Since its inception at the end of 2001 as an official Day designated by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the European Day of Languages (EDL) has gone from strength to strength. The key objectives of the Day: to raise awareness of the importance of language learning; promote the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe and to encourage lifelong learning, remain more relevant than ever 20 years on.
During its lifetime the initiative has been celebrated on every continent of the world, except for Antarctica (at least, as far as we know!). It is now anchored as an annual fixture in the calendar of a multitude of schools around Europe and beyond. Even at a conservative estimate, over 350,000 people take part in EDL-related activities each year, with around 1,500 events registered on the official European Day of Languages website www.coe.int/edl which seeks to provide a mirror of what is happening on the Day across all the participating countries. Even the pandemic has failed to dampen enthusiasm - with around 9 million views of the dedicated website recorded last year.
For the 20th anniversary, a huge variety of events are scheduled, from language fairs, conferences, and quizzes to singing competitions (à la Eurovision!), language taster courses, walls of friendship, European language cocktail bars and even a subtitle-a-thon! Council of Europe offices in Venice, Chisinau and of course the ECML in Graz are all involved in the organisation of major events over the course of the next week.
And to help celebrate, there are, of course, a wealth of resources available for all age groups, from a brand new ‘ secret agent’s’ language challenges app, a brochure and set of resources contained within Lara’s language journey across Europe, and an infographic poster of ‘20 things you might not know about Europe’s languages’, to initiatives such as the EDL's 20th Anniversary Great Bake-Off or ‘In how many different languages can you say/sing ‘Happy Birthday?’ and in case someone is still searching for inspiration (20!) ideas for organising events which respect social distancing, a ‘most effective methods for learning a foreign language’ poll and much much more…
We certainly hope that there will be something to entice everyone to participate in this 20th anniversary edition of the Day and that it will prove to be one to stay in the memory – perhaps even for another 20 years!