5 language facts about the European Union
The European Union was established on 1 November 1993; in order to mark this anniversary, let’s take a look at some of the languages spoken in the EU.
1. There are over 200 languages spoken in the countries of the EU, but only 24 official languages. You can see the full list of these 24 official languages on the EU’s website. You can also find examples of how each is written as well as listen to samples of what they sound like.
2. The European Commission is one of the largest language translation and interpretation services in the world with 1,750 linguists, 850 support staff, 600 staff interpreters, and 3,000 freelance interpreters.
3. The majority of official EU languages are Indo-European, however there are also a few Finno-Ugric languages: Estonian, Finnish, and Hungarian, as well as one Semitic language: Maltese. Basque, which is a descendant of a pre-Indo-European language of obscure origin, has official status regionally within Spain while not being an official EU language.
Additionally, all are written with a Latin-based alphabet except for Greek, which uses the Greek alphabet, and Bulgarian, which uses Cyrillic.
4. Speaking of Cyrillic, Russian is not an official language of the EU but it is the sixth most common language, after English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian. This is largely due to immigrant population and its popular choice as a second (or third!) language. And of course, historically, it was taught compulsorily in countries of the former Soviet Union.
5. English is spoken by more than half the entire population of the EU, although German has the most native speakers. English is the most popular choice of second language for almost all the countries in the EU.