I didn’t see this at The Writer’s Almanac until after our meeting, but there’s still time to celebrate and “take special pride in [your] existing language skills.”
Today is the official European Day of Languages, which is a yearly event begun in 2001 to celebrate human language, encourage language learning, and bring attention to the importance of being multilingual in a polyglot world. On this day, everyone, young or old, is encouraged to take up a language or take special pride in his or her existing language skills.
There are about 225 indigenous languages in Europe, which may sound like a lot but is only 3 percent of the world’s total. Children’s events, television and radio programs, languages classes and conferences are organized across Europe. In past years, schoolchildren in Croatia created European flags and wrote “Hello” and “I love you” in dozens of tongues while older students sang “Brother John” in German, English, and French. At a German university, a diverse group of volunteer tutors held a 90-minute crash course in half a dozen languages, like a kind of native-tongue speed-dating, groups of participants spending just 15 minutes immersed in each dialect until the room was filled with Hungarian introductions, French Christmas songs, and discussions of Italian football scores.