Friday marks the 13th European Day of Languages; a day when Europe embraces its 225 indigenous languages and its rich and diverse culture. The EDL is an initiative of the Council of Europe, designed to promote plurilingualism in Europe. The Council of Europe has 47 member states and a population of 800 million. As well as over 200 native languages, Europe is also home to many citizens whose origins lie on another continent and who, therefore, speak different languages at home. Part of the EDL’s objective is to promote the idea that it is simply not enough to know your own mother tongue. For example, although English is widely understood in tourist areas and in the business world, allowing those who speak it to get by relatively comfortably when abroad, there is no substitute for having even a basic grasp of the language(s) of the country that you are visiting, or of the person with whom you are attempting to do business. Being able to exchange a few words with someone in their own language is a fantastic feeling and will allow you to build greater connections.
Native English speakers are, undeniably, lucky in that that is the language of tourism and international business. However, from an individual perspective, in the job market, native English speakers are frequently coming up against other candidates who have English and at least one other language under their belts. In fact, over half of the world’s population is bilingual in some way. Therefore, in a world which is getting smaller and smaller, with many businesses working at an international level, the ability to communicate in more than one language is truly becoming invaluable. In some cases, it is becoming an expectation. We are lucky to be living at a time when there are so many opportunities to study and work abroad, and learning languages is the path by which to seize them.
Understanding another language is not simply a practical advantage, it also allows you to begin to understand another culture. This, in turn, promotes greater tolerance of other peoples and cultures. Despite sharing an interconnected history, there is incredible cultural diversity across Europe . The Council of Europe hopes that encouraging Europeans to learn other languages (especially those which are less widely spoken) will increase awareness and an appreciation of the other cultures resident on our continent. It is also hoped that this greater understanding will enable us to overcome our cultural differences.
At Halsbury, we have a huge passion for languages. In fact, our Director, Keith Sharkey, was originally a French teacher and many of our staff members are keen linguists. Our experience as both language teachers and learners has led to the development of our range of language tours, which include ‘Language & Cultural Tours’, ‘Language School Tours’ and ‘Work Experience Tours’.