How many languages should a Slovene speak?
Europe is a bit of a tower of Babel when it comes to languages. Within the EU alone there are nearly two dozen official languages and quite a few more unofficial. Not to mention dozens of dialects. And it's generally presumed that just about all Europeans have mastered a couple of languages. But as Michael Manske reports from Radio Slovenia International - that's not the case. Although Slovene's are among the most multi-lingual.
The EU is famous for its linguistic diversity, boasting 23 languages and an army of translators in Brussels working to make all of them mutually intelligible. However, statistics show that 40% of Europeans do not speak a foreign language. To combat this, the EU has placed more emphasis on multilingualism - an effort that is spearheaded by the European Multilingualism Commissioner Leonard Orban, who recently visited a new primary school in Piran:
"I think you are doing a very great job here. It's a very nice school and a very good example of multilingualism and how diversity can be put together and united in a new Europe."
The school will offer a second foreign language during the first three years of study. Adding an additional language to primary school education is also one of the goals of the current government's educational reforms.
Slovenia already has a good head start. According to a Eurobarometer poll taken last year, around 71% of Slovenes already speak a foreign language. The country is second only to the Netherlands in this regard, and far ahead of countries like Italy and Britain, where more than 60% of people don't speak any foreign language.
Slovenia has also made multilinguism one of its priorities during its stint as EU president, which begins next year.´In February, the country will oversee a conference on multilingualism. During the conference, ministers hope to shape a new strategy on learning languages.