Language Rich Europe launches – France, Bulgaria and Estonia

After a summer break, Language Rich Europe is back on the road as we launch the results of our research in France, Bulgaria and Estonia. It is a busy time as we will also be celebrating the European Day of Languages on Wednesday – more about that later in the week. In this blog post, you can find information about the LRE launches taking place over the next few days.

France – 25 septembre 2012 – British Council Paris

Le multilinguisme est-il une richesse pour la société ou mène-t-il à la cacophonie?

Introduction – Chris Hickey, Directeur British Council France
Présentation du projet « Language Rich Europe » et des résultats de
l’enquête – Martin Hope, Directeur Language Rich Europe, Aneta Quraishy, responsable européenne Language Rich Europe et Christian Tremblay, Président de l’Observatoire européen du plurilinguisme
En quoi le plurilinguisme est-il une richesse sur le plan personnel?: entretien entre Heinz Wismann, philologue et philosophe et Quentin Dickinson, Directeur des affaires européennes, Radio France
Table ronde: Pourquoi gérer les questions de langue en entreprise?
Intervenants: Bernard Salengro, Secrétaire national CF-CGC, Jean-Loup Cuisiniez, CFDT Axa, Claude Truchot, sociolinguiste, Professeur émérite à l’Université de Strasbourg et Kenza Cherkaoui-Messin, sociolinguiste.

Bulgaria – 26 September 2012, Hotel Sheraton, Sofia

Welcome: Peter Ashton, Director English Language Services, British Council Bulgaria
Introduction: Anne Wiseman, British Council
Overview of Language Rich Europe project: Eilidh MacDonald, Project Co-ordinator, Language Rich Europe
Cross National Findings: Mario Filipe, Instituto Camoes, Portugal
The Bulgarian Profile: Galina Russeva-Sokolova, Sofia University

In the afternoon, there will be a seminar on the topic ‘Multilingualism and the Bulgarian Education System.’

Estonia – 26 September 2012

Hosted by the Rector of Narva College, MS Katri Raik, the results of the Language Rich Europe research will be presented by Vilma Backiute, Project Manager, British Council Lithuania, and Ursula Roosmaa, Country Director, British Council Estonia. This will be followed by a reception in the Old City Hall.

For more information on our research and upcoming events, please visit our website and follow this blog.

European Day of Languages in Estonia

Council of EuropeIn today’s guest post, Sam Noble, intern at  British Council Estonia and student at the Humboldt University of Berlin, writes about his experience of the European Day of Languages in Estonia and how it has motivated him to learn more languages. The original article was posted to the British Council Estonia blog.

The European Day of Languages, held this year in Tallinn University, is an exhibition to promote language and culture to school and university students in Estonia. The British Council attended, alongside other institutions to do just that. The Estonian, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Polish, Spanish, Hungarian, French and German institutes were all present, identifiable by their respective miniature flags. In addition, there were musical performances from a prepubescent Polish prodigy playing piano (I could not resist the alliteration), Russian girls in traditional costume singing in their Finno-Ugric dialect (which is the linguistic family vowel-happy Estonian belongs to) as well as language classes for all of the represented languages as well as various Estonian dialects. The only class missing was an English language class, indicative of just how pervasive English is in Estonia.

Having said that, the British Council stall was busy, giving ad-hoc university advice to young and exceptionally polite students and handing out free prospectuses and pens to all who seemed curious. It was a great opportunity to give impartial advice about British universities to potential students. Having worked for universities before, your author knows how competitive universities are in attracting non-UK students to their university. Tuition fees are extraordinarily high in the UK, consequently all universities are desperately trying to attract EU and non-EU students, riding on the excellent reputation that the UK university sector has abroad. Of course not all universities are deserving of this reputation, and it is these universities who are persuading wide-eyed students to come to their university. My advice to students was to aim as high as possible. If you are going to dish out a small fortune, apply to Oxford, apply to Cambridge and not a university that you have never heard off in a town you can not pronounce.

The day was also a great opportunity to see how other cultural institutions work and promote themselves. The Danish Cultural Institute were astounded that no Estonians were considering studying in Denmark. Unlike the UK, not only are there no tuition fees but the government gives students an allowance per month (I’m wondering why I didn’t study there myself). The monthly allowance is more than the average Estonian civil servant or teacher earns. This got me into a long and interesting conversation with my colleague and an Estonian woman who runs the English language exams at the university. In short, lots of Estonian nurses, doctors and teachers are going to Finland, Sweden, Norway and the UK simply because they can earn so much more there than they can here in Estonia. I assumed Estonians earned a similar amount, especially here in Tallinn where the prices are similar to a lot of UK towns. How do they manage?

But back to more jovial subjects. The Spanish stall was very popular, true to national (and positive) stereotype; the Spanish were gregarious and attracted a lot of attention. I wish I’d been wearing tweed and a bowler hat to emulate national stereotypes as well (the British Council didn’t even have a flag). However, my French equivalent was envious of the literature we were giving to students, that is an in-depth guide book to all the universities of the UK. “That would make my life a lot easier” He opined. If French tuition fees were anywhere near the UK prices, then French universities would be compelled to offer publications such as these to people.

I hope an event such as this continues to promote language here in Estonia. It was an event which promoted culture and language in a positive and sharing environment. Learning a new language is an enlightening experience. But more realistically, it is a way to enhance career prospects as many Estonians working in other countries may attest. I am always envious when I meet multi-lingual people. I speak one language, but this day motivated me to learn. Now if someone can just explain to me the Estonian case system I may give Estonian a go…täname, et lugemine.


Government decisions and long-lasting effects

Today we have a guest post from Vilma Bačkiūtė. Vilma is Partnerships and Projects Manager for British Council Lithuania.

To quote professor Ted Cantle, “This is a new era of mass migration, of visible communities and an era of super-diversity”.

He also points out that 300 languages are spoken in London.  For comparison, about 20 languages are spoken in Vilnius. According to statistics (2010) the largest groups of immigrants to Lithuania come from the UK, Russia, the USA, Belarus, Germany, Spain, and Norway.

A very small percentage of immigrants and ethnic minorities in Lithuania do not imply fewer tensions in the political arena. Official governmental decisions already have linguistic, political and social consequences which put social cohesiveness at risk. For example, because of inflexibility and stubbornness (or lack of competence?) of politicians, Lithuania will be spending a lot of money on lawyers trying to defend its position on the “bizarre spelling row between Poland and Lithuania”.

Of course, one must consider the historical background to contextualise and understand language policy issues in Lithuania. As well as in Latvia and Estonia.

The existing policies and language laws are similar in the three Baltic countries. They enhance the position of the official languages, which is desirable. But it is equally desirable that they are reviewed in the light of this new era of multicultural and multilingual societies. As a report on multilingualism in Lithuanian cities shows, language profiles in Lithuanian households also change.

No doubt, there are countries and cities that can share their “wisdom on managing diversity” with the Baltic countries. But the Baltic states also have a lot to contribute to our overall understandings of language policy and its complexities. Here is a letter by D.M.Helmeste (USA) to the Baltic Times editor to start considerations.