If someone came up to you and said “Snak med mig”, what would you do?

a) Run?
b) Eat what they offered you?
c) Be offended?
d) Answer “Jeg ville elske at” and continue with a conversation in Danish?

“Snak med mig” means “talk to me” in Danish, so the correct response would be d, which means “I would love to”.

If you’re a little rusty on your Danish and didn’t know that, don’t worry, on our European continent, there are over 200 languages spoken and no one could possibly know them all! However, every year on 26th September since 2001, the Council of Europe organises the European Day of Languages, an initiative to promote plurilingualism across the continent. The Council of Europe includes 47 member states, 27 of which are members of the European Union. Members extend as far north as Iceland, east to Russia, south to Cyprus and west to Portugal. The idea arose out of the 2001 European Year of Languages, and the Council believes that linguistic diversity can be useful in achieving greater intercultural understanding and is a key element in exploring the rich cultural heritage of the European continent.

Activities on and around the day are designed to:

  • Promote life-long language learning for all ages and for all purposes
  • Raise awareness of the importance of language learning and diversify the languages learnt
  • Encourage Europeans to speak more than one language (plurilingualism), even if only at a basic level
  • Promote the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe with the aim of preserving and fostering it

The main website can be found at European Day of Languages and is packed full of useful information, games, quizzes and resources that are free and fun to use for all different levels. You can download images and logos, add your own events and find lots of ideas to promote language learning in your own setting. Everyone is encouraged to join in in some way, be they a national policy-maker, educational establishment or the voluntary sector and general public. 

We’ve put together some useful ideas to help you promote the day in your setting and devised a fun quiz for you to test your language knowledge too, so there are “niente scuse” or ‘no excuses’ for not getting involved! 

Ideas to use in your setting:

  1. Research and promote the languages around you
    Language is one of those topics that often surprises you when you get talking to people about it. You suddenly discover that your postman speaks Greek or your local hairdresser speaks Welsh, so you might find lots of people on your doorstep who can help you out when if comes to promoting languages. Ask around and see what languages are spoken by your colleagues, your children and your parents – you might be pleasantly surprised about the rich culture around you, so why not ask people to come and give a short talk or demonstration about their language or culture?
  2. Create a language map
    Create a map showing some local, national or international languages spoken around you. You could find different words for “hello”, “nursery” or “children”, for example; or put up simple phrases in different languages and practice saying them out loud. You can have a lot of fun practicing different accents too. 
  3. Learn some foreign songs or nursery rhymes
    Learning languages is always more fun when there’s a song or game attached, so why not use this to your advantage and promote your language day using songs or nursery rhymes from around Europe? There’s an excellent resource at mamalisa.com which has nursery rhymes and songs from around the world too, including games and music to sing along with. 
  4. Practise writing or mark-making in different languages
    Most mark-making does not start out as any form of language, but you could have some fun with the students trying to draw or trace in some different languages. Look up different alphabets and see what you can come up with. You could start with the Greek alphabet which is often used in maths and science such as:
    *Alpha – ɑ * Beta – ꞵ *Gamma – ɣ *Delta – δ
  5. Learn some British Sign Language (BSL)
    BSL is the preferred language of around 145,000 people in the UK. You could learn some basic words and teach them to the children and staff in your setting. Other sign languages include Sign Supported English, Makaton and Social haptic communication. See sense.org or british-sign.co.uk/ for more details and an online course. You might also find this useful if you have children with sensory needs. 
    Whatever you do – spraoi a bheith agat (“have fun”…in Irish!)

Try our fun quiz to test your language knowledge

1. How many languages are spoken in the world?

a. Between 3,000 and 4,000

b. Between 6,000 and 7,000

c. Over 10,000

3. How many languages are spoken in London?
a. 100

b. 200

c. 300

5. Speaking several languages has been shown to postpone the onset of:
a. Hair loss

b. Alzheimer’s disease

c. Arthritis

7. There are many different sign languages. Which country’s sign language is closest to British Sign Language?
a. Australian

b. American

c. Irish

9. There are 3 broad groups of European languages: Germanic, Slavic and Romance. Which group does English belong to?
a. Germanic

b. Slavic

c. Romance

2. Most of the world’s languages are spoken in Asia and Africa. True or false?

4. If a Swedish person wanted a ‘kiss’ what would they need?If a Swedish person wanted a ‘kiss’ what would they need?
a. A toilet

b. A shower

c. A cuddle

6. Which word is a plant in English, but means ‘hello’ in Russian?

a. Priveta

b. Pansy

c. Packera

8. A Dutch child making the sound of a cow would say:
a. Moo!

b. Meh!

c. Boeh!

10. Which is the only European language in the Afro-Asiatic family (which includes Arabic, Hebrew, Berber, and Hausa)?
a. Russian

b. Turkish

c. Maltese 

Answers:

1-b, 2-True, 3-c, 4-a – ‘Kiss’ in Swedish means a pee! 5-b, 6-a, 7-a BSL evolved at Thomas Braidwood’s schools for the deaf in the late 1700s and later spread to Australia and New Zealand. 8-c, 9-a, 10-c.

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