RIYADH: An evening’s celebration of languages was the talk of the town at an event hosted by the EU delegation to Saudi Arabia.
The second edition of the European Night of Languages was held recently at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Riyadh in recognition of Europe’s linguistic and cultural heritage.
The event was organized in partnership with the Riyadh language exchange, a Saudi non-profit group, the Alliance Francaise, Goethe Institute, Education First, SEK International School, and the embassies of the EU member states in the Kingdom.
Among the participants testing out their language skills were ambassadors, members of the diplomatic community, and professional language teachers.
Patrick Simonnet, the EU envoy to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman, said: “Languages are the most important thing when you want to reach other cultures, and showing interest in other languages is what the event is about.
“The event is not so much about learning other languages because learning another language in one evening is impossible, but it is more about interacting with cultures of different European countries. So, it is really about the exchange of cultures and bridging the gaps between our respective cultures.”
Visitors attending the event were invited to select the national flags of their spoken languages and those they wished to learn before mixing with other attendees.
Among the languages being spoken were French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Danish, Greek, Romanian, Finnish, and Dutch. Games and quizzes, an oud recital, a performance by Portuguese band Almanata, and a European culinary experience followed the event.
Mohammed Matham, co-founder of the Riyadh language exchange group, said: “We are excited to contribute to strengthening people-to-people relationships between Saudi Arabia and the European Union through the power of language learning.”
Marguerite Bickel, director general of the Alliance Francaise, said: “My goal in teaching French here is to promote the French language to support Vision 2030, especially in tourism, as there are a lot of French tourists that are very eager to discover Saudi Arabia.”
Jason Caranicas, deputy head of mission and head of the consular section at the Greek Embassy, said: “There is certainly an increase in the number of Saudis applying for a Greek visa now, and this year for the first time, there are so many direct flights from the Kingdom to several major cities in Greece, including Mykonos and Athens.”
The event was staged as part of European Diversity Month to promote the importance of languages as a bridge-builder between cultures.