Multilingualism Day poster

Multilingualism Day is an initiative of the European Parliament celebrating one of the EU’s core values which ensures that the work of the Parliament is accessible and transparent. The first edition of Multilingualism Day took place in 2017 and since then, this annual event dedicated to promoting linguistic diversity and fostering multilingualism among the EU State Members and EU citizens has continued to thrive.

Multilingualism is not only one of the founding principles anchored in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights – it is also fundamental for EU citizens in terms of understanding all of the activities of the EU and participating in the EU’s democratic process.

The legal basis of multilingualism dates back to the very beginning of the founding of the EU and has continued to evolve over time. The founders of the European Economic Community understood that the rule of law requires that everybody subject to a law must be able to access and understand its content. Moreover, it was agreed that the rule of law must be respected in order for the new community to have legitimacy.

The first regulation adopted by the new Community in 1958 was Regulation No 1 determining the languages to be used by the European Economic Community. It sets out that legislation must be drafted and published in all official languages and that the institutions must communicate with the public and with Members States’ authorities in their language. It is important to note that the Regulation does not distinguish between drafting languages and translations, meaning there is no ‘original languages’ in EU law, with all language versions having equal value.

The first mention of ‘official and working languages’ occurs in the first article of Regulation No 1: the official languages are used externally for legislation and in correspondence with the Member States and the public while the ‘working languages’ are used internally at meetings and discussions. Since its inception with four official languages – German, French, Italian and Dutch – the EU has gradually increased the number of its official languages to 24.

Throughout history, the legal basis of multilingualism has had an important role in shaping the translation profession. These days, EU citizens have the right to access documents produced by the EU institutions, agencies and other bodies in any of the official languages, which makes translations a fundamental service for the European Union.

When the Translation Centre was set up in 1994, its primary function was translation. Nowadays, following technological advancements in the language industry, many EU agencies and institutions rely on audiovisual elements to provide greater clarity in their communication with EU citizens. The Centre is proud to be able to cater to agencies’ communication needs via different channels and provide a wide range of added-value services such as web translation, subtitling, Paste ‘n’ Go, among others, with the aim of supporting multilingual communication.

Visit the official website of the European Parliament to discover more about upcoming events.

European Parliament