The most multilingual organisation in the world
The European Union currently has 23 official languages, making it the most multilingual organisation in the world. They are: Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish.When a new country joins the EU, its national language becomes an official EU language. As some countries share the same language (e.g. Germany and Austria), there are fewer official languages than member states.
Which language can my minister use?
Representatives of the EU member states are free to use their own languages during European Councils and Council meetings. The documents for those meetings are normally prepared in 23 official languages. Likewise, EU legislation must be passed simultaneously in all official languages.
Diversity of EU languages
Many EU languages belong to one of the branches of the Indo-European language group:
• Germanic (e.g. English and German),
• Slavic (e.g. Czech and Polish) and
• Romance (e.g. Spanish and Romanian).
Some EU languages are not of Indo-European origin:
• Maltese, for example, is close to Arabic and belongs to the Afro-Asiatic family, while
• Finnish, Hungarian and Estonian form part of the Finno-Ugric language group.
Regional / minority languages:
• specific to a region and not a dominant language in any country (e.g. Breton in France),
• a language which is spoken by a minority in one country, but is a majority language in another (e.g. Italian in Slovenia).
• the EU language with the largest number of native speakers: German (90 million)
• first foreign language among EU citizens: English (38%), German (14%), French (14%)
• 26 September – European Day of Languages
• the Council Language Service translates around 13 000 documents (1 million pages) per year
• 56% of EU citizens speak at least one foreign language
Learn a language
See our post on learning languages:
The Language Exchange
Europe Direct Leeds runs an adult language exchange which aims to help adult language learners to practice their new language skills. This can be between two native speakers or as part of a group that brings together native speakers and learners. You find each other through our language exchange folder and we can even book a table for you!
To be part of the Language Exchange at Leeds Central Library, you will have to register with Europe Direct who are based in the Information and research library on the second floor. For more details, see the documents below (how it works can be found in the terms & conditions), or contact us at email@example.com.
Library language resources
Language materials available in Leeds Libraries, search the library catalogue at http://www.leeds.gov.uk/librarycatalogue Before you travel to borrow any items please check with the individual library to make sure it’s not a wasted trip! You can find branch library details at http://www.leeds.gov.uk/leisure/pages/your-library.aspx or by phoning Enquiry Express on 0113 247 6016
Find dictionaries, grammar, text books, vocabulary, culture/history and literature plus many more.
A selection of audio language books are also available to download, check out the range here http://leeds.lib.overdrive.com/ search for language study. Audio books available for learning French, Spanish, German and Italian.