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European Year of Languages 2001

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European Year of Languages 2001

The purpose of the European Year of Languages 2001 is to use an awareness and education policy to encourage the people of the European Union to learn several foreign languages.


Decision No 1934/2000/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 July 2000 on the European Year of Languages 2001 [Official Journal L 232 of 14 September 2000].


Specific objectives of the European Year

The European Year has five specific objectives:

  • to raise awareness of the wealth of linguistic diversity within the European Union and of its value in terms of civilisation and culture. Linguistic diversity represents not merely a fundamental part of European heritage; it is also central to Europe's future, particularly as the enlargement of the EU draws closer. Embracing it is a prerequisite for constructing a Europe in which all citizens enjoy equal status and equal rights. One of the key messages of the European Year will be that all languages should be equally valued. It is not enough to encourage the learning of languages that are already widespread: for real communication among Europeans, we must truly understand the languages and therefore the culture of others. This latter point is, moreover, one of the objectives of the Culture 2000 programme. It will give tangible content to the notion of European citizenship and will help to stem xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance;
  • to encourage multilingualism;
  • to bring to the notice of the widest possible audience the advantages of proficiency in several languages. Fostering language learning enhances communication among EU citizens. It promotes intercultural understanding. It offers greater personal and professional opportunities and real access to the rights conferred by European citizenship, in particular the right to live and work anywhere in the EU. It makes the European economy more competitive;
  • to encourage lifelong learning of languages: Learning languages and related skills, such as translation, interpreting and some technical and office skills, should be a lifelong process. Many of those targeted have in the past had little opportunity to learn foreign languages, irrespective of age, origin, social circumstances or level of schooling;
  • to collect and disseminate information about the teaching and learning of languages. This objective aims to identify, for example by means of studies, priority areas for the investment of resources. It also allows the Year to disseminate information on modern and innovative language learning methods and therefore to help to motivate the public. This objective also includes scope for raising awareness of the communication tools, both the technological and the more traditional, which allow people of different mother tongues to communicate with each other.

Proposed measures

The European Year of Languages 2001 is focused on two main areas. First, an information and promotional campaign at European level will be organised and funded by the Community budget. Some of the activities within this campaign will be carried out in collaboration with the Council of Europe. Second, a wide range of projects at national and regional level will be partially funded. The Commission and the Member States will work closely together in these two areas in order to make the European Year of Languages a success.

The European information campaign, in which the Commission's representations in the Member States will have an important role, and other activities wholly financed by the Community, will include:

  • meetings, awareness-raising events and presentations of the Year at Community level and in the Member States;
  • the use of a common logo and slogans jointly with the Council of Europe for all promotional material and projects funded as part of the European Year. Other bodies could also use the logo provided that they share one or more of the Year's objectives;
  • a Community-wide information campaign including the creation of an interactive Internet site and the dissemination of information on the projects;
  • the production of information material, accessible to everyone, on effective language teaching and learning techniques;
  • the organisation of European competitions;
  • Community-wide surveys and studies, the topics envisaged being: the situation of languages in Europe, how they are used, taught and learned; what the different target groups expect from the learning of languages; how the Community can cater for these expectations; and an evaluation study on the effectiveness and impact of the Year.

The co-financed projects will in many cases have characteristics in common with the activities of the main information campaign but will be implemented in a single country or group of countries. All other projects which contribute to one or more of the European Year's specific objectives can also be co-financed on condition that they are not eligible for funding under any existing Community programmes.

The programme has a total budget of EUR 12 million and intends to create contacts in the national coordination services.


The importance for European citizens of developing language skills has been underlined both by the European Year of Lifelong Learning and by the Commission's 1995 White Paper on education and training - "Teaching and learning: towards the learning society." The Commission's 1996 Green Paper "Education, Training, Research: the obstacles to transnational mobility" concluded that learning at least two Community languages was essential if European Union citizens were to benefit fully from the opportunities offered by the single market.



Date of entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Decision N° 1934/2000/EC




White Paper on education and training "Teaching and learning - towards the learning society" [COM(95) 590 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Council Resolution of 16 December 1997 on the early teaching of European Union languages [Official Journal C 1 of 03.01.1998].

Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: the implementation and results of the European Year of Language 2001 [COM(2002) 597 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

The forty-five European countries participating in the implementation of the European Year of Languages 2001 have set up a network of coordinating bodies appointed by the national authorities in the Member States of the EU and the EEA under the responsibility of the European Commission.

The European Year budget was EUR 11 million, and it was allocated to co-financed projects, an information campaign, events to mark the launch and closing of the Year at European and national levels and a Eurobarometer survey.

Two events were considered as the focal points of this European Year: the European Week of Adult Language Learners in May, and a European Day of Languages in September.

A total of 190 co-financed projects took place at local, regional, national and transnational levels. Projects typically included three or four different types of activities, such as festivals, conferences, seminars, exhibitions, open-days, mini-language courses and competitions. The majority of these projects included a website and publications, which were widely distributed. The projects covered 60 languages, with a good balance between official languages, regional and minority languages, languages of pre-accession countries and sign languages. Each project on average reached more than 12 000 people.

The information campaign, based on the conclusions of the Eurobarometer survey (see summary document (DE) (FR) (pdf), had three main elements: a press and communications campaign; the production of a logo, publications and promotional items; and, finally, a European Website.

Overall, the European Year of Languages succeeded in creating a framework to encourage grassroots activity with a common European identity, but it is still too soon to say what the lasting impact of the Year will be, particularly on the take up of language learning. In addition to raising awareness of the general public, the Year was an opportunity for national and regional authorities and NGOs to debate language teaching and learning.

In this context, the Barcelona Council of March 2002 endorsed the idea expressed in numerous political statements, according to which European school leavers should have as a minimum "Mother Tongue plus two foreign languages". Other political debates have focused around the status of language as a basic skill for European young people. Overall, the impact of this initiative was particularly strong amongst professionals (teachers and students) and policy officials.

The experience of this European Year has demonstrated conclusively that all languages present within communities can be promoted in an integrated fashion. Consideration needs to be given to the notion of mainstreaming the promotion of regional and minority, sign and immigrant languages and of developing a more integrated approach to enable the skills of bilingual citizens to be valued and promoted.

At European level, the European Year provided a stimulus for future developments leading to the presentation, in mid-2003, of a communication from the Commission on an Action Plan to promote linguistic diversity and language learning, using resources available within existing Community programmes and activities.

Council Resolution of 14 February 2002 on the promotion of linguistic diversity and language learning in the framework of the implementation of the objectives of the European Year of Languages 2001 [Official Journal C 50 of 23/02/2002]

In the context of implementing the objectives of the European Year of Languages 2001, this Resolution considers linguistic diversity to be an important cultural asset in Europe. The Council wishes to promote language learning so as to increase citizens' mobility, support social integration and promote cohesion among the various Member States.

In order to encourage the learning of at least two languages in addition to one's mother tongue, the Council calls on the Member States:

  • to take all the necessary measures to pursue this objective in schools and in the context of lifelong learning;
  • to encourage students and language teachers to take advantage of the European programmes;
  • to facilitate the recognition of diplomas;
  • to preserve and enhance linguistic diversity.

The Council also calls on the Commission to present, by the beginning of 2003, proposals to promote linguistic diversity and language learning.

Since 19 May 2000, the countries of the EEA have been participating in the European Year of Languages [Official Journal L 174 of 13.07.2000].

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Promoting language learning and linguistic diversity: an action plan 2004-2006 [COM(2003) 449 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council - The European Indicator of Language Competence [COM(2005) 356 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social committee and the Committee of the Regions - A New Framework Strategy for Multilingualism [COM(2005) 596 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 06.12.2005