one of the most recognised languages in the world. But maybe you didn’t know about the following when it comes to language and translation within the EU….

  •  All important legislation must be translated into every official language. Interpreters and translators are constantly on hand to provide this service for any documents and meetings.
  •  Some languages have not been made fully official within the EU, but still have documents translated into them. This includes Scottish Gaelic, Catalan and Welsh.
  •  English is the most spoken language, with around 51% of the EU population able to speak it. This counts both native and non-native English speakers.
  •  Each EU member is responsible for the promotion of other languages. It is a policy to encourage citizens to be able to be bilingual.
  •  Amazingly, 56% of EU citizens are already able to converse in two or more languages, inclusive of their mother tongue.
  •  The European Day of Languages is held annually on 26th September. This day aims to encourage language learning throughout the EU.

When an EU national corresponds with the organization itself, he or she has the right to receive a reply to their correspondence in the same language, it’s clear from the facts above that the direction current legislation, learning and international relations is heading only amplifies the need for constant professional translation services. Not just in the EU, but on a worldwide platform also.

This is especially prevalent when you take into account the statistic that English (already the EU’s most spoken language) is going to be spoken by an estimated two billion people by 2020. It seems it’s the perfect time to be a fan of language.