European Day of Languages

The International Day of Languages is something I did not know much about, since most people in the US do not know what this is, and we do not really talk about it. Most Americans, as you probably know, only speak one language: English.

Yes, we must take a foreign language in school. But there are two main issues with this. We do not take a foreign language until we are twelve or thirteen-years-old. And we have very limited choices for languages. Most higher schools offer Spanish, French, and German. And a lot of schools are now offering Chinese and Japanese, since these languages are needed in business these days. But when I was in school you could only take one of the three non-Asian languages.
And guess what I chose? German. German?? Yes, it’s a fine language… but there is NO PLACE in the US, or even NEAR the US, where you can use it!! When I was twelve I took a year of Spanish. I thought this was fine, but I wanted to try French. So when I was thirteen I took French. But then I also wanted to know German. So at fourteen I took German, and I really liked it. So I stayed with the German language for two years.

Most US universities have a “foreign language” requirement. Before being admitted to the university, a student should have taken at least two years of a language. TWO YEARS. It seems like such a small time. And it is. I do remember some of the German I learned. But I lived in Bratislava and I was able to hear German quite often.

In the US, we are quite isolated. We never have a chance to use different languages, except Spanish. I should have stuck with Spanish, because we have a lot of Mexicans in America, and Spanish could be quite useful. But the other languages? They are not really used in the US. So European citizens really should embrace this celebration…

But a European Day of Languages? YES! According to their website (, this celebration began in 2001 and is recognized on September 26th every year. There are 47 members states, which represent 800 million Europeans! People in these countries are encouraged to learn more languages. It is the philosophy that if a person learns more languages, they are more accepting of diverse cultures and people.

Why should there be a European Day of Languages? In the long history of Europe, there have never been more opportunities to work or study in a different country in the whole continent. When a person does not know the language where they are going, this prevents many people from taking advantage of this great chance. The way business patterns are moving and growing, just speaking

English is no longer enough!

Europe has many languages. There are over 200! Even if, for example, you can only speak a few words of a language in a country where you are on holiday, this small thing can help you make friends or important business contacts. When a person tries to learn someone’s language, they are trying to understand the other person and overcome cultural differences.
Now let’s have some fun!

The longest word in the world (supposedly!) is in the German language. The word is: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. It means “the law concerning the delegation of duties for the supervision of cattle marking and the labeling of beef.” It is 63 letters long! The Germans are not the only ones with loooooooong words. The Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes created a big word: opado-temacho-selacho-galeo-kranio-leipsano-drim-hupotrimmatosilphio-karabo-melito-katakechumeno-kichl-epikossuphophatto-peristeralektruon-opto-kephallio-kigklo-peleio-lagoio-siraio-baphe-traganopterugon. The word is 183 letters and means a meal made of fish, fowl and sauces.
But other languages have really long words, too.
Do you know the longest word in Slovak? It is najnevypocítavatelnejší.
Bulgarian: neprotivokonstitutsionstvuvatelstvuvayte. This word means “something against the government.”
Croatian: prijestolonaslijednikovica, which means “the wife of a heir to the throne.”
And finally, Czech: nejneobhospodarovávatelnejšími.

Language Facts

There are between 6000 and 7000 languages in the world – spoken by 7 billion people divided into 189 independent states.

Most of the world’s languages are spoken in Asia and Africa.

Many languages have 50,000 words or more, but individual speakers normally know and use only a fraction of the total vocabulary: in everyday conversation people use the same few hundred words.

Languages are constantly in contact with each other and affect each other in many ways: English borrowed words and expressions from many other languages in the past, European languages are now borrowing many words from English.

The mother tongue is usually the language one knows best and uses most. But there can be “perfect bilinguals” who speak two languages equally well. Normally, however, bilinguals display no perfect balance between their two languages.

Languages are related to each other like the members of a family. Most European languages belong to the large Indo-European family. Most European languages belong to three broad groups: Germanic, Romance and Slavic.

Celebrities Speaking Languages

Many famous people speak different languages. I know it may be strange to hear them speaking something different than we hear them speak in films or on television. But here we go…

Bradley Cooper: French
Natalie Portman: English, Japanese, German, Hebrew, and
Sandra Bullock: German
Kobe Bryant: Italian
Mick Jagger: French
Gwyneth Paltrow: Spanish
Jodie Foster: French
Jennifer Aniston: Greek
Hugh Laurie: French, German, Spanish
Colin Firth: Italian


  1. When is the European Day of Languages celebrated?
  2. What language has the longest word in the world?
  3. In which two continents are most of the world languages spoken?
  4. What languages are normally offered at American schools?
  5. What is probably the language (other than English) that is spoken the most in the US?

Christian Weber