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Promoting multilingualism in the EU



Communication (COM(2005) 596 final) — A New Framework Strategy for Multilingualism


The communication outlines the European Commission strategy for promoting multilingualism in the European Union (EU) and proposes a number of specific actions.


Multilingualism refers to both a person’s ability to use several languages and the co-existence of different language communities in one geographical area.

The Commission’s multilingualism policy has 3 aims:

  • encourage language learning and promote linguistic diversity in society;
  • promote a multilingual economy;
  • give citizens access to EU information in their own languages.

This communication sets out various ways to promote language learning and linguistic diversity, including:

The Commission urges EU countries to:

Multilingual economy

The Commission proposes the following to develop the multilingual economy:

  • studying the impact on the EU economy of shortages of language skills;
  • studying the potential for greater use of video subtitles to promote language learning;
  • promoting the Inter-Agency Terminology Exchange (IATE) database of EU terms;
  • organising university conferences on translator training;
  • taking the initiative to make multimedia sources easier to use;
  • coordinating the work of researchers into human language technologies, machine translation and dictionary resources.

Translating and interpreting

  • The increased use of machine translation underlines the importance of a human element to provide translation quality and developments such as the European Quality Standard for Translation Services.
  • Demand for interpreters is increasing, particularly in international organisations. In supporting immigrant communities in official dealings, they also contribute to safeguarding human and democratic rights.

Multilingualism and EU citizens

The Commission has a number of multilingual initiatives to help citizens understand their rights and how European legislation affects them. The Commission proposes to:

  • ensure that all its departments apply the multilingualism policy coherently;
  • continue to foster multilingualism in its web portal (Europa) and in its publications;
  • launch a Languages portal on Europa;
  • organise seminars on multilingualism;
  • continue to offer grants and teaching assistance to universities for conference interpreting, distance-learning tools, bursaries and visits;
  • support the European Masters programmes in Conference Interpreting and Management;
  • continue to play an active role in the International Annual Meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation and Publication;
  • continue to support university Masters programmes in translation;
  • organise an international schools’ translation competition to promote language knowledge and the language professions.

The Commission set up a High-Level Group on Multilingualism made up of independent experts, which produced its final report in 2007. In early 2008, a ministerial conference on multilingualism was held which allowed EU countries to report on progress and plan future work. Later the same year, the Commission presented a further communication proposing a comprehensive approach to multilingualism in the EU.


For more information, see:


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, 22.11.2005)


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared commitment (COM(2008) 566 final, 18.9.2008)

last update 14.11.2016