February 9 has officially been declared International Greek Language Day which is expected to spark off initiatives that will assist in spreading Greek language and culture worldwide.
The concept of an International Greek Language Day had been put forward by the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad with the support and collaboration of a large number of Greek Diplomatic Missions, Greek associations and communities as well as the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Senior Patriarchates and the Archdioceses supporting schools or Greek-language classes around the world.
The declaration came after the Joint Decision of the Minister of Internal Affairs, of the Minister of Education, Research and Religious Affairs and of the Minister of Foreign Affairs No.17889 (Official Gazette B’ 1384 from 24.04.2017).
According to diaspora Press reports, the Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs is about to draw up a programme of events which, in combination with their own initiatives, will be proposed to all Greek Communities and Associations of the Diaspora or to foreign universities with Greek language studies including other bodies for Greek-language learning, even more so those financed by the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad.
It should be noted that the specific date coincides with the Commemoration Day of Greece’s ‘national poet, Dionysios Solomos. Part of Solomos’ lengthy poetic composition ‘To Freedom’ constitutes the lyrics of the Greek National Anthem, while the poet’s face featured on Greece’s national currency until the introduction of the ‘euro.’
It is also reported that UNESCO had originally been considering two other alternative dates in September and October, coinciding with Nobel Prize-winning Greek poets Giorgos Seferis’ and Odysseas Elytis’ commemoration days respectively, yet Dionysios Solomos’ commemoration day eventually prevailed as the best of all three options.
The Greek language has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. During antiquity, it served as the lingua franca in the Mediterranean world.
As the official language of two EU member states, Greece and Cyprus, it is one of the 24 official languages of the European Union and by a rough estimate, it is currently spoken by nearly 13.2 million people in Greece, Cyprus and the Greek Diaspora around the world.