If you’re looking for a helpful introduction to Western European languages this article is a great beginner’s read.
Within Europe, hundreds of languages exist, some of which are widely spoken worldwide. In this article, we’ve created a brief overview of Western European languages and their history and prevalence within Europe and worldwide.
Let’s take a closer look at this fascinating language group.
Within Europe, there are only 24 official languages despite there being hundreds of additional languages actually spoken. That number, of course, is low compared to other continents where sometimes thousands of languages are spoken. However, the languages of Europe are incredibly diverse and influential, many with very interesting roots.
Looking back, the majority of European languages that continue to exist today came from Proto-Indo-European which is the language that the Indo-European language family came from. The Indo-European language family is large, containing the Romance, Germanic, Armenian, Celtic, Hellenic, Slavic and Baltic languages. The area from which these languages originated is the subject of much debate.
In addition to Indo-European, Uralic and Basque language families exist in Europe and within those families are the majority of European languages.
Romance languages include a wide range of different languages such as Catalan, Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian.
English is part of the Germanic group of European languages and has 1.35 billion speakers worldwide including those who speak it as a first or second language fluently. Germanic also includes languages such as Norwegian, Swedish, Bavarian, Dutch and Afrikaans.
The Slavic group of languages includes Slovak, Polish, Russian, Czech and Bulgarian, to name a few. Multiple Slavic languages are spoken worldwide, especially Russian which has over 250 million speakers across the globe.
Baltic languages include Lithuanian and Latvian (Lettish) as well as multiple ancient extinct languages including Prussian, Selonian and Selonion.
Celtic languages include Cornish, Gaelic, Breton and Welsh. They are incredibly old languages that come from one Brittonic language that existed in the Iron Age. Despite these languages being so old, some are still used commonly today, including Welsh which is still spoken by nearly 30% of the population of Wales.
Hellenic includes Greek, the only language of this group within the Indo-European group of languages.
Albanian is alone in its group within the Indo-European group of languages.
Armenian is spoken by a high proportion of people living in Armenia, as well as people who live in Russia and Iran.
It’s also important to acknowledge the two other language groups of Europe – Basque and Uralic. Uralic includes Finnic languages and Urgic languages, whilst Basque is a language in its own right spoken in specific areas, such as Northern Spain.
Western European Languages
Western European languages contain a wide variety of languages which are mostly Romance languages from South Western and Central Europe, and Germanic languages from Northern Europe, the British Isles and Central Europe.
Various languages are classed as Western European languages including:
Some of the most commonly spoken Western European languages are Spanish, Italian, French, Dutch and Portuguese. These are the languages you may have considered learning if you want to travel around Western Europe, and you may have studied one or more of them at school.
Let’s take a closer look at these common Western European languages:
Around 460 million people speak Spanish as their native language. Aside from Spain itself, America has the highest population of Spanish speakers in the world.
The language has been around for over 1,500 years and has its origins in Latin. Unlike Classical Latin which we still see in the written word, the Spanish we see today is called Castilian Spanish. This type of Spanish has an authoritative source called the Royal Spanish Academy which was founded in 1713 to standardise this type of Spanish, produce reference dictionaries and keep official Spanish language dictionaries updated.
Italian has around 67 million native speakers and it is spoken in Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. The Italian language comes from Latin and developed over a long period of time following the Roman Empire falling in the 5th century. While there are Italian documents dating as far back as 960 CE, the first real evidence appeared at the beginning of the 13th century. Many poems and pieces of writing appeared during this time.
Modern Italian is formed from the Tuscan dialect, although multiple other influences exist and contributed to the Italian we know today.
Around 88% of the population of France speak French as their native language. French is also widely spoken across many countries including 29 with it as their official language.
The French language we know today has origins in a part of Western Europe that no longer exists, called Gaul. The language of that region has little impact on the actual French language we speak today, but over 100 words from that language went into the Latin language; those then words came into the French language and 70 are still used today. More complex historical events have influenced the development of French, but its Latin roots are the reason many English speakers feel that it is easier to learn French than other languages. The same could be said for other Romance languages, which all descend from Latin.
There are over 23 million speakers of Dutch worldwide. It is also spoken in various other countries, including Aruba, Curacao and St Maarten, where it is an official language.
The Dutch language spoken today was part of Old Franconian during medieval times. Old Dutch then started to develop and branch off from Old Franconian, eventually becoming the main language in areas of Europe that we now know as Northern Belgium and the Southern Netherlands. Old Dutch eventually turned into Middle Dutch which then changed into various different dialects. It was in the 17th Century that the language was standardised by Protestant authority figures within the Dutch Republic as they created a Dutch edition of the Bible.
Portuguese is spoken by over 275 million people in the world with most speakers of the language in Brazil.
The language started from the Western Iberian Peninsula as Latin, which was introduced when Romans took over the area. Once the Roman Empire collapsed, Germanic communities took over the area and Latin developed into Galician-Portuguese because that part of the world was known as Galicia at the time. Once Galicia was merged with Spain, Galician and Portuguese became two separate language branches and Portuguese then developed into the language we know today.
Speak to a professional
If you’re looking to learn more about Western European languages as part of a business expansion, be sure to consult an expert. As we’ve outlined above, there are so many different languages and variations within the broad spectrum of European languages. Therefore, if you’re looking to put together new marketing materials, you’ll need to make sure your videos and voiceovers are accurate and relevant to your target audience. Otherwise, have fun exploring and learning more about the rich culture and history of European languages.
Employing multilingual people or staff with a knowledge of foreign languages is crucial for companies that are working at an international level. Having a good knowledge of English, for example, is a significant advantage in the workplace as in many locations around the globe English is considered a lingua franca when working with overseas clients.
With that said, the ability to master additional languages could be just the thing that gives your business the competitive edge. This is particularly important when doing business in regions where knowledge of English is not a given. Consider hiring staff that are proficient in languages that are relevant to your sector, whether that’s Spanish, French, Chinese, or any other language.
The benefits of speaking your clients’ native language
Your client will view your dedication to having invested the time to learn their language as a long-term commitment. Furthermore, this will reward you with long-standing relationships and loyalty from your customers. It’s also worth noting that having an understanding of the language used in your new market will enable you to acquire far better insights into the local character, customs, and beliefs. This is invaluable knowledge when it comes to marketing and providing the best service to your clients.
Multilingual employees help foster strong relationships with clients
Employing multilingual people can bring great benefits to your company. These employees will enable your business to seamlessly connect with foreign customers and other local organisations. The ability to provide your services in multiple languages gives clients a strong impression of your company; it will build greater trust and appreciation for your services, resulting in strong relationships with your clients. These relationships can be translated into significant profits, meaning hiring multilingual employees is a sensible financial decision.
What if your staff isn’t multilingual?
Not all companies have the luxury of being able to employ people with linguistic skills, which can put them at a disadvantage. But never fear! By hiring a professional translation service, your company can gain many of the benefits of multilingual employees, and more besides.
Translators can be used for a wide variety of communicative tasks, from informal communications between companies to legal contracts and marketing campaigns. Contracting professional translators guarantees that any content you produce in the target language is of the highest quality.
BeTranslated’s vast network of expert translators could be just thing your company needs to facilitate its international expansion. Get in touch today for more information or a free, no-obligation quote.
The word ‘universal’ describes something that is all-encompassing, such as today’s business world. Learning a new language abroad will be key as business takes place across many languages, not just one single means of communication. Here is how you can avoid this sticking point. (more…)
Idioms are expressions or phrases with figurative, non-literal meanings, that can easily confuse language learners. They are often unique to a country or region and, as such, offer a glimpse into local cultures and ways of thinking. Learning English idioms can be great fun and very useful.
Familiarising yourself with idioms truly deepens your knowledge of colloquial, everyday language, which will give you a great advantage if you are thinking about travelling, working, or settling in that country. If you’re heading to the UK and want to impress the locals with your English abilities, brush up on your idioms sharpish!
Turn yourself into an advanced level English speaker
If you’ve been learning English for a while and have reached a level where you can hold your own in everyday situations, it’s time to take it to the next level. Having knowledge of some of the most common idioms will help you communicate better, and give you a deeper understanding of songs, TV shows, and books in English. Not to mention using them will impress any native you meet and chat with!
As idioms are often regional, native English speakers who are not from Britain could also do with studying British idioms if they plan to visit the UK. Knowing these phrases demonstrates deeper cultural awareness and will aid in social integration, earning respect for your language skills from the Brits in no time.
A good place to start
We’ve come up with a list of 11 frequently used British idioms for you to peruse and add to your vocabulary. Once you’ve learned the real meaning of these idioms and how to use them correctly, you’ll sound like you’ve lived in the UK for years.
- You don’t know your arse from your elbow – we are not referring to someone who has a poor understanding of biology, but instead someone who has made a mistake or keeps getting things wrong. Be careful with this one, it’s best used in very informal settings!
- Working your socks off – this has nothing to do with removing anyone’s socks and actually refers to a person who is working extra hard.
- It’s a piece of cake – if the English were actually referring to cake with this one, we’d need more bakers! When used, this means that something is really easy.
- I’m over the moon – an unlikely place to be, unless we are referring to being really happy, a much more frequent occurrence.
- The ball’s in your court – not only used when playing sport as you may have guessed, it actually means that the decision or power lies with you. It’s your choice.
- You’re barking up the wrong tree – no dogs involved when using this term, or trees for that matter! It simply means that the person in question has misunderstood, or got the wrong idea.
- Biting off more than you can chew – this phrase is not about some hungry person stuffing their face with food. Instead, it refers to someone who has taken on more than they can manage.
- It costs an arm and a leg – don’t worry, no limbs have been used as a form of payment! This is a way to express that something was very expensive.
- At the drop of a hat – no reference to headgear here; this just means that something is done instantly.
- You’ve missed the boat – this doesn’t mean you’re late for your travel plans or missed your holiday, it’s an expression of being too late to make the most of something or having missed an opportunity.
- Don’t count your chickens before they hatch – you don’t have to be a farmer to use this one! This expresses the need to wait for an outcome before assuming a result.
The importance of learning English idioms for language professionals
If you’re a language teacher, interpreter, translator, or content writer working in a foreign language or between a foreign language and your own, knowledge of idiomatic terms is crucial. Idioms and proverbs are an ideal way to directly connect with a native speaker, crossing linguistic and cultural barriers and demonstrating mastery of their language.
This is why at BeTranslated we ensure that all our professional translators are certified native speakers, guaranteeing cultural sensitivity in our translations, both in understanding the source text and writing the final translation.
Now you’re well on your way to communicating like a true English speaker!
Now that you’ve started learning some British idioms, you’ve taken a huge step towards sounding like a true native. Remember there are hundreds of more idioms out there! Why not challenge yourself to learn one a day for the next two weeks?
Are you working on your English in order to improve relations with British clients? Are you in need of a reliable translation service to work on your business documents, marketing material, or web content in a professional and authentic way? Contact BeTranslated today for more information or a free, no-obligation quote.
Have you been thinking about raising bilingual children? Extensive research has proven that the benefits of bilingualism are numerous and that equipping your child with the ability to speak more than one language will serve them well in life.
It’s worth noting that the younger the child is the better, not only for the ease and speed of picking up the language but also because it allows them to truly master the accent. However, it is never too late to start.
How does being bilingual benefit the brain?
The ways in which being able to speak more than one language can benefit a person range from social advantages to cognitive improvements. If your native language is a widely spoken and influential language like English, you may think that learning a second language isn’t important for your children but the cognitive benefits alone make the effort involved more than worth it. Let’s take a look at some of the ways bilingualism helps our brains:
- It improves memory
- It increases our ability to problem solve and deal with ambiguities
- It helps us to develop skills related to conflict resolution
- It promotes better decision-making skills
- It leads to longer attention spans and better focus
- It develops multitasking skills
- It helps with maths and puzzle-solving
The professional and social advantages
In addition to the cognitive benefits listed above, raising your children to be bilingual gives them skills that will help them in many areas of their future lives. From encouraging them to be more open-minded individuals to making them more employable, there really is no end to the advantages speaking multiple languages can bring. Here are just a few examples of what bilingualism offers:
- A wider variety of job prospects, with a significant increase in earning power
- An increased sense of self-worth
- The ability to live in other countries with ease
- An open-minded nature that is accepting and understanding of different cultures
- The ability to learn other languages later on in life with less effort
- The chance to experience art and literature in the original language
Tips for bringing up bilingual children
As more people become knowledgeable about the perks of being bilingual, more resources are made available. From books to blogs, there is no shortage of information out there. We’ve compiled a brief list of some ideas that will help you in your journey to raising bilingual children:
- You and your partner may have the same native language but you can still teach your children your second language, even if you don’t speak it perfectly.
- Provide your children with multiple ways to access the second language, whether it’s TV shows, picture books, videogames, or audiobooks. Every little helps.
- Try not to compare your child’s verbal skills with monolingual children; all children develop at different rates but it is quite common for bilingual kids to start talking slightly later than their monolingual peers.
- Research different methods for bringing up multilingual children, such as One Person One Language, Mixed Language Policy, or Minority Language at Home, and be realistic about what will work for your family.
- Find out if there are any local facilities in your area such as playgroups, storytime events, or social clubs that focus on the relevant languages.
- If it’s a financial possibility for your family, inspire your kids with trips abroad where they can try out their linguistic skills ‘in the real world’.
It’s never too late to start
Although easier as a child, it’s never too late to learn a new language, and the motivation you feel as an adult will aid you in picking up a new language. From the traditional classroom and online classes to language acquisition apps and opportunities to work abroad, there are so many ways for you to embrace a new language and culture. It’s not just for kids.
One of the many job opportunities for multilingual speakers is, of course, translation, and our talented native translators are all experts in their additional languages and highly qualified in the field of translation. If you are looking for a reliable translation service provider, look no further than BeTranslated. Contact us today for more information or a free, no-obligation quote.