Europe is a continent of many languages. The European Union has 23 official languages, and as the EU enlarges, the number will increase further.
Furthermore, the EU has more than 60 indigenous regional or minority language communities. These vary from ancient Celtic tongues in the west of Europe, such as Gallic and Welsh, to minority languages in Eastern Europe, such as Kashubian in Poland and Latgale in Latvia.
The mosaic of European languages has developed over millennia. Successive movements of peoples have brought new language families and have pushed out old ones, sometimes threatening them to the point of extinction. The main European languages belong to the Indo-European family. Scholars accept they evolved from a root language known as Proto-Indo-European, although precise details about the development of that ancient language are a matter for debate.
The process of language evolution in Europe still continues, with many other languages brought to the continent by immigrant communities. In multicultural cities like London, Paris, Brussels and Berlin, hundreds of languages are now spoken.
The European Union recognises that language and identity are closely intertwined, and that language is the most direct expression of culture. Language policies have therefore been developed so that language diversity is respected, multilingualism is promoted and, if necessary, threatened languages are protected.
Europe’s Indo-European heritage and other language families in Europe
how the European institutions communicate and how the number of official languages will increase in the future
surveys of the language skills of European citizens and their attitudes towards language learning
the many other tongues spoken in the EU
another form of language