European Day of Languages in Bulgaria 2013

European Day of Languages

Multilingual cultural relations with a tasty twist

• 1 deputy minister of Education and a deputy mayor of Sofia
• 1 spacious park in the residential centre of the city
• 2 prime-time TV and radio broadcasts on the day and multiple interviews before then
• 8 double stalls and a stage with performances in different languages every 15 min.
• 11 languages represented at stalls and 10+ more through materials
• 13 basic foods each translated into all 11 languages (cucumber, yogurt, oil, tomato, onion, cheese, pepper, rice, mincemeat, egg, flour, sugar, milk)
• 15 EUNIC members and associate partners, including an HR company
• 500+ t-shirts and bags with “I love cooking” in 11 languages
• 1000+ likes on the Facebook page of the event in less than 2 months
• 3000 copies of the multilingual crossword puzzle
• 4000+ people attending

Cooking instructions
Take a generous amount of languages – at minimum the represented EUNIC centres in your cluster, but experiment freely with those who are either non-EU (the Russian Cultural Centre) or merely represented by an embassy/consulate (Finnish, Norwegian, Croatian).
Add a diverse group of local reputable partners, e.g. the European Commission and the Association of Quality Language Services (part of EQUALS).

Blend in strategic association with the Ministry of Education and Sofia Municipality. The latter will bring out the flavour of mutuality since you’d be seen as supporting the topmost priority of Sofia’s bid to Cultural Capital 2019.

Once these ingredients are in place, an international recruitment agency (Adecco) will come asking for access for they would have spotted the great opportunity, and would be prepared to pay for that, ultimately making it even more cost effective for cultural centres.

You’ve by now chosen your location – which is different from last year and so much more appropriate for it is now within a park surrounded by residential buildings, therefore highly visible. Similarly, you’ve learnt your lesson from the previous year and also changed the day of the event, this time organising it on a Saturday rather than the more leisurely Sunday.

You’ve also seasoned with a common theme – food as a cultural mediator.

Your specially designed Facebook page has warmed up with all the materials you’re regularly posting. Don’t forget to include partners to help in moderating for a better rhythm.

You’ve stirred the media with the announcement and they’re heating up the phone lines with requests for interviews – before and during the event.

Bon appetite!
At least 4,000 people visited the stands of the EUNIC members and associate partners on Saturday for European Day of Languages in the blazing sunshine of Sofia’s Indian summer. They stopped by each of the eight tents to enquire about classes, learn new words in a range of languages, collect clues for the multilingual crossword puzzle on food-related vocabulary, taste traditional treats some of the cultural centres had provided (Hungarian Gulyásleves, Russian блины) or pick up recipes for Gazpacho, Tiramisù, Bigos, Švestkový koláč, Παπουτσάκια , Soupe à l’oignon.

The British Council were asked to lead on the organisation on behalf of EUNIC, and here is what we found in our inboxes today from the current EUNIC cluster president Jean-Michel Berthe of the Institut français de Bulgarie: “I would like to congratulate the team of British Council for the perfect organization of the Day of Languages. We are very happy because there were many people and especially young people. The choice of Zaimov’s square and Saturday was a good choice!”

Language Rich Europe launches – France, Bulgaria and Estonia

After a summer break, Language Rich Europe is back on the road as we launch the results of our research in France, Bulgaria and Estonia. It is a busy time as we will also be celebrating the European Day of Languages on Wednesday – more about that later in the week. In this blog post, you can find information about the LRE launches taking place over the next few days.

France – 25 septembre 2012 – British Council Paris

Le multilinguisme est-il une richesse pour la société ou mène-t-il à la cacophonie?

Introduction – Chris Hickey, Directeur British Council France
Présentation du projet « Language Rich Europe » et des résultats de
l’enquête – Martin Hope, Directeur Language Rich Europe, Aneta Quraishy, responsable européenne Language Rich Europe et Christian Tremblay, Président de l’Observatoire européen du plurilinguisme
En quoi le plurilinguisme est-il une richesse sur le plan personnel?: entretien entre Heinz Wismann, philologue et philosophe et Quentin Dickinson, Directeur des affaires européennes, Radio France
Table ronde: Pourquoi gérer les questions de langue en entreprise?
Intervenants: Bernard Salengro, Secrétaire national CF-CGC, Jean-Loup Cuisiniez, CFDT Axa, Claude Truchot, sociolinguiste, Professeur émérite à l’Université de Strasbourg et Kenza Cherkaoui-Messin, sociolinguiste.

Bulgaria – 26 September 2012, Hotel Sheraton, Sofia

Welcome: Peter Ashton, Director English Language Services, British Council Bulgaria
Introduction: Anne Wiseman, British Council
Overview of Language Rich Europe project: Eilidh MacDonald, Project Co-ordinator, Language Rich Europe
Cross National Findings: Mario Filipe, Instituto Camoes, Portugal
The Bulgarian Profile: Galina Russeva-Sokolova, Sofia University

In the afternoon, there will be a seminar on the topic ‘Multilingualism and the Bulgarian Education System.’

Estonia – 26 September 2012

Hosted by the Rector of Narva College, MS Katri Raik, the results of the Language Rich Europe research will be presented by Vilma Backiute, Project Manager, British Council Lithuania, and Ursula Roosmaa, Country Director, British Council Estonia. This will be followed by a reception in the Old City Hall.

For more information on our research and upcoming events, please visit our website and follow this blog.

The Power of Babel – the European Day of Languages in Bulgaria

Council of EuropeTvetanka Panova, Partnership Project Manager for the British Council in Bulgaria, reflects on the European Day of Languages 2011 in Sofia and the love of languages that it revealed.

Deutsch, English, Español, Italiano, Polski, Schweiz, Suisse, Svizzera, Русский, Magyar, Français, česky, Ελληνικά…  there was a constant buzz of voices speaking different languages on the square on Sunday 2 October, and yet nobody was lost in translation. Symbolically located in front of Bulgaria’s National Theatre named after the great writer and poet Ivan Vazov, the celebration of the European Day of Languages 2011 was even grander and more successful than the previous year. The event was once again organised by EUNIC – the network of European Union National Institutes for Culture – and this time brought together 16 institutions representing 11 languages amidst TV cameras and radio microphones, government officials, specially invited visitors and passers-by.

So there we all were on the sunny morning of 2 October – the tents were busy with people even before the official opening. Thousands of materials were gone and had to be restocked constantly. Young children and adults were speaking to the staff members at the various language stalls – about courses in Bulgaria, about studying abroad, about cultural events and collaborations, or just picking up new words in foreign languages.

And they had to – pick up words, I mean. If they wanted a prize they had to earn it by… solving crossword puzzles! Now THERE’s Babelfor you – to solve it you’d have to find out what’s an anniversary in Italian and a bun in Russian, memory in Greek and an apple in Hungarian. No – this is no joke! The crossword puzzle demonstrated the power of multilingualism in action – at first glance impossible, it brought together all languages and scripts into a single list of words that – together – vertically read a popular Bulgarian proverb. It was so exciting to see young and old pouring over the puzzle, visiting language stall after the other to find out the exact spelling or pronunciation of some word, standing in groups and heatedly arguing about the exact connotation of similar words across different languages… And you’d really think it was all for the prizes! Well – if that were the case we wouldn’t have seen several people approach much later, when we had already finished the event and were putting our stuff away, and just want to hand in their solved puzzle out of pride of their personal victory rather than to collect anything for it!

And as if solving multilingual puzzles wasn’t enough, we also had readings of proverbs in different languages. To some they felt like tongue-twisters and yet people kept piling at the entrance to the stage to try their hand (or should I say, mouth) at “Words cut more than swords”, “Die Sprache sei die Wünschelrute, die gedankliche Quellen findet”, “Annyit ér az ember, ahány nyelvet beszél”, „Koniec języka za przewodnika”…

And then there were the country presentations – each centre had prepared a 15-minute programme highlighting the beauty of its language in a variety of forms. Some brought out the choir of their bilingual school who offered a selection of the best Italian lively songs, others had invited high school students to recite poetry, or translate the lyrics to famous opera arias. We even had reggae singers who came to say that English is not just about the standard UK accent but could vary to include the lovely melody of the Jamaican Patois and Rastafarian culture.

Judging from the amount of people who visited our event throughout the day (we estimate about 3,500) and took part in each and every of its multiple activities, Babel is not a problem for young people. They are eager to learn and use foreign languages, they are open to the cultures that they represent and they understand that your democratic freedom of speech must go hand in hand with proficiency of language – whatever language, the more – the better.

Neither is it a problem for the institutions. A phone call from the Human Resources Development Centre one day in early September recaps the motivation of the various institutions to take part. The HRDC is involved, among other things, in projects encouraging language studies as a career opportunity. They had seen the extensive media coverage of the celebration we organised in 2010 and had regretted they hadn’t known about it. So they set on a mission to find our how they might get involved in 2011. To the day they phoned the British Council who’d been leading on the Sofia EUNIC cluster for the past couple of years and respectively had led the organisation of the events as part of our programme in multilingualism. Now who wouldn’t love this – to get phone calls from partners eager to contribute to an even better event!

In conclusion, if this is the trend, this means that next year in 2012 we will be celebrating the European Day of Languages in 12 languages. Or more?


The European Day of Languages in Sofia was organised by the local branch of EUNIC – the network of European Union National Institutes for Culture, and in 2011 included: Austrian embassy, British Council, the Czech Centre, Polish Institute, French Institute, Goethe Institute, Hellenic Foundation of Culture, Hungarian Cultural institute, Instituto Cervantes, Embassy of Spain, Italian Cultural Institute as well as our partners from the Russian Cultural Centre, the Embassy of Switzerland, the Directorate General for Translation at the European Commission, Bulgarian Cultural Institute, Human Resource Development Centre.