New Multilingual Synopsis of the European Training Thesaurus

We have just heard about this exciting new tool for training professionals and wanted to share it with you. This article originally appeared in Europa news on languages.

New Multilingual Synopsis of the European Training Thesaurus – Are you a training professional? A new multilingual toolkit for you.

The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) has recently published the new Multilingual Synopsis of the European Training Thesaurus for all those working in education, training and employment.

The publication, which is available online, is a selection of 1,207 terms and concepts which appear frequently in literature related to European vocational education and training. The tool, which is the basis for the complete online thesaurus CEDEFOP is currently preparing, allows for quick navigation by language, term and topic.

The terms/concepts cover several topics such as lifelong learning, vocational education and training policy, assessment and certification of learning outcomes, recognition of certificates and diplomas. Each term is presented in 11 languages: Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Swedish.

To download the thesaurus, click here.

Key findings: Languages in pre-primary education

Pre-primary pupilLanguage Rich Europe research provides a rich source of cross-national insights into multilingualism across the education sectors. Today we focus on pre-primary education.

  • Many European Union and Council of Europe documents underline the importance of early language learning. At pre-primary level, 14 of the 24 countries/regions surveyed provide additional support in the national language for all children funded by the state. The Netherlands and Ukraine devote the most time to this.
  • Foreign language provision at this level is offered by seven countries/regions: Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Basque Country, Bulgaria, Catalonia, Estonia, Spain and Ukraine, although it may be partly or fully funded by parents/guardians. English, French and German are the most common languages offered.
  • Regional/minority languages are offered by 17 countries/regions, and are mainly funded by the state/region. In some countries there are minimum group size requirements to form a group. The widest variety of languages is offered in Austria, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Ukraine.
  • Provision in immigrant languages in pre-primary education is not yet very common. However, in spite of the difficulties involved in identifying appropriate teachers and learning materials, three countries (Denmark, Spain and Switzerland) do offer support to very young children for the maintenance and development of their languages and cultures of origin. In Denmark national, regional and local funds cover all costs for these programmes, while in Spain and Switzerland source-country related funds partly cover the costs through bilateral agreements.
  • The only country offering early language learning across all language types is Spain.

If you haven’t already, have a read of Baby Erasmus, a great initiative in Spain and share any other good practice examples from your country by responding to this post!

You can read the LRE profile for your country on the country profile page of our website and find out more about our key findings in the first part of this series – Key findings: Official documents and databases.

Discover your linguistic and cultural paradise

Runner up of last year’s Languages Speak up! competition, Sophie Reece-Trapp blogs about her experience of discovering her ‘linguistic paradise’ and encourages others to do the same.

After falling in love with all things German during a school exchange to Munich, Sophie spent her Gap Year working in Cologne, before studying Modern and Medieval Language (Dutch and German) in Cambridge. Currently a trainee at the European Parliament, Sophie will be moving to Leuven in September to embark on a Master’s degree in European Studies.

Brussels might not have the climate of a tropical island, but in my eyes, it is a linguist’s paradise.

At the beating heart of a country that boasts three official languages, a rich tapestry of tongues is woven on its streets. Staccato tones of Swahili rebound from the shop fronts lining Matongé, a vibrant quarter that takes its name from the commercial district of Kinshasa, Congo. Anyone walking from the artsy square at Flagey to the Ixelles/Etterbeek border during Euro 2012 would have passed fervent Portugal supporters spilling out of pubs, marking each goal with a cacophony of shouts and whistles that could be hear from streets away. Not to mention the weekly market at the Gare du Midi, where the exchange of euros for vegetables, fruit and clothes is executed in fluent Arabic. Even the streets of Brussels exude an international character: the chic Place du Londres or the Rue Americaine with its grid-like formation.

In the aptly-named ‘European Quarter’ sprawls the European Parliament. It is in these labyrinthine buildings that I have been a trainee for the past five months, in the Committee on Culture and Education. Je discute avec mes collègues en français, die Mehrheit meiner Freunde bevorzugt Deutsch and, of course, my mother-tongue, English, is an indispensable lingua franca. And, of course, Finnish, Portuguese, Spanish and a multitude of other language echo along the corridors, as legislation is drawn up in 23 different languages. A truly international workplace in a truly international city.

Yet who says that my paradise has to be your paradise? It is certainly not only Brussels or Belgium that boasts this rich diversity of languages and cultures from across the world. Have you ever wandered around the Marais in Paris, past the Yiddish bakeries, Kosher pizzeria and Hebrew bookshop and asked yourself: am I in France or Israel? Travelled just half an hour with the train and, upon disembarking, found yourself to be barely intelligible? Or even popped into the Chinese supermarket on the corner and felt yourself transported half-way across the world? In our globalised society, we no longer need to buy an expensive flight ticket to experience different cultures and languages: they are right on our doorstep.

An increasing number of my friends, also interns, are postponing holiday plans this year, citing a lack of funds. Instead of bewailing this situation, perhaps we should take this opportunity to take a closer look at the colourful cultural and linguistic landscapes surrounding us, whether we’re based in a high-rise city flat or in mountainous climes. We might just be pleasantly surprised!

View Sophie’s Languages Speak up! entry here

Language Rich Europe: English as a hob-goblin

Following our successful first launch in Bern, Switzerland on 23 May 2012, Caroline Morrissey, Director British Council Switzerland, has written an article discussing both the launch and the Swiss language situation in general. Please read on to find out more.

Anything to do with language policy in Switzerland, a country with four national languages, is always going to be political. So, with the British Council being seen to take the lead, and with the UK’s reputation in this country for not teaching and learning foreign languages well in its schools, we had to tread carefully. At the Language Rich launch in 2010, we spoke not one word of English but ran the event in French and German throughout – and got some great feedback for taking Swiss national languages seriously – as well as managing to avoid criticism about English imperialism. For us in Switzerland, it is important to make a clear distinction between this programme, which is about multilingualism and the work we do in promoting English. English is hugely important in Switzerland, but is also seen as a threat to Swiss cohesion.

There is a common perception that Switzerland is a multilingual nation. Reality can be quite different, with the four language areas existing well side by side (and mostly ignoring one another) and with little cross-border integration. The push for English, to the detriment of French in German-speaking cantons and German in French-speaking cantons, is seen as a real threat to unity and to cultural diversity.

So when the time came round last week to launch the results, we decided to do it multilingually. We did not have simultaneous translation as most of the audience would have a passive understanding of at least one other national language, even if they did not want to speak it. The event was hosted by the Italian Department of the University of Bern, we had presentations in German, accompanied by French language PowerPoint slides (and vice-versa), an introduction by one of our speakers in Rumantsch and our very own Martin Hope doing his presentation in French and Italian.

So, what were the highlights?

We managed to get some really top level speakers, including the President of the Swiss Social Democrat party, National Councillor Christian Levrat (French-speaker from a bilingual canton) and a representative of Rumantsch TV, fluent in all four Swiss national languages.

The debate was lively with questions around:

  • the media (how to integrate representatives from all Swiss language groups in live national TV debates for example, plus an accusation that the Swiss media is too heavily biased towards German);
  • education (how can Switzerland halt the inexorable advance of English to the detriment of Swiss national languages);
  • the advantages and disadvantages of early and late immersion;
  • Swiss German being hard to access for French speakers as they learn standard German, versus the argument of Swiss German native speakers that Swiss German is their mother tongue, their culture;
  • the status of Italian, a “wallflower” language- there is no reason why cantons should not choose Italian as the second language to be taught in schools, rather than German and French;
  • language competence: these days, said MP Christian Levrat, many young politicians only possess passive language competence in another Swiss national language; older politicians were able to communicate well in more than one.

The first trawl of press coverage shows 97 articles and radio / TV mentions, mostly picking up on the fact that Switzerland comes out very well in terms of multilingual language policies. Much of the Swiss French-language press, including radio, state that English is a real threat to Switzerland’s linguistic diversity. The NZZ, Switzerland’s most serious German-language broadsheet writes, however, in a thoughtful article, that the perceived threat by English to Switzerland’s linguistic and cultural cohesion is a fearsome but imaginary creature, a “hob-goblin”.

So what does LRE do for Switzerland? I have picked out four areas that seem important to me; there are many more:

  • Switzerland comes out top in many areas, such as policies to extend and improve multilingualism;
  • Migrant languages seem to be well supported in the big cities;
  • In vocational training, Switzerland does not make language studies compulsory so apprentices are losing out;
  • Italian and Rumantsch are losing territory and are under-represented in official life and in education;

The next steps will be to cover some of the emerging issues in a series of workshops. These will cover multilingualism and business; education and migration.

The Language Rich Europe results for Switzerland are now available in draft form in German, French and Italian. Language Rich Europe in Switzerland is partnered by the University Of Fribourg, Institute of Multilingualism.

Von Babyrobben, Löwen und Gazellen

The article below (in German) is written by Julia Kofler, Language Rich Project Manager in Belgium. On 21 March, she went to hear Professor Louis-Jean Calvet speak on the subject of language policy today at a lunchtime conference organised by Alliance Française in the European Parliament.

Les politiques linguistiques aujourd’hui – Die Sprachenpolitik heute

Eine Mittagspause mit Louis-Jean Calvet im Europäischen Parlament, organisiert von der Alliance Française und der Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie

Das Foto, welches auf der Einladung zur Konferenz abgebildet ist, zeigt einen nachdenklichen, fast streng blickenden Herrn in blauem Hemd und grauen Haaren. Ob das einer gelungenen Mittagspause zuträglich ist? Professor Calvet ist, erfreulicherweise, gar nicht der doktrinierende Dozent des Vorlesesaals früherer Unistunden, nein, Professor Calvetss Vortrag war, nach einer zähen Einleitung der Organisatoren, überaus unterhaltsam und, sprachlich gesehen, äusserst bilderreich.

Autor des Buches « La guerre des langues », Louis-Jean Calvet, ehemaliger Professor der Soziolinguistik an der Pariser Sorbonne und nun Professor an der Universität der Provence, ist ein Vertreter und Verfechter der Mehrsprachigkeit und untersucht das Verhältnis zwischen – und jetzt auf französisch : le discours linguistique et le discours colonial sur les langues, puis les liens entre langue et pouvoir. Oder: das Verhältnis zwischen Sprache und Macht folgend dem Sprachendiskurs und dem Kolonialdiskurs über Sprachen.

Louis-Jean Calvet ist auch Autor des französischen Language Rich Europe Essays und weiters Erfinder des « Barometre Calvet des Langues du Monde », welches auf der Website getestet werden kann. Die französische Zeitung l’Express titelt hierzu : « Louis Jean Calvet a invente un barometre des langues », und erklärt:

Si l’on parle souvent de l’importance d’une langue en terme de nombre de locuteurs, Calvet démontre que ce n’est pas forcément le facteur le plus important. Si l’on enlève ce facteur, certaines langues bien placées, comme le mandarin qui est en tête si l’on ne prend en compte que ce facteur, voient leur position dégringoler dans le classement et d’autres facteurs, comme la pénétration d’Internet, peuvent permettre à des langues peu parlées comme le suédois, d’arriver en tête du classement. (

Die Website und der Barometer wurde von Professor Calvet zusammen mit seinem Bruder, von Beruf Mathematiker und Statistiker, entworfen. Ein Dream-team also, das Sprachenpolitik und-gebrauch effizient und benutzerfreundlich darzustellen vermögt. So wurden während des Vortrags Elemente wie “competition par exploitation” und “competition par interference” vorgestellt, wobei man sich Ersteres vorstellen muss wie – Achtung, jetzt kommt die erwähnte Bildersprache- eine Wasserstelle in der Afrikanischen Steppe. An dieser besagten Wasserstelle trinken gerne Gazellen, aber nur, wenn nicht gerade ein Löwe dasselbe zu tun gedenkt. Die Gazellen sind zwar vorsichtig, aber die Präsenz des Löwen vertreibt sie nicht vollkommen, nein, es ist vielmehr so, dass die Steppenbewohner nebeneinander lebend ein Equilibrium gefunden haben. Genauso verhält es sich mit dem “modèle gravitationnel”, wo dominierenden Sprachen – auch hyperzentrale Sprachen genannt ( z.B. Englisch und superzentrale (z.B. Französisch) und periphäre Sprachen (Korsisch) ko-existieren ohne sich negativ zu beeinflussen. Deswegen, so Professor Calvet, ist es von wenig Nutzen, superzentrale und periphäre Sprachen zu verteidigen “comme les bebes phoques (wie Babyrobben), es mache vielmehr Sinn, ein Gleichgewicht aller Sprachen anzustreben. Wie das gemacht werden kann und welche Faktoren dabei zählen, kann man selbst am Sprachbarometer testen.

Um nun auf die Frage der gelungenen Mittagspause zurückzukommen, ja, es waren zwei gut genutzte Stunden, der Geist wurde genährt, nur der Magen kam zu kurz.

17 ème edition de la Semaine de la langue française et de la francophonie

Today’s post by our Language Rich Europe partners in France, the Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France, is an article about an event which they organise every year in March for a week to celebrate the French language in France and in francophone countries. Please read the first two paragraphs of the article below and the whole article online (in French).

Pour le trois centième anniversaire de la naissance de Jean-Jacques Rousseau, l’auteur des Confessions, cette Semaine fait une large place à une oeuvre marquée par l’expression de la subjectivité, dans la sincérité et les masques de l’écriture. D’où le choix de dix mots illustrant chacun le registre de l’intime afin que le public s’en empare pour dire ce qu’il a sur le cœur

Cette année, la thématique de cette semaine de la langue française et de la francophonie s’élabore autour de « Dis-moi dix mots qui te racontent » : âme, autrement, caractère, chez, confier, histoire, naturel, pendant, songe et transport. Ces dix mots choisis autour d’une thématique définie par le ministère de la Culture et de la Communication et ses partenaires francophones (Québec, Belgique, Suisse et Organisation internationale de la Francophonie) invitent le public à jouer, créer, écrire, chanter, slamer, déclamer, chuchoter, bloguer, filmer et surtout à s’enflammer pour la langue française. Pour cela rien de plus simple, il suffit de se rendre sur le site spécialement créé pour l’événement et d’y insérer votre participation tout en n’oubliant pas de se baser sur l’un (ou plusieurs) des dix mots de l’année.
Autre idée pour ceux qui aiment jouer avec les mots, un concours chaque mercredi à 18 heures pile sur la page facebook : Dis-Moi Dix Mots, où sera dévoilée l’énigme de la semaine qui est, bien entendu, en corrélation avec ces dix mots. A vos claviers…

Dix mots en vidéo
De nombreux courts métrages sont réalisés à l’occasion de la Semaine : libres de droit, ils sont accessibles sur la plateforme vimeo : Tout au long de l’année, des jeunes en France et à l’étranger réalisent des films sur téléphone portable autour des 10 mots dans le cadre d’ateliers. À l’occasion de la Semaine, un concours invite le plus grand nombre à produire des films courts à partir des dix mots. La date limite de participation au concours est le 5 mars. Renseignements : ou
Sont offerts aussi à votre imagination dix proverbes contenant chacun l’un des dix mots 2012. Mettez-les en scène, sans jamais révéler le proverbe choisi, et réalisez un film de deux minutes tout au plus. Un jury composé notamment du critique Jean-Michel Frodon et de l’écrivain François Bégaudeau récompensera les meilleures contributions. Renseignements : Sans oublier la fameuse et humoristique dictée du professeur Rollin pour se tester en solo sous le regard de son ordinateur, sur le site

Meertaligheid is hot!

In this blog post, we have a guest contribution from Drs. M. Blumenthal, senior researcher at Royal Dutch Kentalis. Kentalis is a national organization in the Netherlands providing diagnostic, care and educational services to people for whom the ability to hear or communicate is not a matter of course. Please read on (in Dutch) to find out what Drs. M. Blumenthal has to say about children and multilingualism. This article was previously (7 November 2011) published on the Kentalis website.

Op de één of andere manier lijkt het alsof er dit jaar een enorme toename is in de aandacht voor de positieve aspecten van meertaligheid voor de ontwikkeling van kinderen. Nu de wetenschap steeds dichter in het kinder- en babybrein doordringt, vindt men steeds meer dat het brein het goed doet met meerdere talen. Bialystock vond, in verschillende onderzoeken door de jaren heen, bijvoorbeeld onder meer dat meertalige kinderen beter zij in het negeren van niet-relevante informatie, dat zij beter zijn in multitasking, en dat de symptomen van Alzheimer zich bij meertaligen 5 tot 6 jaar later manifesteren dan bij ééntaligen. Het Frans of Engels dat we op school hebben geleerd beschermt ons volgens haar helaas niet tegen vroege Alzheimer….

Maar er is meer.

Recent bleek in een onderzoek door onderzoekers van de Universiteit van Washington, dat ééntalige kinderen met 6 maanden onderscheid konden maken tussen de verschillende klanken in de eigen taal, maar ook in de klanken in andere talen. Tussen de 10 en 12 maanden zijn zij die vaardigheid echter al weer kwijt voor andere talen dan de ene die er in hun omgeving is. Hun brein heeft zich dus al vroeg gespecialiseerd.

Meertalige kinderen daarentegen, kunnen in de periode tussen 6 en 9 maanden nog geen onderscheid maken tussen klanken, in welke taal dan ook, maar als ze 10 tot 12 maanden zijn, kunnen ze in dit, in de beide talen die ze leren, wél. Ervaring vormt dus het babybrein, waarbij het tweetalige babybrein er weliswaar wat langer over doet, maar uiteindelijk meer heeft gewonnen: discriminatie van klanken in twee talen in plaats van één.

De hoofdonderzoeker Patricia Kuhl licht dit onderzoek toe in een verbijsterend filmpje (ondertiteld in 40 talen, waaronder Nederlands! Hoezo meertalig?) .Er is een mens nodig dat tegen de baby praat, zo blijkt, om baby’s de statistiek te laten uitvoeren die nodig is om uit te vinden welke klanken relevant zijn, en welke niet. Van alleen video of audio leren ze dat niet. Hoe zou dat zijn bij oudere kinderen? Zelf verbeeld ik me dat ik wel degelijk Engels leer door veel naar Engalstalige TV-programma’s te kijken…Maar met statistiek hou ik me dan waarschijnlijk niet bezig…

Meer informatie op de website van Kentalis.