Last blog post



This is the last blog that will be posted on this site as the website will no longer be independently maintained.

Language Rich Europe is a network funded through the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission. It was co-ordinated by the British Council which also made a significant financial contribution and elicited the support of sponsors. Perhaps more important than this financial and organisational underpinning was the fact that the British Council, traditionally associated with its global support for British culture and the English language was taking a lead on a project which was unequivocally promoting multilingualism within Europe. This belief is very much at the heart of its promotion of diversity and inclusion worldwide. The Language Rich Europe partnership involved 20 countries and three regions and in addition to the British Council offices it brought together over 30 partners – cultural agencies such as Instituto Camões and the Goethe Institut, universities, and research and information centres. A particular role was played by Tilburg University whose colleagues developed and co-ordinated the Europe-wide research which was published in 19 languages in Language Rich Europe: Trends in Policies and Practices for Multilingualism in Europe.

In March 2013 the Language Rich Europe network of partners presented 10 key recommendations at the European level to the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Commission and made a further 80 recommendations at country and regional level. Language Rich Europe’s legacy will be marked by the extent to which these become embedded in policy and practice.

The British Council will continue to promote networks such as Language Rich Europe which help transform understandings of languages and reflect their richness as a vital contribution to social and economic development globally. A new initiative Language Rich Africa will be looking at ways – at both policy and practice levels – to inspire positive attitudes towards multilingualism as key to a stable and prosperous Africa.

Meanwhile key outputs of the Language Rich Europe will be made available on the British Council websites, and for more information contact

With thanks

Simon Ingram-Hill
Project Director, Language Rich Europe

Languages 2014 – 2025: are we set fair for the challenge?

 The real significance of Language Trends

Bernardette Holmes, Speak to the Future’s Campaign Director, comments on research published on 25 March, 2014.

Language is the keyThe publication of the 12th in the series of annual research exercises, Language Trends 2013-2014 carried out under the joint direction of CfBT and the British Council provides us with an up-to-date appraisal of language provision in English schools.  The benefit of this report is in its longevity.  It is the only survey which has collated annual data drawn from a sample of state maintained and independent secondary schools over this critical period in the development of language policy.

Read more

British Council welcome 20 international delegates

Screen Daily online – BEV, British Council welcome 20 international delegates –

 Birds Eye View (BEV) and the British Council have renewed and expanded their partnership on an International Delegates programme in April 2014.

The Birds Eye View Festival, which runs April 8-13, will welcome 20 female writers, directors and producers for a bespoke series of training, networking and industry events from April 10-14.

Eleven countries are represented including Iraq, Indonesia, Cuba, Sudan, Trinidad & Tobago, Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Jamaica, Pakistan Romania and Argentina.

This year’s programme builds on 2013’s inaugural run. Again the partners are BAFTA and MoFilm.

Live-stream event, next Tuesday 12 November

How can language be used to convey the realities of war? Live-streamed event  #WWIlang

The British Council and the English-Speaking Union invite you to the second English Language Council lecture. Join the webcast to watch live online next Tuesday 12 November, 1930 – 2030 GMT. (Check the time where you are.)

Following on from the inaugural lecture with David Crystal, author and historian Lucinda Dickens-Hawksley will look at the power of language and imagery during the First World War.

The event will consider the use of language employed by journalists and propagandists and the imagery of artists and poets at the front, who provided accounts of the conflict against all odds.

Please voice your thoughts about the issue of creativity and conflict, using Twitter hashtag #WWIlang.

How are language and creativity used to convey the realities of war today?

Is propaganda still used in the same way as it was one hundred years ago?

How great is the difference between what’s reported in the media and real experiences at the front?

Who are the artists and poets who have emerged in recent conflicts?

We look forward to welcoming you, either at the live-streamed event, or if you are in the UK, attend in person.

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!”

Case study – Multilingual school tournament, Lithuania

Language Rich Europe promotes the sharing of good practice in the area of multilingualism. On our website, you can read and submit your own case studies.

In this blog post, we look at one such case study from Lithuania, where they seek to promote multilingualism and the learning of a variety of foreign languges through a multilingual tournament.

The first multilingual tournament ‘I speak, you speak – we communicate’ was held in Lithuania in 2012. It brought together school pupils (grades 9 – 11) from all over the country, speaking two or more foreign languages. Pupils took part in tasks including impromptu speaking, dictation, jokes and dubbing of an animation film, as well as a general-knowledge round where questions were asked in English about the countries where the main four contest languages (English, Russian, German and French) are spoken. Other languages such as Italian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Swedish, Chinese, polish, Japanese and Armenian were also represented

Initiated by the Ministry of Education and Science, the British Council and the American International School of Vilnius, a committee of 14 partners was formed. The tournament encouraged students and teachers to learn different languages, to develop their individual plurilingualism and to look at different language learning possibilities.

To read more about this and other case studies, and to submit your own good practice example, visit our website!

English and Linguistic Imperialism – Time to move on?

‘Linguistic imperialism: still alive and kicking?’ was the topic of a British Council Signature Event at the recent IATEFL Conference and Exhibition in Liverpool. Robert Phillipson, the author of the 1992 book Linguistic Imperialism, stated in his opening comments that ‘English opens doors for some but closes it for many.’ The concern that local languages are often neglected in preference for English was one shared by many attending the session, although Sarah Ogbay (University of Asmara, Eritrea) counteracted that ‘what we usually see is that people want to learn English because it opens the door’ to opportunities rather than it being forced upon them.

The debate over the status of English is one that is surely going to continue for a long time, but in the Language Rich Europe recommendations we address the issue and attempt to move the discussion forward by calling for the position of English to be ‘explicitly acknowledged, in order to propose a new model for the co-existence of languages in Europe.’

The EU’s ‘mother tongue plus two’ policy, for example, in reality usually means ‘mother tongue, plus English, plus one.’ This does not leave much space in curriculums for other languages, particularly for individuals for whom the mother tongue is not the same as the language of schooling or in areas where the regional/minority language is not the same as the national language. The ‘plus one’ is further undermined by the belief that ‘English is enough.’ It is not.  For many, at least in Europe, the English language has become a basic skill to be listed on the CV alongside IT and Communication. To put yourself ahead of other candidates in the job market, yes learn English, but you now need other languages as well. The promotion of a ‘linguistic profile’ by the EU would be a less restrictive way of recognising the importance of all languages to an individual and their society.

According to Sarah Ogbay, ‘the spread of English does not undermine the local language as long as the language policy of the country really looks after the language of the local people.’ Research shows that children learn better by learning in their mother tongue and UNESCO promotes ‘mother tongue based multilingual education,’ but during the session many examples were given of children learning in English to the detriment of their native language. Language Rich Europe’s Recommendation 7 calls for ‘Migrant’, ‘Immigrant’, ‘Community’ to be

explicitly recognised through appropriate instruments at European level… the offer of languages other than the national language(s) should be adapted so that all students, regardless of their background have the opportunity to learn the languages of their community, from pre-primary to university education.

This builds on the Council of Europe’s European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which recognises the importance of governmental support and promotion of these languages. Without policies many languages struggle to survive when competing with ‘bigger’ languages.

But it is difficult to know which languages require protection and the extent to which protection is necessary if data has not been collected on languages spoken and used in different communities. Language Rich Europe emphasises the importance of this by placing it right at the start of the recommendations:

Recommendation 1 – steps should be taken to increase current knowledge about the languages spoken and used in different communities and countries throughout Europe, and on the relationships between languages; for example, through data on translations. An initial survey of existing census data should be compiled and relevant authorities should be encouraged to carry out further census/survey work in this area.

Danny Whitehead, British Council, Indonesia, stated at the IATEFL event, ‘English can be and is a very powerful and valuable part of a person’s linguistic repertoire… it provides opportunities for individuals… it is the cornerstone for cultural relations.’

It should be ‘part of a person’s linguistic repertoire’ rather than a way of creating a monolingual individual. In the words of Becky, R.K. Ndjoze-Ojo (former Deputy Minister of Education, Namibia) ‘If English is a global language, which it is, how can it be used to give hope to speakers of thousands of other languages?’

– Read the Language Rich Europe Recommendations on our website

– View the ‘Linguistic imperialism: still alive and kicking?’ event and other IATEFL coverage here.

Other related blog posts:

 Is English a form of linguistic imperialism?

 International conference on endangered languages

– Have you seen our European Recommendations? Call to Action!