People and Language


Within the European Union there are many languages spoken. There are 23 officially recognised languages, more than 60 indigenous regional and minority languages, and many non-indigenous languages spoken by migrant communities.

The EU encourages all citizens to be multilingual, with the long-term objective that every citizen has practical skills in at least two languages in addition to his or her mother tongue.

  • In accordance with the EU population, the most widely spoken mother tongue is German (16%), followed by Italian and English (13% each), French (12%), then Spanish and Polish (8% each).
    • For the majority of Europeans their mother tongue is one of the official
      languages of the country in which they reside.
  • The five most widely spoken foreign languages remain English (38%), French (12%), German (11%), Spanish (7%) and Russian (5%).
  • At a national level English is the most widely spoken foreign language in 19
    of the 25 Member States where it is not an official language (i.e. excluding the UK and Ireland).