About the event
An initiative of the Council of Europe, the European Day of Languages has been celebrated on 26 September every year since 2001. A range of events are organised across Europe: activities for and with children, television and radio programmes, language classes and conferences. The Council of Europe states: ‘linguistic diversity is a tool for achieving greater intercultural understanding and a key element in the rich cultural heritage of our continent’. This is a day to raise awareness about the benefits of speaking different languages and understanding the unique cultural insights that each one contains.
How to approach it
This is a great opportunity to supplement students' language studies by helping them think through the values of learning and understanding other languages. First, help students to see that different languages aren’t just copies of one another, often it's possible to express very specific things with different ones. Have fun with your class by finding oddly specific words in others languages such as the 100 Scottish words for rain or how ‘badruka’ in Swedish means ‘someone reluctantly easing themselves into cold water’. Through these examples you can show that speaking different languages allows us to see the world from different cultural perspectives and ways of thinking.
Next, you could talk about why ‘speaking someone’s language’, both literally and figuratively, might be beneficial. Ask your class: ‘What can we hope to achieve by trying to understand the world from other perspectives?’. You could suggest that it allows you to better understand people’s needs and quirks, that mutual understanding helps make compromises, eliminate conflict and enhance teamwork. Another thing to add might be that many of today’s biggest issues are global in nature - learning other languages allows us to communicate and cooperate with many more people.
As a quick exercise you could ask students to think about what problems in Europe they would most like to help solve. This could be about anything - the war in Ukraine, refugees in Greece or farmers in Germany. Then, have them research what languages would be useful to learn in the situation they have chosen. See if they can find a phrase in that language, learn it and repeat it to the class.
Learning different languages help us to see the world from different perspectives. If you could see the world from the perspective of any culture in Europe which one would it be? See if you can learn a phrase from the language today!