Termcoord European Election Countdown: Multilingualism


The European project emerged from an aspiration to be united in diversity. Centuries of exchange and migratory flows have established a rich cultural heritage in each of the member states of the EU. This cultural diversity is in line with European democratic values and fosters economic and social cohesion. Communication and information flows are important issues within the EU, which is why multilingualism is innately at the heart of the EU. There are 24 official languages: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish. The EU is also home to 60 indigenous regional or minority languages.

A major challenge in Europe is that laws must be understandable by all 500 million citizens. The European Parliament must therefore ensure the linguistic quality of laws in all official languages. Another imperative is the ability to collect citizen’s feedback: any EU citizen has the right to write in any of the official languages in correspondence with the EU institutions. Members of Parliament also have the right to read and write parliamentary documents, to follow debates and speak in their own language. Therefore, the EU employs 4300 translators and 800 interpreters on its permanent staff, as well as freelancers: it is actually the biggest employer of linguists in the world.

The IATE terminology database and termcoord.eu offer free resources for language professionals. As speaking another language is an advantage in Europe, to find a job, to grow your business and to connect with other people, the EU supports people learning languages: it works with national governments to encourage language learning through information campaigns, projects and research programmes. To find out more about exchange programmes check the Erasmus + programme.


European Parliament. Multilingualism: in the fabric of Europe’s identity. Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h555KsL3jNg Published Mar 4, 2015. Accessed May 10, 2019.

European Parliamentary Research Service, What Europe does for me – Linguistic minorities https://what-europe-does-for-me.eu/en/portal/2/H14 Published May 10, 2019. Accessed May 10, 2019.

European Parliamentary Research Service, What Europe does for me – Translators and interpreters https://what-europe-does-for-me.eu/en/portal/2/B28 Published May 10, 2019. Accessed May 10, 2019.

European Parliamentary Research Service, What Europe does for me – Language learners https://what-europe-does-for-me.eu/en/portal/2/M13 Published May 10, 2019. Accessed May 10, 2019.

European Parliament, Multilingualism in the European Parliament, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/about-parliament/en/organisation-and-rules/multilingualism Published October 3, 2018. Accessed May 10, 2019.

Iate. https://iate.europa.eu/search/standard/result/1557477918688/1 Accessed May 10, 2019.

European Commission, Erasmus+ https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/node_en Published May 10, 2019. Accessed May 10, 2019.

Written by Julia Pagès – Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg) and student of the LSCT Research Masters at the Paris Diderot University. She holds an ILTS Masters Degree (French acronym for Language Industry and Specialised Translation).