EN | 21/02/2021 | by ERIK


You may not know it existed, but February 21st is “International Mother Language Day” - a day which was instituted by the United Nations to celebrate and promote our native tongues. Of which we have many beautiful examples in Europe!

This day is meant to make you think about the beauty and value of your own native tongue, be it French, or German, or Polish, or Gaelic, or Basque, or whatever. However, at the same time it also raises a question about Europe’s current linguistic landscape: We, as Europeans, are proud of our linguistic diversity. We are proud of our native tongues. There is a good reason why the EU’s motto is “Unity in Diversity”. Yet, at the same time, the fact that we do not have a common European language of trade, science, diplomacy and pan-European culture anymore is one of the greatest roadblocks to European integration. 

Of course, it was not always like that: For about 1000 years, a decent knowledge of Latin would allow you to talk to practically any scientist, politician, priest or artist on the continent. Great European thinkers such as Erasmus, Galileo, Copernicus all published in Latin, which allowed their thoughts to be read well outside the borders of their native countries (the Netherlands, Italy and Poland in the case of these three gentlemen). 

Latin, however, has gone the way of the dodo. So how do  we solve the problem of intra-European communication in the 21st century? By having 23 official languages, even though some (namely English, French and German - in that order) are “more equal than others” … Out of necessity, English & French seem to have been adopted as the E.U.’s “unofficially official” languages. Yet this is clearly not an effective long-term solution, as it’s simply not fair to the rest of us.

So this is the question: How can we transform Europe into a true and functional United Europe, while defending our native languages, while making sure that some are not “more equal than others”, while giving Europe a common means of intra-European communication? The ability of citizens to freely communicate (without feeling that their own language is threatened by another) is a prerequisite for any true political union, which is why Europe needs all Europeans to think about this!

It’s quite a challenge. So that’s why we call this THE GREAT EUROPEAN LANGUAGE DEBATE.

As one example of someone who tried to solve this challenge before: One great European thinker and idealist, Ludwig Zamenhof, decided to solve the problem of culturally neutral communications in a creative way, by writing his own International Language (better known as Esperanto). The fact that this “artificial language” has an estimated 2 million speakers worldwide, shows, at least, how far you can get far by thinking outside the box!  


But what is YOUR solution? Drop me a line to let me know how you want to tackle this challenge ... Best solutions will be featured on this website!