Editor's note: Every Sunday, we take a break from the political and economics articles and rather give you the chance to enjoy and reflect on European cultures. Recently, we had an article revolving around the question if a common or a Pan-European language might help to increase the European identity. Today, Anabela Ventura presents us her abroad view on the linguistic diversity of Europe and the chances it offers.
What makes Europe so unique?
In a time where there is a huge debate in the European media whether the United Kingdom will leave the European Union or not and the effect it might have on both sides, it is interesting to look at what makes Europe as a whole so unique.
As a born European living abroad, I have recently discovered myself in a position where I can finally look at European issues from a detached perspective. While living in Europe, I always had the feeling that the differences were too wide to bridge, both economic and cultural factors were frequently present, creating an "us" versus "them" or a "rich" versus "poor" dualistic way of viewing things. Now that I look from afar, that is not what I see anymore.
What makes Europe so unique is the diversity of cultures, languages and systems that contribute to a wholesome society, a place where education and progressive thinking are still encouraged in spite of economical hurdles.
In Canada, where I live, speaking other languages besides English is extremely valued. Although it is officially a bilingual country, French or other languages are not taught regularly in secondary school - something that doesn't happen so often in Europe. Europeans tend to understand more than their own language - out of pure necessity or by commuting to a neighbour country to work, or simply to enjoy a more fulfilling experience while they are on vacation. That is helpful not only for debates and negotiations but also because it opens up space for more understanding and tolerance. This would not be possible if all these varied cultures weren’t living "under the same roof".
It is from confronting with other perspectives and ways of thinking that development can erupt. It is no surprise that the act of brainstorming is usually behind innovative projects because a certain divergence of opinions can bring along a clarification of paths and goals. And this is what I see from where I’m standing; an enormous potential for a creative resolution of problems of the economical or any other kind.
European communities could do well by embracing their differences: coming together, collaborating to resolve maybe not just their problems but those of others too by forming clusters of people that identify themselves with each other, regardless of the country they are from.
A place where diversity is neither feared nor unwelcome, but is instead appreciated and encouraged, where differences are lived in a united and collaborative space, where people work together creatively with social justice to overcome the collective difficulties: This is what Europe should be about.