EURO Babylon: a Workshop about Linguistic Similarities and Differences

It is hard to believe that already a week passed since the wonderful closure of the Autumn Agora Budapest. But all these great memories are still alive in our hearts and we are still so vigorously inspired and highly motivated to contribute to AEGEE goals and activities after participating in progress meetings, workshops, and simply talking to active and experienced AEGEE members. My colleagues from EDL team and I – now known as a new born Language Working Group (LWG) – hope fervently that our workshop, “EUROBabylon: Linguistic similarities and differences inEurope”, was also a drop of inspiration in your cup of AEGEE ideas.

Even though the workshop was scheduled for the last session on the last day of the Agora, we had a surprisingly high number of participants so there was no free place in the room at all! In total, there were 36 AEGEEans from 15 different countries, therefore we were able to cover a significant amount of European languages. And we would like to thank each and every one of you because, despite of the exhausting schedule at the Agora, we had a good dynamic workshop and a lot of fun together!

Besides presenting some facts about languages and language families in Europe, within the group we were trying to understand why we all speak different languages. Also we tried to find out the difference between “dialect” and “language” which is a point of numerous discussions and debates for many scientists nowadays. Based on our own experience we stated several influencing facts in order to define the boundary between these two sides: a possibility to get an education in a “language”, presence of publications and documentation in a “language”, defined and written grammar rules and people’s attitude towards the “language” that is often a historical matter.

As an experiment, in order to feel differences and similarities between languages in Europe, participants were given a small task that contained a text in a language they did not learn before and suggested to read it, guess the language and possible meaning of the text. The tasks were distributed according to the mother tongue of the participants in the way that around 30% received a text in the language from the same group as their mother tongue and the other 70% received a text from a different language group. 11 out of 18 formed groups guessed the language right, however only some could understand the meaning. Among hard-to-guess languages were Dutch, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Slovakian and Basque.

At the workshop we proved once again that Europe is a continent of huge linguistic diversity, a richness we should cherish and promote, despite of the fact it causes huge communication challenges. Learning foreign languages is very important for successful communication and integration as a result. And we as Language Working Group try to motivate young people to respect each of existing dialects and learn foreign languages because all of them are definitely worth it!

The LWG would like to thank Agora Budapest for giving us a trust to be a Working Group! We believe that AEGEE can make a difference and contribute to language learning and language policy in Europe!

Written by Nadia Shulga (Schneider), AEGEE-Berlin & member of the Language Working Group