24 official languages within the European Union, and around sixty regional and minority languages: Europe is a real linguistic mosaic and this diversity is managed in a different way by each country.
25 states have ratified the European charter for regional and minority languages
The importance of linguistic diversity has been enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Article 22) and by the Treaty on European Union (Article 3). The European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages was adopted in 1998. So far, 25 states have ratified it. Not France, where the subject is debated. This is evidenced by the ups and downs of the Molac law intended to protect and promote regional languages. But among our closest neighbors, what place is given to them?
What characterizes an official language? It is used by the administration to communicate with citizens. In Europe, some countries have several national languages and implement the conditions for this plurilingualism.
In Swiss, there are four: German, French, Italian (three languages included in the constitution of the federation) and, to a lesser extent, Romansh. In the Federal Assembly, deputies can speak in the language of their choice. The cantons determine their official language (s): when these are bilingual, citizens can freely choose the language that will be used in their relations with the public authorities.
In Belgium, there are three national languages: French, Dutch and German. The “communities” are in charge of cultural and linguistic issues. The country is divided into regions, which delimit the territories where each language is official, and as such is used by the administration and at school.
At Luxembourg, the state has three official languages. Luxembourgish is the national language, French is the language of legislation, but, in administrative or judicial matters, Luxembourgish, French or German may be used. At school, trilingualism prevails.
Official regional languages
In Spain, where Castilian is the official language of the State, it is the statutes of the autonomous communities (Basque Country, Catalonia, etc.) which confer Basque, Catalan, Galician or Aranese a “co- official ”in these territories. Thus, in Catalonia, Catalan has the status of official language, just like Castilian, and the administration must use them both (and citizens have the choice). There is no language class: all schools teach both Castilian and Catalan. Even though most of the teaching in schools is done in Catalan, the goal is bilingualism.
In BritainEnglish is the official language of the kingdom, but Welsh and Scottish Gaelic have official language status in Wales and Scotland respectively. At Wales, the administrations (including courts) are required to offer their services in Welsh or English. The teaching of Welsh is compulsory until the age of 16. 20% of pupils are educated in Welsh or bilingual classes.
Italy has a number of regional and minority languages, but only a few have real official status. This is the case of French in the Aosta Valley. The French language and the Italian language are in principle considered there “on an equal footing” and, at least in primary school, lessons are taught equally in both languages.
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